The Legal Profession Amendment Act and Its Implications

Written by Eric Epp

The most commonly discussed barrier to access to justice in Canada is the unaffordability of the legal system. It is well documented that many Canadians will not contact a legal professional when faced with a legal problem and are thus unable to benefit from specific legal expertise.[1] The recently passed Bill 24 in Manitoba authorizes The Law Society of Manitoba (LSM) to create another category of legal services provider, namely a “limited practitioner”, to provide legal services within a defined scope with a view to increasing the availability of affordable legal services.

Bill 24 was brought forward following a request by the LSM to amend The Legal Profession Act in order to allow the LSM to make rules governing the provision of legal services by individuals who are not lawyers (limited practitioners) within a defined scope.[2] This could include the ability to draft certain documents, assist in filing court documents, conduct meetings at a lawyer’s direction, and potentially represent clients at certain hearings.[3] The Act amendments also include a provision that allows the LSM to make rules that will provide further exemptions to the provision of certain legal services that would otherwise constitute the unauthorized practice of law. These changes permit the LSM to expand the pool of legal service providers with a view to increasing access to justice and legal services at a reduced cost.

The changes to The Legal Profession Act could move Manitoba in the direction of Ontario, where paralegals are an independently regulated profession. In Ontario, paralegals are a separate category of licensee and are given the latitude to represent clients in small claims court, before administrative tribunals, and in certain criminal and quasi-criminal provincial court matters.[4] Access to justice concerns may even force the issue of whether “paralegals” should be regulated. For example, in Alberta it was noted recently that as more people turn to paralegals for assistance, their lack of regulation has led to defrauded clients since anyone may legally call themselves a paralegal in that province.[5] Regulation of limited practitioners, including paralegals potentially and certain non-profit advocates would allow for appropriate safeguards to be put in place to protect the public.[6]

Family law is often at the forefront of the minds of access to justice stakeholders as more Canadians self-represent in family law than in any other area of law. According to the Bill 24 Hansard, family law is the primary area this bill is hoped to address.[7] Permitting paralegals to provide discrete legal services in the area of family law has been the subject of debate in Ontario. Because family law frequently includes issues relating to tax, bankruptcy, criminal, contracts, and corporate law, it is argued that competency in many family law disputes may not be possible for limited practitioners.[8] Some have also worried about the development of a “two-tiered” justice system.[9] Before moving forward with developing regulations on this new class of legal service providers, the LSM is seeking feedback from the public. 

Expanding the affordability of legal services within the legal system is not something that will be solved overnight and it will likely require bold and creative solutions. We know that there is a wealth of legal knowledge and expertise held by those who are not lawyers.  It will be exciting to follow the impacts of this new legislation.

[1] Statistics Canada, JuristatExperiences of serious problems or disputes in the Canadian Provinces, 2021, by Laura Savage and Susan McDonald, Catalogue No 85-002-X (Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 18 January, 2022) at 14.

[2] Bill 24, The Legal Profession Amendment Act, 3rd Sess, 42nd Leg, Manitoba, 2021 (assented to 12 May 2021), SM 2002, c 44.

[3] “Bill 24, The Legal Profession Amendment Act”, 2nd reading, Legislative Assembly of Manitoba, 32B (9 March 2021) at 1610 (Hon Cameron Friesen) [2nd Reading].

[4] Terry Davidson, Ian Burns & John Schofield, “Canada has mixed approach on regulating paralegals; greater acceptance needed: industry voices”, The Lawyers Daily (4 November 2020) <> [].

[5] Heidi Semkowich, “Regulating Paralegals in Alberta”, The News from Alberta Counsel (June 2022) 158 at 5 <> [].

[6] 2nd Reading, supra note 3 at 1610.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Paul Russell, “A new type of paralegal will not improve access to justice: TLA”, (23 November 2020), online: Legal Matters Canada <> [].

[9] Legislative Assembly of Manitoba, The Standing Committee on Justice, (22 March 2021) at 1810 (Jurgen Feldschmid).

The views and opinions expressed in the blogs are the views of their authors, and do not represent the views of the Faculty of Law, or the University of Manitoba. Academic Members of the University of Manitoba are entitled to academic freedom in the context of a respectful working and learning environment.

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