What Can I Delegate?

The question of what a lawyer may delegate to a non-lawyer generally relies on the professional and legal judgment of the lawyer who wishes to delegate. When exercising this discretion, a lawyer must consider the degree of standardization, repetitiveness of the task at hand, the risk associated with the specific legal matter and the capacity of the non-lawyer. The capacity of the non-lawyer includes consideration of the education, experience, and training of the nonlawyer generally and with regard to the task at hand, the demonstrated ethics, trustworthiness and reliability of the non-lawyer, and finally the workload of the non-lawyer.  Section 6.1 of the Code outlines some of the tasks lawyers may delegate to non-legal staff. 

It is up to the lawyer to ensure that the tasks assigned to non-lawyer staff are appropriate for their role. Legal assistants perform administrative tasks such as scheduling, answering the phone, and preparing routine legal documents. Paralegals are well-suited to researching legal rules and processes, drafting documents, writing reports, and preparing evidence. Be cautious when relying on a paralegal’s research of legal questions and always review any research conducted by a non-lawyer (including articling students), as you are responsible for any errors resulting from their work.

It is a good idea to provide your non-lawyer staff with a written job description and guidelines for their job, including what tasks may and may not be performed by them. While this does not absolve you of your duty to supervise, it does provide a foundation for the working relationship and may make supervision more efficient.