Paralegals

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.