Law Society benchers approve action plan to improve access to justice for families via special licensing for paralegals and others

Toronto - December 1, 2017: The Law Society's governing body today approved, in principle, an action plan to help improve access to justice for Ontario families. The plan includes establishing a special licence for paralegals and others with appropriate training, to offer some family law legal services.

The action plan was developed in partnership with the Ministry of the Attorney General, in response to the 21 recommendations outlined in the Family Legal Services Review, which considered whether a broader range of service providers could deliver certain family law legal services.

From early March to mid-May, 2017, the Law Society of Upper Canada and the Ministry of the Attorney General invited public feedback on recommendations outlined in the review. Over 160 submissions were received from individuals and organizations, which helped to inform the joint action plan.

“We are committed to strengthening the province's family law system,” says Law Society Treasurer Paul Schabas. “I am confident that this will help to provide Ontarians with timely, competent services, while protecting the public interest.”

“The Ministry was very pleased to collaborate with the Law Society on solutions for this critical access to justice issue.” says Attorney General Yasir Naqvi. “I am firmly committed to making real change for families navigating the justice system and this is an important part of achieving that goal,” he says.

Action Plan Details

Under the joint action plan the Law Society will:  

  1. Develop a licence for licensed paralegals and others with appropriate training to offer some family law legal services, following resource-related discussions with government. Recognizing the urgency of the need, this licence will support training in process navigation, form completion, investigating forms such as financial, motions to change, and uncontested divorces - and possibly other areas outside the courtroom context.

  2. At the same time, assess what additional family legal services by providers other than lawyers, and including advocacy, are in the public interest, and consider how to develop a further expanded licence, following resource-related discussions with government. 

  3. Engage in a robust evaluation of the success of the family law legal services licence for providers other than lawyers, and make any adjustments that are in the public interest. 

  4. As part of its priorities, consider experiential training for lawyer candidates in the licensing process, including how they may provide supports for the delivery of family law legal services under appropriate supervision.

  5. Review its rules relating to the unauthorized practice of law and ensure that the rules are as clear as possible concerning the difference between legal information that might be provided by court staff to unrepresented litigants, and legal advice.

  6. Continue to support the expanded use of unbundled services and legal coaching, including offering continuing legal education opportunities and tools to address liability concerns.

More information is available online

In partnership with the Law Society, the province will continue to explore ways to increase access to justice in family law and will announce further steps to build on this joint action plan in the New Year.  

Additional Information - Family Legal Services Review  

Family Legal Services Review report

Individual submissions - 2017 Family Legal Services Review Report consultation

Organizational submissions - 2017 Family Legal Services Review Report consultation  

The Law Society has a duty to protect the public interest, to maintain and advance the cause of justice and the rule of law, to facilitate access to justice for the people of Ontario, and to act in a timely, open and efficient manner.  

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Media Contact:

Susan Tonkin, Communications Advisor - Media Relations - The Law Society of Upper Canada at 416-947-7605, or stonkin@lsuc.on.ca  

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