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Lippa seeks second term as paralegal bencher

Toronto paralegal Marian Lippa tells AdvocateDaily.com that if she is re-elected as a bencher for the Law Society of Ontario (LSO), she will commit to fighting to advance her profession.

“We are at a crucial point given the strong opposition from lawyers' associations regarding our expansion of scope into family law and criminal law,” she says.

Lippa has long been an advocate for her profession. She fought for the right for paralegals to have a seat before the bar and challenged the Barristers’ Act and its “unfair practice of recognizing lawyers’ matters before those of paralegals.”

In R.v. Lippa, a 2013 judgment, the Ontario Superior Court dismissed her application, but she says the case brought province-wide attention to paralegals’ ongoing efforts to be treated with respect and have standing in the court.

“We didn't win the battle, but we won the war because that decision exposed the discrimination that paralegals are facing,” Lippa says. “I stood up for the profession and continue to do so to ensure that we are recognized and utilized to our fullest extent so that the people of Ontario have access to justice.” 

During her tenure with the law society, Lippa, who mentors paralegals and students through co-op programs, lectures and acted as a director for the Paralegal Society of Ontario and Ontario Paralegal Association, has successfully fought for expanded scope of practice for paralegals in family law as well as for a legislative declaration as officers of the court which derived from her case.

Lippa says “expanding our scope to allow us to work in other areas of law” means people who cannot afford to hire a lawyer or don't have access to legal aid will not go unrepresented in court.

“We fill that gap,” she says. “Paralegals play a vital role in ensuring access to justice because they are able to handle cases more economically. I've always said the only difference between paralegals and lawyers should not be competency but rather the scope of practice. We are team players working toward the same goal.”

Lippa says credentials mean everything.

“My mandate for the next term is to ensure that paralegal students are given increased education into more areas of law covered by the many administrative tribunals in Ontario as well as divisional court appeals,” she says. “I want to see longer placements and a program that mirrors the Law Practice Program (LLP) for articling lawyers.”

She says paralegals face an uphill battle at Convocation because, “we're only five votes as opposed to lawyers who have 40, so you can imagine how hard it is to achieve change but it's because of the relationships the paralegal benchers have made with the lawyer benchers and the lay bencher that we've garnered support on our issues.” 

She says paralegals are on the heels of legislative change that threatens their future. 

Bill C-75 is a threat to paralegals being removed from doing criminal law,” she says. “I alerted everybody at the law society about this bill and its potential effect on paralegals being able to appear at criminal court. We've been working on solutions.”

The LSO decision to create a special licence to allow paralegals to offer family law services is important, but Lippa says it’s vital to have the proper training in place.

“I believe that family law licence requires education of the highest standard, not only to protect the public interest, which is what we do, but to calm the fears or the criticisms we've felt from the legal community,” she says. 

Lippa says if she is re-elected she will push hard for increased placement hours for paralegals, which include an amendment to LSO Bylaw 7.1 to allow students to do court work so that they can get real hands-on experience.

She says she also wants a program that mirrors the Law Practice Program (LLP) for articling lawyers.

"That must be changed,” she says.

Lippa says she is encouraging paralegals to vote to ensure their voice is heard.

Five paralegal benchers and forty lawyer benchers will be elected — 20 from inside Toronto and 20 from outside. Voting runs April 15 to 30.

For more information, click here

 

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