The Law Society is implementing the Family Law Action Plan to improve access to justice for Ontario families. The plan includes the following action items. Click on each point for more information.
The Law Society is developing a licence to permit paralegals and others to assist the public with certain family legal services, including areas such as process navigation, completion of some forms, and possibly other areas outside the courtroom context.
As this licence is being developed, the Law Society will assess what additional legal services, including advocacy, would be in the public interest for paralegals and others to offer, and will consider how best to move ahead with an expanded licence.
Collaborative development process
The development process for the new licence will be based on the same model used to develop and maintain our current lawyer and paralegal licensing systems. Involvement of legal professionals, including the family law bar and paralegals is essential. Psychometricians will be assisting with the process to ensure the requirements are rigorous and defensible.
The Law Society is currently consulting with a diverse cross-section of family law practitioners, paralegals and other stakeholders. These discussions will assist in defining the knowledge, skills, and abilities that will form the basis of the required education and testing components for the licence.
We anticipate that the development of the first licence will take approximately 24 months and that the licensing process will be open to qualified applicants in early 2020.
Unbundling of legal services and legal coaching are innovative ways to assist people who may not be able to hire a lawyer or paralegal to help with their entire legal matter.
Under a limited scope retainer, also known as unbundled legal services, a person hires a lawyer or paralegal to assist with part, but not all of their legal matter. For example, an individual could hire a lawyer to help complete a court form and then represent themselves in court.
Legal coaching is a form of unbundled legal service. An individual navigates their legal issue, with the lawyer or paralegal providing a range of supporting services. These may include assistance in navigating the legal system or providing legal information as well as substantive legal advice.
Promoting expanded use of unbundling
The Law Society supports the expanded use of unbundling, including legal coaching, by offering referral services, continuing professional development and other resources. More information on these resources will be posted here in the coming weeks.
The Law Society is committed to exploring how lawyer licensing candidates may provide supports for the delivery of family law services under appropriate supervision. This initiative is being considered as part of the Dialogue on Licensing, the Law Society’s current review of the lawyer licensing process.
The Law Society is working with government to ensure that court staff are able to provide timely accurate legal information to court users.