Strengthening paralegal education framework at Law Society of Ontario | Michelle Lomazzo

By Michelle Lomazzo

Law360 Canada (February 22, 2023, 11:59 AM EST) --
Michelle Lomazzo
Michelle Lomazzo
On Feb. 23, at the Law Society of Ontario (LSO) Convocation, the new paralegal education framework will be presented. As chair of the Paralegal Standing Committee, I’m pleased to present this report which is the result of numerous repeated requests by paralegals and a culmination of much work by the committee and staff.

As you know, the LSO is charged with the responsibility of ensuring the learning, professional competence and professional conduct of licensees in Ontario.

Last year marked the 15-year anniversary of paralegal education in Ontario. The Paralegal Standing Committee decided that 2022 provided an excellent opportunity to consult with the paralegal profession and stakeholders to learn more about the status of the profession and consider what, if any, changes should be made to the competence framework. The new framework builds on paralegal successes to date and charts a course that will inspire more paralegals to join the profession and improve access to justice for all Ontarians.

To address these challenges and the needs of paralegals, the committee developed and is implementing a robust plan that is outlined in the report. Please go to the LSO Convocation materials for Feb. 23 for full details, or you can read the report here.

This plan includes policy modifications that will help prepare graduates to confidently enter the profession such as increased minimum instructional hours for certain compulsory courses and increased standards for faculty and program co-ordinators. With a better program and more experienced instructors, future paralegal graduates only stand to gain!

Second, the field placement for paralegals will be doubled in length from its current requirement, providing paralegal students with twice the workplace placement experience. This is invaluable experience and a substantial change from what’s currently required. Paralegal students may even consider dividing their placement and getting experience in different areas of law. In addition, the hope is that many students will start incorporating earlier what they learn in their program through their placement, rather than waiting until the very end of their program to get hands-on experience.

Third, the plan includes publishing anonymized paralegal licensing exam results by establishment, to increase transparency and recognize the high entry level standards that paralegals are required to meet to join the profession.

Fourth, it provides additional resources, including a webpage and other materials that will help paralegals be aware and consider non-traditional practice areas outside the Big Three: Provincial offences, landlord and tenant and small claims court.

In addition, a right of appearance framework for paralegal students and candidates clarifies that paralegal students and candidates can appear before tribunals and courts without a licensed paralegal present. This offers an invaluable learning experience for students and candidates.

I am certain that these exciting measures, taken together, will enhance the experience of paralegal students and candidates, and provide the competence and confidence they need to hit the ground running once licensed. This in turn will result in better services and choices for the public.

Author’s note: The views in this article are mine alone and not representative of the LSO.

Michelle Lomazzo was elected a paralegal bencher at the Law Society of Ontario in 2019. She has worked as an injured worker advocate for several years in Windsor, Ont. Through her legal services practice, Lomazzo Workers Compensation Appeals Professional Corporation, she specializes in workers compensation appeals before the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) and regularly appears before the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal (WSIAT).  

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