By Mari-Len De Guzman
The Law Society of Upper Canada (the Law Society) stated that effective Nov. 1, 2007, to continue to provide legal services, all paralegals must have submitted a completed Registration and Application form to the Law Society, and obtained errors and omissions insurance.
The exceptions to this requirement are those individuals who are exempt from the licensing requirement, either under the Law Society Act, or pursuant to a bylaw passed by the Law Society. This licensing requirement has been brought about to ensure that those persons who do provide legal services do so professionally and ethically. The licensing requirement is there to protect the consumers of those legal services.
Many employers and workers across the country use representatives to assist them with their dealings with their respective compensation boards. Representatives assist with revenue issues, including rate group classification, registration, claim reporting, return to work and appeals. Some representatives work on their own, or as part of a union. Others work for larger organizations specializing in representing employers and workers.
Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) stated that, effective Nov. 1, 2007, it will not accept as representatives, individuals who have not applied for a paralegal licence and who are not otherwise exempt from the licensing requirement. As of that date, worker and employer representatives are required to provide the WSIB with confirmation of their licensing status for all WSIB matters.
For the WSIB to release information to your representative, they will require a completed authorization form for either your firm file, or the claim file(s) they are assisting with. These forms are available on the WSIB’s website (www.wsib.on.ca).
For claim files, you must complete a Direction of Authorization form. For revenue issues, an Employer’s Direction of Authorization — Firm File Access form is required. The completed form must contain the representative’s Law Society application number, or exemption status.
If a representative was authorized to deal with the WSIB prior to Nov. 1, 2007, they will be required to provide their Law Society application number or exemption status to the responsible WSIB employee (i.e. the claims adjudicator, account representative, or appeals officer).
The Law Society accepted applications for licences from paralegals already practicing in permitted areas of practice up until Oct. 31, 2007. These are known as “grandparent” or “transitional” applicants. Eligible applicants will be required to pass a licensing exam that will be administered in Jan. 2008 by the Law Society. The Law Society estimates that the first paralegal licenses will be issued in the spring of 2008.
There are specific situations where an individual is exempt from having to apply for a paralegal licence. Some examples include those who provide representation for friends or relatives on an occasional basis, if they do not normally provide legal services, and if they don’t receive any payment. In addition, those who work for, and represent only one employer, and those who work for unions, representing their members. Members of certain professional organizations may also be exempt. For more information on who is required to be licensed as a paralegal, please visit: www.lsuc.on.ca.
Employers and workers who have engaged, or are considering engaging a representative to assist them with their dealings with the WSIB should consider this licensing requirement. After all, the requirement has been put in place to protect employers and workers receiving services to ensure that those providing the services can be held accountable for the advice they give.
Ask your current or prospective representative whether they have applied to be licensed as paralegals. If they haven’t, they may not be able to represent you. If they don’t know what you’re talking about when you ask them, perhaps consider changing representatives. For those of us affected by this licensing requirement, the question should not come as a surprise.
David Marchione is an OHS consultant with Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP in Toronto, specializing in workers’ compensation matters. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.gowlings.com/ohslaw.
Mari-Len De Guzman is the former editor of Canadian Occupational Safety magazine and www.cos-mag.com.