Webinar: Key learnings from institutionalizing the paralegal profession (May 31, 2017)

paralegals
webinars

(Ashley van Waes) #1

On Wednesday, May 31st, the Global Legal Empowerment Network and Open Society Foundation (OSF) convened a 90-minute webinar to share key learnings on how to strengthen the paralegal profession.

In this 90 minute webinar we explored how to:

  • strengthen and sustain the paralegal profession
  • establish paralegal training and accreditation programs
  • ensure quality of service
  • secure independence and government recognition for paralegals

Namati CEO Vivek Maru (@vivekmaru) moderated as we heard from the following influential activists in Sierra Leone, India, and South Africa, respectively:

Sonkita Conteh @sonkitaconteh, Namati, Director of the Sierra Leone Program

Gagan Sethi @GaganSethi, Center for Social Justice, Vice Chairperson

Simbongile Kamtshe @simbongilekamtshe, Association of Community Advice Offices of South Africa (ACAOSA), CEO

The three short presentations were followed by a discussion and participants posed questions to the panel.


Access the full recording here!

Find the full audio transcription here


Bonus Materials:

India Scheme for Para-Legal Volunteers (Revised) This resource is from the National Legal Services Authority of India and outlines the rules around para-legal volunteers, including selection, training, certification, duties, places of work, fees, and organization of para-legal volunteers in India.

Sierra Leone Legal Aid Act, 2012 This bill provides for a mixed model of criminal and civil legal aid, from provision of legal information and mediation services through to representation in court, and supplied through a public/private partnership of government, private sector and civil society.


Introducing myself, Zuberi Ngoda from Tanzania
Live Note Taking and Translation of webinars
(Tobias Eigen) #2

(Martina Egbenda) #3

To @simbongilekamtshe - I am impressed with the South African model of the Community Advice Officers.I would like to know how you have been able to manage your challenges? And any tips you could give us so we can be able to set up an effective para legal system here in Sierra Leone?

To @sonkitaconteh - have you approached the Legal Aid Board in terms of assisting in professionalizing and building proper structures in terms of para legal system and community based access to justice?


(Natalia Camburian) #4

Regarding Sierra Leone:

Hi :slight_smile: I have another question - can we hear more about the accreditation in Sierra Leone? Is it stipulated in the Law? Also I didn’t understand very well which institution is responsible for accreditation?

I was wondering if they have available English version of their Law - It sounds interesting. If he has the English version, I would appreciate if he could share it with us


(Jargalsaikhan Khunan) #5

In Mongolia advocates insist on that the only professional lawyers provide primary legal aid, advice did you have a such problem if yes how you dealt with it in SA. India, Sierra leone


(Fatmata Fouard-Kanu) #6

In Sierra Leone we give phone numbers of the Director and supervisors to our client to report paralegal’s misconduct or if suspected of any malpractice ie requesting fee from clients


(Helen Leung) #7

Any examples of implementing paralegal programs in country contexts where paralegals are not recognized under the law?


(Tohwo Oseruvwoja) #8

In Nigeria, the legal aid act recognizes paralegals but recently, weve been holding discussions around certification and how government regulation would affect independence. Especially as it relates to community paralegals.


(Ashley van Waes) #9

From Joanna Lehrer (Canada):

I’m interested in starting a public criminal law and corrections procedure program for people held on remand, who constitute a large majority of the incarcerated population in Ontario and results in false guilty pleas and vicious cycles of homelessness etc. As mentioned in the presentations, this could also fill a service need and rebalance the inequity between professionals and disproportionately racialized service-users. To begin with, I think that trained individuals would cultivate a valuable skill set that they could charge for on the basis of the merit perceived by prospective customers. To my mind that avoid an immediate backlash from the legal profession and be institutionally easier (really injecting accuracy into a knowledge network that organically exists in jails). I have thought instead about facilitating pathways to formal paralegal programs from the mini course. I am interested in the thoughts of any of the speakers.

how common are cell phones? Is your network connected with Legal Hackers? There should be a chapter in most or all of the countries where your program runs. The chapters could help develop (voluntarily) low-barrier cell-phone based mechanisms for paralegal evaluation.


(Zuberi Ngoda) #10

What initiatives have been taken to formalise paralegal services in East African countries? Is the enactment of the Legal Aid Act 2016 in Tanzania part of this?


(Ashley van Waes) #11

From Kamonyo Emmanuel:

I have number of questions 1. how could we make sure we simplify this discussion. we basically frame it around the (a) the legal profession act, and (b) the legal aid act(where it exist) and we recommend a paralegal profession.


(Raymond Mason) #12

paralegals have the ability to relate well with client/community and provide link to the legal system… sometimes provide alternative within the ambit of the law in as well as being cost effective… Access to justice may be restricted because of geographical factor, institutional limitations, racial and color discrimination and gender biases, cultural differences as well as economical… how do we plan to combat these limiting factors?


(Chinga Govhati) #14

Quite an interesting topic! I sadly missed this one. Looking forward to future discussions.


(Chinga Govhati) #15

In Zimbabwe, regularisation processes are on-going. A local University has just made a call for those interested who can be vouched for by legal aid service providers, to apply for a Diploma in Paralegal Studies. It’s a 18 month Diploma


(Chinga Govhati) #16

Once paralegals start charging a fee, then the lawyers will cry foul I think


(Syeda Rabail Tanveer) #17

Hi I missed the call tomorrow but very thankful to get a recording of the meeting . while Paralegal profession is under discussion and I have seen many ideas coming from people that might be very helpful in institutionalizing the profession. I just want to ask from the members or organization who had already taken lead in making paralegal a strong profession that what actual steps that you or your organization taken specifically to register/mainstreaming/ paralegal in governmental or court level ? Is there any way or It is enough to introduce the profession at mediate level ?


(Michael Otto) #20

Hi all - the webinar was really informative and the questions above are a productive continuation of the discussion. I did want to provide some feedback to a few of the questions above:

@ncamburian asked:

can we hear more about the accreditation in Sierra Leone? Is it stipulated in the Law? Also I didn’t understand very well which institution is responsible for accreditation? I was wondering if they have available English version of their Law - It sounds interesting. If he has the English version, I would appreciate if he could share it with us.

While @sonkitaconteh or @danielsesay would have more information on Sierra Leone (especially around other questions asked above), the 2012 Legal Aid Act formed the Legal Aid Board as a supervisory structure which has wide ranging functions including the administration, coordination and monitoring the provision of legal aid in civil and criminal matters. However, the Board has yet to effectively start operations. This Board can accredit legal practitioners, civil society organizations, university law clinics, paralegals, and non-governmental organizations to provide – in both civil and criminal cases – legal information, advice, and assistance, mediation services, and representation in court. These services can be provided through a public/private partnership of government, private sector and/or civil society, and the board has a civil society representation as well. You can find a copy of the Legal Aid Act in English in our resource library here:

@Khunan mentioned: In Mongolia advocates insist on that the only professional lawyers provide primary legal aid, advice did you have a such problem if yes how you dealt with it in SA. India, Sierra leone

I wanted to ask @Khunan whether you think “legal aid assistants” working in rural legal aid centres in Mongolia would qualify as a type of community paralegal? As they are helping local communities to know and use the law and providing preliminary legal advice in criminal, civil and administrative cases in rural areas, they seem to fit the description of a paralegal in our eyes despite the name and we would be interested in your thoughts.

@HelenL asks: Any examples of implementing paralegal programs in country contexts where paralegals are not recognized under the law?

Absolutely - great question! There are many more countries with community paralegals operating who are not formally recognized by law than countries with formal recognition, and there are pros and cons depending on the specific country context. Just a few that come to mind where there are unrecognized paralegals operating are Botswana, Argentina, Jordan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Pakistan, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Namibia. Certain regions have different reasons for opposition, particularly by national bar associations (e.g. the Middle East and Latin America).

Many countries are pushing for more formal recognition now, such as Nigeria (as noted above by @tohwo :slight_smile: ), Uganda, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Ukraine, and we are keen to follow these developments closely. And, as @zubbeiry hinted at, Tanzania just gained formal recognition in March 2017 (more information on that here) and Kenya also did so just last year.

@FatmataKanu, @raymond, @Chinga, and @SyedaRabailPJN ask very important questions about refining, strengthening, and protecting the paralegal profession that I am looking forward to hearing from other network members about here too.


(Tyrone McRae) #21

I can’t wait to review this material! :sunglasses:



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