1. What are the annual professional requirements to maintain your status as a lawyer?
Lawyers must meet high standards of appropriate education, training and qualification, which includes maintaining standards of conduct (including compliance with the ethical requirements of the Code of Conduct). Among other responsibilities, lawyers must create an annual continuing education plan, and secure adequate professional liability insurance to protect their clients from negligence.
2. Who regulates the practice of paralegals in Alberta?
There is no governing body for paralegals, legal agents and legal assistants in Alberta. When problems arise, you have no recourse for review, complaint or discipline of a paralegal, legal agent or legal assistant’s conduct.
3. Are paralegals required to have any formal training?
4. Are paralegals accountable for the services they provide?
Paralegals, legal agents and legal assistants are not accountable for their services, as there is no governing or regulatory body to set or maintain standards of service. They are not required to follow a code of conduct or ethics, or carry insurance.
5. Are my dealings with a paralegal protected by confidentiality or privilege?
No. Your private conversations with a paralegal, legal agent or legal assistant are not confidential or protected by privilege.
6. Can I expect the fees of a paralegal to be less than the fees of a lawyer?
While a paralegal, legal agent or legal assistant may charge less than a lawyer on an hourly basis, they sometimes charge more than lawyers for an equivalent service. Unfortunately, you are limited in terms of options if you feel you have been overcharged.
7. How long are paralegals required to retain my file?
Paralegals, legal agents and legal assistants are not required to preserve your files.
8. How can I tell if my lawyer is authorized to practise law?
You can check your lawyer’s status with our Lawyer Directory service.
9. As a lawyer, what can I do to protect myself if I am conducting a financial transaction with an individual represented by a paralegal?
Payments made on behalf of a client to a third party who is being represented by a non-lawyer should be made payable to the third party. Payments should not be made to a paralegal, legal agent, legal assistant or any other type of non-lawyer advocate.
10. As a lawyer, how do I deal with a party being represented by an unauthorized practitioner?
A lawyer dealing with an unauthorized agent should view all transactions as being conducted with an unrepresented individual. The lawyer should inform the client in writing that they have no recourse in the event of misappropriation of funds or negligence by the other party. Lawyers dealing with unauthorized agents should be extremely careful that they are in no way acting for the unrepresented individual, and thus being placed in a potential conflict of interest situation.