LAO’s paralegals provide full range of practice in criminal courts

Published: April 4, 2016

Legal Aid Ontario has created permanent roles for five paralegals in four criminal courthouses in Hamilton, Ottawa, London and Brampton, based on results from Phase 1 of LAO’s paralegal pilot.

“We are thrilled about the study’s results,” says David McKillop, LAO’s Vice President, Policy, Research & External Relations. “They show that with the proper support and mentorship, licensed paralegals can thrive alongside duty counsel, providing client-centered and cost-effective services as part of an inter-disciplinary team.”

“As a result, paralegals can provide our clients with more comprehensive services, our managers with more options for staffing, and our duty counsel with more time to work with clients on complex matters.”

“Paralegals are now another trusted foundation of client services at Legal Aid Ontario duty counsel offices,” says Stephen Parker, president of the Ontario Paralegal Association. “With Phase 1 of this study now complete, we hope more paralegals will be able to provide LAO with the full scope of practice for which they are licensed by the Law Society of Upper Canada.”

Results of the study

Phase 1 of LAO’s paralegal pilot began in 2014 with five legal aid workers who already had their paralegal licences and significant experience working as legal aid workers in the criminal duty counsel office.

The five paralegals, working within teams of staff lawyers and other legal aid workers, demonstrated personalized and conscientious support for clients within their scope of service, to help court cases move more effectively and expeditiously through the criminal system.

What the five paralegals will do

The five individuals who participated in Phase 1 of the pilot are now taking on one of three basic permanent roles at LAO:

  • “Specialist” paralegals who have gained expertise in areas such as mental health or Gladue court will dedicate their time to serving clients individually and ensuring continuity of service in these courts.
  • “Traditionalist” paralegals will support duty counsel in a variety of simple summary offence matters in diversion, set date and domestic court.
  • “Hybrid” paralegals will take on matters in “specialist” courts and also support their office in a “traditionalist” role.

Next steps

LAO hopes to expand the program to other experienced legal aid workers with paralegal licences who work in criminal courthouses with high volumes.

More information