Ontario

Legal Research vs. Intellectual Technology

paralegalOne may argue that the backbone of law is legal research but what if legal personnel were no longer required to fill this need?

With technology making its way into every aspect of our lives, it isn’t surprising that incorporated intellectual technology is predicted to overtake simple legal research tasks and replace legal researchers.

On the one hand, this may be a relief to clients as they will no longer be billed for the long hours legal professions spend researching information. Clients will pay a fraction of the price as the intellectual technology will have the ability to obtain the information in a short time span. As legal intellectual technology progresses, the legal searches will become more complex and the answers will be provided much better. Everyone wins! Right? Not exactly.

moneyMany legal professionals, such as paralegals have dedicated a significant amount of their academic careers to master the art of legal research. In larger law firms, lawyers often rely on Paralegals to conduct legal research at a fraction of the cost the lawyers would charge if they had done the research themselves. For an illustration, imagine a lawyer who is paid $300 per hour he/she would charge that amount for every hour spent on finding the answers the client requires. Legal research can vary from a quick 30-minute search to 10 hours of research or more. That’s anywhere from $150 – 3000. Conversely, if a paralegal conducts the search, the lawyer will charge the client much less, for example $100/hr. Consequently, the client pays anywhere from $50 – 1000.

Although many clients believe that $100 for research is excessive, some legal professionals argue that it may seem simplistic but is far from it. Legal professionals are liable for the information they provide, so there is a need for thoroughness. Legal research requires reliable sources which can sometimes result in hours of reading through a statute, case law and government websites. Every issue is treated in a unique manner to assure the best results.

Furthermore, sources are then compared to check for consistency and address any gaps in information. After conducting research, the information is then simplified to ensure that the client can understand what is being conveyed.


What’s your opinion- would you prefer intellectual technology or individuals conducting research on your behalf?

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Points of Discussion:
1. How do you feel about the progression of intellectual technology in the legal field?
 

 

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Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

shIt seems everyone has a story where they have been victims of unwanted attention from coworkers, clients or employers.  Reflecting on my personal experiences, these comments stand out in particular:

“You always have the prettiest women working for you; where do you find them?” I was working in an accounting office when a man walked in and said this to my employer in front of me, he then looked at me as if I should have been flattered instead of disgusted.

A more recent example, a client had called for information that I did not have on hand so I asked if I could get his number to call him back and he replied with “If I give you my number, can I have yours?” I replied with a stern “no”. He was shocked and said “but you just responded with a no” – I’m not sure what he was expecting to be honest. Although some argue that this is merely “harmless humour”, others would strongly disagree.

Sexual harassment is common in most workplaces; however, the Occupational Health and Safety Act will now include sexual harassment under its code to help protect employees. The proposition of the act is currently being referred to as Bill 132 and will include factors such as: gender, sexual orientation, gender identity expression, sexual solicitation and advances made by a person in a position of power.

shhThe objective is to help victims who are too afraid to take action against such behaviour in their workplace due to power dynamics with the harasser. The idea is that the harasser should know or should reasonably know that such advances would be unwelcomed. The bill will allow the Ministry of Labour to order third-party investigations into sexual harassment complaints. Who will pay for this investigation? The employer, especially in circumstances where the investigation process is faulty or inadequate.

The bill is expected to become effective as of Sept. 8, 2016.  The Occupational Health and Safety Act will set out:

  1. Investigators responsible to oversee the investigation if the accused harasser is the employer;
  2. the means of maintaining confidentiality; and
  3. make conclusions drawn from the investigation available to both the complainant and alleged harasser

Employers would be required to carry out:

1. appropriate investigations;
2. make available written results; and
3. complete annual reviews of the sexual harassment complaints (at minimum)

Have you been harassed at work? What is your story? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

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Legal Phone Applications

question markHave you ever found yourself in a situation where you wish you were aware of your legal rights? Individuals who feel targeted by practices such as carding: being stopped by a police officer and asked to produce ID due to your racial background. An individual who felt he was targeted due to his racial profile created a phone application to assist laypersons with navigating the legal system – he named LegalSwipe.

Christien Levien, the creator of the application, came across this idea while working in legal rights workshops and completing his Law degree; he realized that many individuals could not completely appreciate the advice being given or how to apply it.  Being a victim of carding himself, he advocates for the importance of such an application. The app is meant to assist individuals during interactions with the police. The app also videotapes encounters with the police and uploads them to Dropbox. The app allows the user to ask a question and have it answered almost promptly.

The application was launched in Toronto in July of 2015 and had about 10,000 downloads in the first day. Toronto and Quebec have had the most downloads for the app.
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What does this phone application offer you?

It seems relatively easy to navigate compared to searching for answers online. It is aimed to be easy to understand so the average person is not confused by the use of legal terminology. There is also a broadcast messaging factor that allows the users emergency contacts to be sent constant messages about the user’s location. Finally, the product also offers a Dropbox Audio and Video Recording that will be emailed to emergency contacts and uploaded to synchronized Dropbox accounts. That last part is still a bit confusing to me, to be completely honest.

Although I have not used the application myself, I cannot imagine a police officer responding well to someone pulling out their phone while being arrested or questioned. Mr. Levien acknowledges this issue and encourages individuals to familiarize themselves with the product before they may need to use it. I think it’s a fantastic idea to educate laypersons about the law, after all, that is the objective of this blog.

What are your thoughts?
How effective do you think this app can be?
Have you used the application?

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A Free Women’s Clinic

Everyone should have access to justice but reality can be very different. Over the past 14 years, B.C has reduced its legal aid funding by 40%, leaving many individuals without the assistance they require. Although legal aid provides individuals with up to 25 hours of legal assistance this is far from sufficient for most women.

money Impact

A 40% decrease in funding only leaves enough funding to protect women in high conflict circumstances such as domestic violence victims. Consequently, many women who are not able to obtain legal representation while their husbands can, lose their cases in court. Women are often forced to represent themselves and unable to obtain the same access to justice as someone who would have more resources. Mothers involved in divorce matters are particularly impacted by less funding if they are the primary caregivers for the child but can’t afford a lawyer. For this reason, many paralegals have argued for the chance to represent individuals who cannot afford representation.

 untitledRise Women’s Legal Centre

The Rise Women’s Legal Centre is targeted towards women who require the kind of assistance noted above. Prior to its opening, the phone was already ringing with women seeking help. The lawyers involved were barely surprised as they understood the need for such a clinic. The clinic is situated in British Columbia and made up of multiple lawyers and law students. In Ontario, Paralegals are now permitted to practice family law with the assistance of a lawyer. The courts had declared a legal crisis when numerous individuals chose to self-represent in family law cases as they were unable to afford lawyers.  Individuals were stuck in a limbo where they couldn’t afford legal representation but they also didn’t qualify for legal aid. As a result of self-representation, documents were misfiled and had to be corrected and resubmitted, legal procedures had to be explained in more detail and legal proceedings were delayed.

 

Do you believe this is a step in the right direction?

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Transgender developments Bill C-16

The Liberal government promised equality and change, Bill C-16 may be a step in that direction. B C-16 was proposed by the Liberal party in the House of Commons this Tuesday. Simply put Bill C- 16 would help legally protect transgendered individuals.

Many individuals are not familiar with the differences between being a transsexual and being transgendered. Sexuality is related to biology, specifically genitalia. Conversely, gender is a social concept and allows an individual to choose what they identify with. Gender is rooted in social constructions of what it means to be male, female or genderless, irrelevant to one’s anatomy. Transgendered individuals usually identify with a gender that differs from how society may categorize them. Consequently, this leads to complex legal issues.

Every_Canadian_Needs_A_CopyBill C-16 proposes to protect transgendered individuals in the following ways:

  1. The Human Rights Act will expand to protect individuals based on their “gender identity” and “gender expression”. Thus, individuals would be protected from being discriminated based on how one chooses to express their gender and what gender they identify with. For example, if a female chooses to wear a tux to prom, she will not be removed from prom due to her attire (this is a real life example). Individuals will also be protected against being denied a job based on their gender expression; for instance, if a male chooses to express himself as a female, he cannot be denied employment on these grounds.
  2. The Criminal Code of Canada would also be amended to protect individuals from hate speech based on their gender identity and gender expression. Judges will be required to consider the use of such language as aggravating factors in a case. For instance, if someone is assaulted due to their appearance and are called words like “faggot”, “dyke” or “she-male” these terms will be viewed as aggravating factors and result in a more serious conviction.

This bill was proposed a half a dozen times before by the New Democrat party but it was shot down every time. This is the first time that the bill has been brought forward by the party in power. Many MP’s are hoping that the legislation will be passed this time. If this bill is passed, Paralegals will be able to defend victims at the Human Rights Tribunal.

Stay tuned to TSP for more developments!
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PTSD or Child Torture?

childrenI would like to begin this piece by explaining that this case is disturbing and heart wrenching.

On Feb 12, 2013 an eleven-year-old boy left his family home in search of water after escaping nightmarish conditions. The eleven-year-old boy had been shackled in his basement by his father with only a slop bucket; the boy was naked. He was approximately 50 pounds and had been imprisoned by his father for about a month before his escape.

The court viewed 45 minutes of video showing the father yelling at the boy to repent his actions and ask Jesus for forgiveness for his sins including kissing a girl’s hand in a tree house. He yelled at the boy to stop lying. The boy hopelessly pleads in the video that he can change and would stop picking at the padlocks on his chains. The boy was limited to 2 pita breads with peanut butter a day. The father tortured the boy by beating him, burning his genitals and keeping him chained at all times. All while the rest of the family including the boy’s step- mother continued their lives as normal upstairs. The father and step-mother have been charged with: aggravated assault, forcible confinement and failure to provide necessities of life.

prison The couple are currently out in the community on bail but are forbidden from communicating during their bail. Meanwhile relatives are appalled and in shock after hearing what took place as they were unaware of the torture. The father is a former RCMP Mountie who has argued that he is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). His defense is that he did not have the mental capacity to make informed decisions let alone understand right from wrong. The father served in the counter terrorism sector of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The father admitted to torturing the boy and believing that the devil lived in him but when multiple videos of the father torturing the boy recorded on the father’s phone were shown before the court, the father argued he didn’t recognize himself and hated himself after watching the videos. If it can be proven that the father did not have the mental capacity to carry out these horrendous acts, then he will not be criminally convicted.

Why will he not be convicted?

A criminal act in Canada requires mens rea (guilty mind) and actus reus (guilty act). Both factors must be evident in order to convict someone of a criminal act. In accordance to Canadian law, if a person lacks the mens rea, they did not commit the crime with an intent; therefore, they are not responsible for their actions. The patient will likely be admitted into a medical facility to assist in the rehabilitation process.

Views

Some individuals are arguing that the father is hiding behind PTSD and show be held accountable for his actions. Others are arguing that the system failed as the boy had gone to a neighbour’s house at an earlier point and asked for food because he was being punished at home which resulted in a call to the police but no charge was made. Another group of individuals are stressing concern for the former Mountie and the child’s wellbeing.

The child continues to protect his father by arguing that his father was doing the right thing and knows what is best for the child because he is in the RCMP.

What are your views? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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Requirement or discrimination? You be the judge.

schoolMany universities require students to fulfil academic requirements also referred to as prerequisites in order to obtain their degrees. Successful completion of these courses is meant to prepare the student for success in their career choices. Although many individuals find the experience unnecessary and even frustrating, few would argue that it is a discriminatory. However, James Lewicki did just that – what is your opinion?

James Lewicki suffers from dyslexia, which presents challenges for him to learn new languages. When Lewicki applied to the University of Ottawa for a masters in political science he was surprised to learn that the degree required him to take a French class. Lewicki argued that English was challenging enough for him to learn and French would be next to impossible to learn. He offered to take the course with a translator but such accommodation was not permissible.

Officials advised Lewicki to pursue a different area of study, preferably one with less of a focus on French. Canada is heavily rooted in its use of bilingualism especially in respect to political issues and personalities. Political debates among Parliamentary candidates running for Prime Minister are also carried out in French along with English. Children are taught French in elementary school through grade 9 as a requirement to graduate.

Every_Canadian_Needs_A_CopyLewicki is suggesting his human rights have been violated. Lewicki is arguing that he is a victim of discrimination due to his disability. He believes the school is being unreasonable in not accommodating him as only English speaking students are required to take French courses but French speaking students are not required to take English courses as prerequisites. Lewicki feels that the school’s refusal to accommodate him is a method to tell him to “go somewhere else”.

Conversely, the school argues that he not being restricted from pursuing his masters in political science at the University of Ottawa due to his disability but rather because he fails to meet the requirements – a working knowledge of French and being able to take a course in French. Officials argue that this tradition has been in place for decades before this case arose. Supporters of this mindset suggest that the school’s traditions should be honored and Lewicki should attend another university.

Advocates for Lewicki’s case argue that the school is being inflexible and should accommodate his case. Furthermore, they argue that his human rights are being trumped due to discrimination based on his disability. Lewicki has found support with individuals who argue that the school’s accommodation would address an ongoing issue of discrimination and help bring about a positive change for others in similar situations.

What are your thoughts? Should he be accommodated for?
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