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Employee Delegation and Supervision

Lawyers and paralegals must ensure that employees only complete tasks for which they have been properly trained and have the required competence. The lawyer or paralegal is responsible for all work delegated to employees and must directly and adequately supervise them [rule 6.1-1 of the lawyers’ Rules of Professional Conduct (lawyers’ Rules) and subrule 8.01(3) of the Paralegal Rules of Conduct (Paralegal Rules)]. The extent of that supervision will depend on the type of matter, regardless of how standardized or repetitive the task, and the experience of the employee, both generally and with the matter in question. Extra care may be needed if there is something different or unusual in the matter.

To prevent the unauthorized practice of law or provision of legal services, lawyers and paralegals must not allow any non-licensed employee to perform any of the duties that only a lawyer or paralegal may perform. This rule applies at the lawyer or paralegal’s practice and at any satellite office of the practice. Part I of By-Law 7.1 outlines the specific obligations placed on lawyers and paralegals who delegate work to non-lawyer employees.

With prior express instruction and authorization, a lawyer or paralegal may allow a non-lawyer employee to

  •  take instructions from the client
  • give or accept an undertaking on the lawyer or paralegal’s behalf
  • act before an adjudicative body on the lawyer or paralegal’s behalf in respect of a scheduling or other related routine administrative matter, and
  • upon client consent, conduct routine negotiations with third parties in relation to the client’s matter, where the negotiation results are approved by the lawyer or paralegal before any other action is taken.

Lawyers or paralegals must not allow a non-lawyer or non-paralegal employee to  

  • accept a client on the lawyer or paralegal’s behalf
  • provide the client legal advice
  • act finally in respect of the client’s affairs
  • perform any of the duties that only lawyers or paralegals may do
  • perform any duties that lawyers or paralegals themselves are not permitted to do, or
  • be held out as a lawyer or paralegal.

Lawyers or paralegals should ensure that non-lawyer or non-paralegal employees clearly identify themselves as such when communicating with clients, prospective clients, or the public. This includes both written and oral communications.

The commentary to rule 6.1-1 of the lawyers’ Rules provides examples of appropriate delegation of tasks as they relate to real estate matters, including electronic registration and title insurance; corporate and commercial matters; and wills, trusts, and estates.

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