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LSBC advances plan to merge with notaries, extend use of paralegals

|Written By Jennifer Brown

Citizens of British Columbia are one step closer to getting greater access to legal services after a move by the Law Society of British Columbia to merge with the Society of Notaries Public and recognize a standard for “credentialed paralegals.”

The LSBC needs to reverse the trend of diminishing access to justice, says Bruce LeRose.

LSBC benchers unanimously approved in principle three recommendations that could transform the regulation and delivery of legal services in B.C.

The recommendations come after years of review capped by a year of consultation and studying the question of whether various legal service providers, including lawyers, notaries public. and paralegals, should be brought under one regulatory umbrella. The Legal Service Provider Task Force presented its final report Dec 6.

The benchers approved the following task force recommendations:The LSBC and the Society of Notaries Public of British Columbia seek to merge regulatory operations.

  • That a program be created by which the legal regulator provide paralegals who have met specific, prescribed education and/or training standards with a certificate that would allow them to be held out as “certified paralegals.”
  • That the law society develop a regulatory framework by which other providers of legal services could provide credentialed and regulated legal services in the public interest.

While details of the proposals will need to be developed in consultation with the notaries, government and others, task force chairman Bruce LeRose said approving the recommendations in principle was an important first step.

“Access to justice is slipping out of reach for many British Columbians,” said LeRose in a statement released Monday. “It is critical that the law society look for ways to reverse that trend, and these ideas could be a big part of that.”

LSBC president Art Vertlieb called the benchers’ unanimous support for the motion a “watershed moment in the law society’s history.”

“It’s very timely and has a lot of positives for the community,” Vertlieb told Legal Feeds. “I think the profession has come to understand the merit of this.”

Vertlieb doesn’t expect lawyers will object to paralegals providing services at lower cost.

 “I don’t think lawyers are happy knowing there are so many people who aren’t able to get the help they need,” he says. “I think our profession and our tradition is one of service. I have to believe at the end of the day lawyers will recognize this is better for everybody. The analogy I use is the one of going to the hospital — you don’t see a neurosurgeon right away.”

The move also has the approval of the province’s attorney general.

“It is encouraging to see our justice partners work together to transform the regulation and delivery of legal services to the citizens of our province. The law society has shown tremendous leadership and the recommendations made today signal that progress is being made to improving access to justice for British Columbians,” said Suzanne Anton.

B.C. Notaries said it is appropriate their services be expanded to other areas of law where they will be properly qualified to practise thereby improving access for the public to affordable legal services.

“B.C. Notaries look forward to working with the law society, our members, and the Ministry of Justice in taking the next step to ensure that any merging of regulation continues to offer protection, continued and expanded choice, and improved access to legal services for the public,” said Wayne Braid, chief executive officer of B.C. Notaries.

The members of the task force are past LSBC president Bruce LeRose, (chairman); current governors Ken Walker, (vice chairman). and Satwinder Bains; Godfrey Archbold, president of the Land Title Survey Authority; John Eastwood, past president of the Society of Notaries Public of British Columbia; Carmen Marolla, vice president of the British Columbia Paralegal Association; and Kerry Simmons, past president of the Canadian Bar Association, B.C. Branch.

Update 2:20 pm: Comments from B.C. Notaries added.

  • RE: LSBC advances plan to merge with notaries, extend use of paralegals

    Gerry Laarakker
    @Chris Budgell. "And Attorney General Suzanne Anton is ready to put before the Legislature whatever changes to legislation are needed. We don't need lawyers that are "independent" from government so much as government that is independent from the lawyers.""
    _______________________________________________

    However, the government could be of more than a little assistance by reducing the court fees, getting good staff in the Registries and simplifying their arcane Civil Rules. They could have starting dates for trials that mean something and avoid situations where you wait in court to be told close to the end of the day: "We won't have time to hear you Counsel."
  • RE: LSBC advances plan to merge with notaries, extend use of paralegals

    Gerry Laarakker
    It is clear that Mr. Vertlieb practices law in the big ivory towers of downtown Vancouver where he does PI work. If he worked in a smaller centre, say Vernon, he would know that lawyers and notaries charge pretty much the same for their services, in fact, notaries frequently charge more because the public assumes that notaries charge less than lawyers, so they can get away with it. Perhaps the affordability of services issue ought to be re-thought.
    And now that notaries are pushing to expand their practice are to include estates, family and small claims, why become a lawyer unless you want to do big-time litigation. A ten-month course gets you the same results
  • RE: LSBC advances plan to merge with notaries, extend use of paralegals

    Chris Budgell
    I'll inject a note of skepticism here, on behalf of the public. The law societies to date have done an exemplary job of denying the vast majority of people anything that could be described as access to justice. Maybe what this is about is stopping the perceived threat of some competition: bring them in-house so they can be controlled.

    And Attorney General Suzanne Anton is ready to put before the Legislature whatever changes to legislation are needed. We don't need lawyers that are "independent" from government so much as government that is independent from the lawyers.

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