Paralegal and mentor lawyer prove to be a powerful legal team

Published: January 21, 2016

Paralegal Daniele Monsalvo and lawyer mentor Morgan Koch-who worked together during the first phase of Legal Aid Ontario (LAO)’s two-year paralegal study at courts in Ottawa, Hamilton, London and Brampton-agree that their work relationship substantially benefited their clients, the Brampton court and themselves.

Better access to justice for clients

Daniele is one of five LAO paralegals chosen to participate in this study. Before that, she was a legal aid worker at Brampton court for seven years.

She became a licenced paralegal in March 2012 and has been enjoying the added scope of court work available to her now, such as attending set date court to advise clients on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“When clients come into the duty counsel office, I identify myself as a paralegal, and they are always happy to have me assist them,” she says. “I regularly, for instance, help people who are looking for information or need a note written to seek an adjournment, and give advice on summary matters. If their matter is outside my scope of practice, I refer them to duty counsel.”

Other benefits of mentoring for Daniele

Daniele turned to Morgan, who was then a duty counsel at Brampton court (she’s now at College Park), whenever she needed answers to her questions. “It’s very important for paralegals to know we have a lawyer we can count on for advice and guidance,” she says.

She also took smaller matters off Morgan’s plate, such as divertible theft under charges.

“Taking care of things I’m qualified to do allowed Morgan to focus on serious charges that are outside of paralegal’s scope,” she says. “Also, I could free up duty counsel by writing notes that provided more information about a matter for clients to take to duty counsel in the courtroom.”

It’s great for everyone involved

Morgan, a criminal lawyer who came to LAO after winning the Whiteside Fellowship Award for commitment to access to justice at the University of Windsor, and working at Toronto’s Egale Canada on complex gay and transgender issues, worked with Daniele on criminal matters when Daniele entered the study in July 2014.

“It’s great for everyone involved to have a paralegal and lawyer work together,” says Morgan. “Daniele was completely capable of assisting me in court. Our clients were pleased because they knew they had more time to get legal advice when two people were available. And Daniele’s support freed my colleague Shilpa Pathak to do more resolution meetings.”

The time she spent mentoring Daniele also paid off in more time for everyone to serve clients in Brampton’s very busy courts.

“Together, we helped more of the large volume of people who had matters in court than either of us could alone,” she says. “It was wonderful to see how fast the court could move to have matters resolved and withdrawn as a result.”

Plus, on top of all this, she thinks mentoring a paralegal made her a better lawyer.

“Searching for the answers to Daniele’s questions helped me understand the law more deeply,” she says. “When you teach someone, it helps you to better grasp everything. That is why I can’t say enough about how great it was when Daniele worked with me.”

Clearly, this type of relationship can be a win-win all around. “At the end of the day,” says Daniele, “counsel and paralegals working together are the most beneficial way to serve our clients. When clients could see that Morgan trusted my legal abilities, they trusted me as well. And everyone benefitted.”

Note: Daniele has since moved on, as a full paralegal, to LAO’s Client Lawyer Service Centre. An update of her activities is underway.