How lawyers, paralegals can complement each other

By Jillian M. Siskind

Law360 Canada (November 30, 2023, 12:15 PM EST) --
Jillian M. Siskind
Jillian M. Siskind
Lawyers are licensed to provide a full range of legal services. However, certain tasks can be managed with greater cost efficiency through the involvement of skilled paralegals. Law firms that foster such collaboration stand to benefit as their clients gain access to a diverse array of services at affordable rates.

In accordance with the requirements set forth by the Law Society of Ontario, paralegals are authorized to provide legal advice pertaining to specific Ontario laws. Their capabilities encompass representing clients in small claims court and managing the defence and prosecution of provincial offences under the Provincial Offences Act.

Additionally, they can make appearances before tribunals such as the Licence Appeal Tribunal, Landlord and Tenant Board or the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. Moreover, they are adept at handling certain summary conviction criminal charges the Criminal Code proceeding in the Ontario Court of Justice.

As principal of a boutique law firm specializing in regulatory law, I am often required to appear before tribunals and provincial courts. But some of this work can be done by a paralegal, which is why I recently added paralegal Jenna Little as a staff member.

She is well-positioned to represent my clients in tribunals and small claims court, handling regulator prosecutions and offering defences for builders and realtors in matters concerning provincial offences.

She also has considerable experience arguing cases before the Ontario Court of Justice on appellate matters. She is well-versed in case law and can identify and highlight errors in previous judgments.

Over the past two decades, Jenna has excelled in litigating provincial offences at the Court of Justice, allowing her to cultivate a skill set that spans various legal domains including constitutional applications, federal contraventions and appeals related to provincial offences.

Paralegals play a key role when it comes to access to justice. As former Supreme Court Justice Beverley McLachlin famously noted, “Access to justice is a basic right, not a privilege that should be afforded to some and not to others.”

Access to justice is fundamentally important in any free and democratic society and is essential to due process and a fair trial. However, some people cannot afford a lawyer. For many of those people, a paralegal may be the perfect solution, especially when you consider that provincial courts and tribunals play a central role in maintaining a legal framework for resolving disputes.

Particularly when working in collaboration with lawyers, paralegals can provide an affordable option for those in need of legal services or representation. Their services help reduce self-represented litigants in court cases while deterring people from seeking advice from non-regulated legal resources. A paralegal can also provide excellent representation for public sector organizations like industry and professional regulators who prosecute provincial offences or who litigate in small claims court.

By working as a team, I know my clients will benefit from Jenna’s services. She is a senior paralegal who does high-quality work at a lower hourly rate than a lawyer. With her on board, our firm can offer a broader range of legal services to our clients, so this is a win/win all around.

In short, the combination of experienced counsel and paralegals working together provides a dynamic and cost-effective approach to the practice of law, in both the private and public sectors.

Jillian M. Siskind is the principal of Jillian M. Siskind & Associates.

The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s firm, its clients, Law360 Canada, LexisNexis Canada, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.  

Photo credit / Yevhen Lahunov
 ISTOCKPHOTO.COM 

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