Ontario Legal Service Providers Must be Licensed

In May 2008, Ontario became the first jurisdiction in North America to license and regulate paralegals who provide legal services independent of lawyers.

Section 26.1 of the Law Society Act states that only a licensed paralegal or lawyer may provide legal services or hold themself out as a provider of legal services.  We wish to caution the public that the use of a non-licensed legal service provider may fundamentally affect your legal rights both in and out of court.

 

Five Signs that a Business may not be Licensed *

 

1. The Business is Focused on Document Preparation

Sections 1(5) and 1(6) of the Law Society Act define legal services.  A person is considered to be providing legal services if he/she “selects, drafts, completes or revises, on behalf of a person… a document for use in a proceeding before an adjudicative body” such as the Ontario Small Claims Court.  Consequently, even if a business is focused only on the preparation of Small Claims Court documents it is still required to be licensed, however, some are not.

 

2. The Business States it is Not a Licensee in its Disclaimer

Some businesses that are not authorized to provide legal services are quite honest and open about it and some even make such a declaration in their disclaimer.  Here’s one for example,

easycourt.ca is a document preparation service [and] does not offer/provide or equate to legal advice [and] is not acting as your paralegal or lawyer and is not a substitute for the advice of a paralegal or lawyer.

If you think you need legal advice, or feel that you have complex legal issues that you cannot resolve on your own, we recommend that you hire a paralegal or lawyer. 

 

3. The Business is Using a Name that is Inconsistent with the Law Society’s Naming Guidelines

While only the names of professional corporations require Law Society approval, licensees are still encouraged to follow the naming guidelines.  For example, guideline 11 of the “Paralegal Firm Name Guidelines” states:

A firm name should not be too general or only descriptive (e.g. Landlord and Tenant Paralegal Firm, Traffic Tickets Legal Services Firm etc.).

 

4. It is Not a Permitted Business Structure

A business that is operated by an Ontario or Canada corporation CANNOT be a licensee.  You can easily identify such business corporations by their corporate suffixes which in Ontario can only be ”limited,” “incorporation” or “corporation” or their corresponding abbreviations “ltd.,” “inc.’” or “corp” (see section 10 of the Business Corporations Act )

Since only licensees can provide legal services and licensees must be individuals the only type of permitted business structures for licensess are those that consist of individuals.  Consequently, permitted business structures are restricted to those that involve individuals such as sole-proprietorships, partnerships or professional corporations [Note: A professional corporation is one where the "shareholders" can only be licensess within the subject profession and each of whom remains individually liable to the corporation's clients.  Such corporations MUST use the phrase "profesional corporation" in their name].

  

5. The Business Has a Minimal Presence 

Most licensees have, at a minimum, a mailing address that is not a P.O. box and a listed telephone number.  You may wish to exercise extra caution with those businesses that have neither.

 

Questions to Answer

Is the person who is conducting your initial consultation and/or handling your file a licensee?

Is the person working for a permitted business structure (e.g. another licensee who is a sole-proprietor)?

Can you find both the licensee and the business structure in the Law Society’s directory?

 

For More Information

Visit the Law Society of Upper Canada’s webpage entitled Seeking legal help? Protect yourself.

 

* Please note the existence of one or more of these attributes does not necessarily mean a business is not permitted to provide legal services.  If you wish to be certain we suggest you contact the Law Society of Upper Canada which is the licensing body for paralegals and lawyers in the Province of Ontario.