Our justice system will not be made better by any one step. Instead, justice will be improved — and by that we mean more accessible and affordable — through small steps taken in rhythmic concert with each other.
The government’s test of an idea that will allow paralegals to appear in courtrooms in B.C. is such a measure.
In Kamloops, paralegals will be allowed to make limited appearances in B.C. Supreme Courtrooms. Here, they will appear on procedural matters, likely before a master of the court, on civil and family law matters.
Unlike some amendments to court practices in recent years, this experiment is meant to reduce the cost of justice to the end user, which in many cases — especially with family law cases — involves average people caught up in disputes with each other over property and issues related to their children.
Just as not all medical issues require the help of a doctor, not all legal issues require the expertise of a lawyer.
Many times, court appearances are required for routine or minor matters when the special skills lawyers bring to bear are not required.
Making people pay the costs of lawyers for such work is unfair, especially when others — such as paralegals or law students‚ can more than adequately do the job.
The Kamloops spokesman for the B.C. Trial Lawyers Association expressed reservations about the paralegal plan. Graham Kay told The Daily News he worries the pilot project could see law students deprived of opportunities they need to appear in court.
That seems unlikely, as articling students have long had opportunity to appear in court on minor matters and can appear in provincial courts as well.
The fact is, if projects like this one reduce the costs of justice, more people might seek the help of lawyers, something that creates more opportunity for the legal profession, not less.
Lawyers — including law students, the future of the profession — have more to gain than lose by any measure that makes justice more accessible.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.