Depending on the nature of your practice, you may find value in hiring a paralegal or other non-lawyer staff who can perform tasks under your supervision. A paralegal or legal assistant can competently perform many tasks, and they provide clear economic advantages as their work is likely to be charged out at a lower rate. Employing competent non-lawyer staff who are appropriately trained and supervised can help you to deliver more efficient, comprehensive, and higher quality legal services. When using non-lawyer staff, lawyers should explain to the client the roles of staff and differing billing rates, and make it clear if most client communications will be through a staff member other than the lawyer.

Paralegals are not regulated in Alberta, nor is the term “paralegal” defined or referenced in the Legal Profession Act, the Rules of the Law Society of Alberta or the Code of Conduct. You must ensure that any employee or staff member that you consider to be a “paralegal” has sufficient knowledge of the law and procedure relevant to any tasks being delegated by a supervising lawyer, has the practical and analytical skills to carry out the work, and is competent and ethical.

There are limitations on what paralegals—and all other non-lawyer staff—can do. As the supervising lawyer, you must:

  • understand the scope of the tasks non-lawyers may perform;
  • exercise proper supervision; and
  • put protocols and controls in place to ensure that non-lawyers are not performing unauthorized tasks.

As a best practice you should:

  • take the time to evaluate your non-lawyer staff’s ability to perform the duties you intend to delegate; and
  • be continuously conscious of your non-lawyer staff’s competency throughout the term of the employment relationship.

Rule 6.1-1 of the Code requires you to directly supervise any work you delegate to non-lawyer staff. Establish objective criteria to assess whether an employee's training, education, and experience are appropriate for the work you are delegating. Remember that regardless of the training and experience of your non-lawyer staff, you are responsible for the work that you entrust to them, and you must maintain control and management of your office.  

While it can be efficient to assign tasks to paralegals or other staff, it is important to always ensure you are overseeing their work and conducting legal work yourself. Train your staff so they are aware of what tasks fall within their scope of work, and what they must refer back to you. 

Last modified: Monday, 21 August 2023, 9:39 AM