Depending on the nature of your practice, you may find that there is real value in hiring a paralegal. There are many tasks that a competent paralegal may perform. There can be economic advantages to your clients and your practice from employing a paralegal. For example, a paralegal's work could be charged to your clients at a lower rate than if you did the work yourself, and more of your time becomes available as a result of your delegation of work to the paralegal; your time can be billed for other more highly-remunerated tasks. Training and employing paralegals could help you to deliver more efficient, comprehensive, and higher-quality legal services.
The BC Code sets out rules regarding the hiring and supervision of employees and paralegals. A paralegal is defined as a "non-lawyer who is a trained professional working under the supervision of a lawyer." If you choose to hire a paralegal, the paralegal must:
- have knowledge of law and procedure relevant to the tasks being delegated by a supervising lawyer;
- have practical and analytical skills necessary to carry out the work;
- be competent and ethical. (BC Code, Chapter 6, rule 6.1-3.2)
There are limitations on what paralegals may do. You must:
- understand the scope of what tasks paralegals may perform;
- ensure the paralegals work under the supervision of a lawyer; and
- ensure that the paralegals are not performing tasks that they should not be performing.
As a best practice you should:
- take the time to evaluate your paralegal's ability to perform the duties you intend to delegate; and
- continue to be conscious of your paralegal's competency throughout the term of the employment relationship.
Your obligation as a lawyer to protect the public requires you to oversee any work you delegate to non-lawyer staff. It is a sound policy to establish objective criteria to assess whether an employee's training, education, and experience are appropriate for the work you are delegating.