I’m sure many female paralegals can relate, when I tell someone I’m a paralegal the first thing out of someone’s mouth is “Oh so you’re Rachel Zane”. For those of you who are scratching your head wondering who Rachel Zane is, she’s a character on the famous American based television series Suits.
Although there are many similarities between Rachel Zane the paralegal and paralegals that work in law firms the tracks begin to divide when we discuss fully licensed paralegals with their own practices and this is why.
1. Fully licensed paralegals can have their own practice. Paralegals have a permitted scope of practice that allows them to sustain their own practice. Along with this privilege, paralegals are required to fulfil continuing professional development hours (CPD) and substantive hours on an annual basis. CPD and substantive hours are used to keep legal professionals up to date with the law and their legal skills. Paralegals can only be fully licensed after successfully completing a specialized paralegal program, an internship and passing a standardized licensing exam.
Conversely, Rachel Zane would not be permitted to have her own practice because the U.S does not allow paralegals to practice on their own. Although I do remember hearing about a state that had just passed a law to allow so. Furthermore, Rachel would not have to write a standardized test, uphold CPD/substantive hour requirements.
2. Fully licensed paralegals do not need to work under the supervision of lawyers. Licensed paralegals, just like lawyers, are regulated by the Law Society of Canada which makes them subject to disciplinary actions for professional misconduct. Furthermore, fully licensed paralegals require liability insurance just like lawyers as they too can be sued. However, many paralegals with their own practices do choose to work with lawyers for mentorship and business promotion.
On the other hand, paralegals are regulated differently in America; Rachel Zane would have to work under the supervision of a lawyer. If Rachel makes a mistake, lawyers (Harvey) are held responsible.
3. Rachel Zane has Donna, Harvey, Louis, Jessica and Mike – Fully licensed paralegals in Canada don’t have anything to compete with that team. On a side note, I wish I was Donna!
4. Fully licensed paralegals can appear before tribunals, agencies, commissions and in small claim courts. Ontario is the only province that allows fully licensed paralegals to appear before tribunals, commissions, etc. Paralegals represent clients in a wide range of legal issues ranging from criminal charges to human right violations. Thus, fully licensed paralegals can handle a case within their permitted scope of practice beginning to end without a lawyer’s supervision. Rachel Zane would not have that opportunity.
5. Fully licensed paralegals with their own practices can work for multiple organizations. Paralegals with their own practice can team up with law firms as an extension of their services. For example, paralegals with their own practice can work with multiple organizations and firms. Paralegals can assist firms with: preparing legal documents, filling out legal forms, legal research, signing affidavits and working on pleadings while still specializing their own practice in a completely different field such as Landlord Tenant Board proceedings. Of course, paralegals would have to keep in mind conflicts of interest and follow the rules of conduct.
Again, for reasons listed above, Rachel Zane wouldn’t have that choice as she works full time at Pearson Specter Litt.
6. Rachel Zane also has a fabulous wardrobe. I’ve seen amazing outfits in court; I think we’re getting there!
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