Following in the footsteps of their peers in Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia, paralegals in Quebec are asking to be formally recognized by the Barreau du Québec.
On Monday the Quebec Association of Paralegals met with the Comité sur les techniciens juridiques du Barreau du Québec (the regulator’s paralegal committee) and officially requested the barreau recognize the QAP.
“We’re just asking to recognize that we exist, that we’re a force in Quebec and we’re here to stay,” says the QAP’s Gianni Chiazzese, a securities paralegal with Lavery de Billy in Montreal. “We built up the association in 2011. We felt it was important to have a provincial association because paralegals in Ontario have been regulated by the Law Society of Upper Canada in Ontario, and British Columbia is very well organized and have a full relationship with the law society there. That is exactly what we want.”
Chiazzese says the QAP’s goal is to be regulated on tasks they are already doing.
“We’re not regulated and anyone can call themselves a paralegal and we’re starting to feel the pinch on that. It’s a three-year program here in Quebec and if you have several years experience you can call yourself a paralegal,” he says.
In Quebec, paralegals graduate from a techniciens juridiques program and there is a divide between those who refer to themselves as techniciens juridiques and those who say they are paralegals.
The word “parajuriste” (paralegal) will be now considered as a synonym to techniciens juridiques.
Chiazzese says once they are recognized by the Barreau du Quebec they plan to approach the notaries in the province.
“But there is less of a problem with the notaries than there is with the lawyers,” he says. “With the notaries the paralegals are doing research and then submitting it back to the notary as opposed to the paralegals working in a law firm or for lawyers we’re doing things that are the ultimate responsibility of the lawyer.”
For example with an incorporation of a company and preparing share capital, in some cases a lawyer would not be involved whatsoever.
“Article 128 of the barreau specifically says that is exclusive to lawyers but the barreau will argue you’re under the employment of a lawyer and has ultimate say. But we’re telling them this is going to explode and we don’t want what happened in Ontario to happen in Quebec,” he says.
“There was a bitter divide, the paralegals had the support of the population and the law society couldn’t ignore it anymore.”
The QAP’s mission is to recruit members, promote the paralegal profession in Québec and create a universal database exclusively of paralegals for the benefit of employers.