Today I had the honor and privilege to speak at a conference put on by the Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia directed towards paralegals. It was a great conference with a great turnout. It is a real testament to the paralegal professionals that were in attendance today of the priority that they place in doing a good job for clients. They are all no doubt busy with their work but they took a day out of their work life to spend a day learning how to do their job better. It made me think however that many people not in the legal profession likely have no idea what a paralegal is, or the role that they play in a law firm.
The Law Society of BC has defined a paralegal as “a non-lawyer employee who is competent to carry out legal work that, in the paralegal’s absence, would need to be done by the lawyer.” That definition doesn’t really tell you the depth or breadth of the tasks that a paralegal carries out, nor does it give you any indication of the education and experience that paralegals have. Paralegals have specific education to enable them to do their job. Their education often includes an undergraduate university degree followed by a program specifically to qualify them to work as paralegals. Their training includes all of the substantive and procedural aspects of law. Many, such as Romila in our office, have many, many years of experience assisting clients with cases. Their role on a file is vital and integral. The paralegal can be a great source of help for me in representing clients but more importantly can be a great source of help for the client. The paralegal will typically know all of the details on a file, will know what steps are being taken to move the file forward, will be able to explain how each of these steps are taken, the importance of the step and the implications of many of the things that happen on a file.
Speaking today at the conference served as a good reminder to me of the vital role that paralegals play in our profession and the potential role that they can play in increasing access to justice. Thank you TLABC for the opportunity to be a part of your first conference for paralegals!!