July 14, 2021
The Law Society Act, Insurance Act, and the Solicitors Act were all amended in 2016 as a result of arguments from insurers regarding disclosure of how lawyers' and paralegals' fees are calculated. (1) Once passed into law that same year, Bill 12 required that any fee agreement with a lawyer or paralegal disclose how the fee is calculated. Disclosures must be easy for the consumer to understand and prominent.
Contingency fees were also capped at 33% as a consumer protection measure. In an arrangement based on contingency fees, businesses and individuals share both the risk and benefit of advancing claims. (2)
Paralegals and other providers of professional services face new legislation all the time to protect both professionals and their clients. Specialized coverage is needed to address legislative changes.
The Roles and Responsibilities of a Paralegal
Paralegals are held to a high standard of professional competency. (3) A legal representative must possess the relevant skills, knowledge, and attributes regarding each case:
● Paralegals must be knowledgeable about both the general rules of law and procedure and the substantive law and procedure applicable to the legal services they provide;
● They must find facts, identify issues, determine clients' objectives, evaluate options, and advise them on the best course of action;
● They are expected to use the appropriate skills to implement the chosen course of action, depending on the issues involved, such as:
○ Legal research,
○ Application of the law to the relevant facts,
○ Writing and drafting,
○ Alternative dispute resolution,
○ Advocacy, and
● They are responsible for representing the client conscientiously, diligently, and economically;
● A paralegal's primary duty is to communicate effectively and efficiently with a client at every stage of the procedure;
● Clients can expect prompt response times and effective services;
● Paralegals ensure that all applicable deadlines are met;
● They are expected to manage their practice effectively as they apply their logical thinking, judgment, and deliberation to every aspect of their work;
● They pursue appropriate training and development to remain knowledgeable and proficient;
● As required, they adapt to the changing requirements, standards, techniques, and practices; and
● They comply with all requirements set by the Law Society in letter and spirit.
Clients expect that paralegals will be courteous, thorough and prompt in their service. Paralegals must be competent, reliable, efficient, conscientious, resourceful and courteous in the delivery of their services. In this regard, a paralegal must be honest and direct with clients.
Paralegals may not conduct or provide advice on matters outside their scope of practice. It is the paralegal's responsibility to recognize a task on which the paralegal lacks the competence and the disservice that would be done to the client if the task were undertaken. If a paralegal is not competent to handle a matter, or cannot become competent without undue delay or expense, then they should not take on the case.
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