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Paralegal licensing webcast transcript

[Start of recorded material 00:00:00] 

Ken Osborne:            Good morning, and welcome to today's webcast on the Paralegal Licensing Examination. My name is Ken Osborne and I am the Director, Licensing, and Accreditation, here at the Law Society.  

Our goal today is to provide you with guidance on the Paralegal Licensing Process, and specifically we'll address the general administration that is required to register for the licensing exam and the examination process, what to expect on the day of the exam, and tips for success in order to support your efforts to prepare for the examination.  

I have several people here to assist me with today's presentation. They are Gina Haros, Team Manager, Licensing Process; Peninah Brickman, Team Manager, Entry-Level Competence; and Jennifer Quito, Counsel, Licensing Process.  

Before I begin, I'd like to take care of a few administrative points for this session and talk a little bit about the process before we actually get into the substance of today's session.  

First of all, the outline for today's session can be found under the agenda tab. The agenda outline contains several relevant links to each of the topics that we'll be discussing today.  

The formal portion of our presentation is expected to last about 45 or 50 minutes, and we'll leave the remainder of the session for questions you might have.  

If you wish to submit a question you may do so via the question and answer tab located on your screen, and you should feel free to submit your questions at any time during the session. We'll attempt to address as many questions as possible during our scheduled question and answer segment at the end of the presentation. And if we don't get to all of the questions that are submitted to us today, and you still need more information about the licensing process we invite you to reach out to us via email or phone. We'll be providing you with all the pertinent contact details at the end of the presentation.  

The larger window on the right-hand side of your screen will display the presentation slides to which we will be speaking. And also note that an archive version of the webcast will be available on the Law Society's website within a few weeks of today's live webcast. You will find it posted on the Becoming Licensed section of the website.  

Just by way of introduction, I'd like to address the role of the Law Society and the regulation of paralegals, and the requirements that have been established under our bylaws for the admittance of new licensees as paralegals to the Law Society.  

As you may be aware, the Law Society has been regulating paralegals in Ontario since 2007. The mandate of the Law Society is to regulate lawyers and paralegals in the public interest and to ensure that the public has access to competent legal professionals. We are empowered to regulate lawyers and paralegals by virtue of the Law Society Act and its subordinate regulations.  
There are approximately 8,000 licensed paralegals in the province today.  

Since 2010, paralegal licensure in Ontario has been comprised of two fundamental components. First, applicants must have graduated from an accredited paralegal education program, and second, the applicant must successfully complete the Law Society's licensing examination processes.  

While much of today's session will be focused on the second component of the licensing examination, it's important to stress that as a feature of a paralegal's licensure, the Law Society's Board of Directors, called benchers, approved accredited paralegal education as one of two foundational elements of paralegal licensure in Ontario.  

Graduation from an accredited paralegal education program and the Licensing Examination Processes are two distinct milestones in paralegal licensing. They are fundamentally related, mutually supportive, and developmental in nature.  

As you move toward challenging the licensing examination, do not lose sight of the fact that graduation from an accredited paralegal education program serves to expose you, the applicant, to a very specific set of substantive law courses that fall within a paralegals' scope of practice.  
 The Paralegal Licensing Examination is the means by which the Law Society assesses entry-level competence of a paralegal's knowledge of substantive and procedural law, their ethical and professional responsibilities that have the most direct impact on the protection of the public, and the provision of effective, ethical legal services in Ontario.  

While accredited paralegal education provides a foundation for the development or enablement of paralegal competence for prospective licensees, it is the licensing examination that is used to gauge whether the minimum level of competence has been attained for the Law Society to grant a licence to a paralegal in Ontario. This approach - the approach that has been taken by the Law Society in implementing a robust pre-licensing system of training coupled with a fair and defensible system for licensing examinations at the point-of-entry to the profession is born of the paralegal profession's desire to ensure that it maintains a strong and very positive regulatory reputation in the legal market.  

So without further ado, to begin our discussion I'm going to hand things over to Gina Haros, who's going to tell us more about the paralegal licensing application process.  

Gina.
 
Gina Haros:           Thanks, Ken.  

I'd like to take everyone briefly through some of the high level information about the application process this morning, and things to keep in mind as you progress through the process.  
 As always, if you have information that you're looking for that cannot be located online or if you have a particular question specific to your situation, please contact the Licensing and Accreditation department for assistance.  

The application begins online at lso.ca, by clicking Becoming Licensed and then the Apply Now button at the bottom of the paralegal page.  

All documents and investigations referenced today can be accessed from this Becoming Licensed page.  

A key document to access while applying online is called the Completing the Paralegal Licensing Process Application, which outlines some of the things to be aware of or items to have accessible when you're applying.  

This document will also take you through all the details on admissions and the application process as a whole.  

Candidates in the process have three attempts at the examination and up to three licensing years to successfully complete the licensing examination and all other requirements.  

The application for the 2019 licensing year was launched last month early in October for applicants hoping to select either the August or October 2019 examination, or the February 2020 examination. 

Also, for those who graduate in time and whose school can provide a final transcript by the deadline, there is an earlier sitting in February 2019.  

The application is a two-part process. Part one consists of the online entry of your information and payment of the application fee. Part two consists of the actual paper copy submission of your application which must be commissioned and notarized before it's submitted to Licensing and Accreditation.  

When you apply online, you'll be required to select an examination sitting, specify when you expect to graduate, what your full legal name is, and things of that nature.  

You'll also be required to answer a section regarding what the Law Society calls “good character” and provide any necessary supporting documents.  

You can preview the good character questions in advance of application online when you look at the Good Character Amendment Form under the Fees and Forms section. This will give you a better understanding and idea of what types of questions are asked during the application process.  

The application itself takes about 20 to 60 minutes to enter online. Once you finish part one of the application and pay the fee, you'll be assigned a Law Society web account. This account is what you'll log into to print out the pdf application you just created in order to submit it to the Law Society.  

This web account is also where grade results and the invoices for fee payment will be sent to you as you move through the licensing process. It's recommended that applicants check their account weekly after the application deadline, and even more regularly when preparing for the examination and up to the time that they are licensed.  

The bulk of communication from the Law Society will indeed be through your online account, and the website of course.  

Once you've accessed the pdf file of your application from your online account you'll begin collecting all the supporting documentation required in order to complete part two of the process. 

The deadline this year to submit an application for the 2019-2020 licensing year is December 3rd, 2018, and that information is posted on the Dates to Remember page on the website.  
 We'll continue to accept applications after that deadline, but in order to avoid the late fee we urge you to submit it on time.  

Delaying the submission of your application may also delay you in receiving materials and becoming registered for an examination.  

Once an application is received by the December deadline, it's reviewed and processed and the applicant is then invoiced for their examination and study material fees around February of 2019.  
 If anything is missing from an application, Licensing and Accreditation staff will advise applicants, once again, through their web account.  

Once an applicant completes their program they're expected to follow up directly with their school to ensure a final transcript is sent by the school directly to the Law Society.  

Also, applicants must complete and submit the Statement of Field Placement form to the Law Society once they complete their placement. This form is not submitted by the schools. Only the transcript must be submitted by the school, provided the applicant makes the request.  

And now on to examination study materials. The materials fee payment deadline is at the end of May and we'll be posting that deadline date very shortly, and that date must be met in order to receive materials during the in-person distribution period and in order to write in July. 
 For those who pay their exam and material fees by the deadline, the licensing examination study materials are made available to you in a number of ways.  

During the in-person distribution period, study materials are distributed on site at the Law Society building for those candidates who wish to pick up the paper copy of the materials.  

Please note this is the only in-person distribution week during the licensing year. We encourage all of our candidates to pay by the deadline so that they can pick up during that week.  

Candidates unable to attend during that week must obtain the materials in the following two ways. First, when the materials are released candidates may choose to download and print the study materials from their Law Society account under My Study Materials. Or second, candidates can still obtain a printed copy of the materials after the in-person distribution period has ended by placing an online shipping request. The shipping provider will ensure materials are delivered directly to them for a fee.  

The distribution period dates, again, will be posted very shortly under the Dates to Remember section of the website. I encourage you to follow up and review that section of the website.  
 In addition to the study materials, candidates will also be provided with a Law Society candidate identification card once they pay their fees. And that card will be what you will bring to the examination site in order to check in. 

It identifies you as a candidate in the process and includes your confidential candidate ID number, which is unique to you. So please keep it in a private and secure place.  

And now I will hand it back to Ken who will provide more information.  

Ken Osborne:           Thank you, Gina, for this information on the application process. Of course some of you are already completed that process and others may be still considering applying to the licensing process, making all these details very helpful and pertinent.  

We're now going to talk about some of the guidelines that support the examination itself. And to do that, I'm going to turn thins over to Jennifer Quito, Counsel, Licensing Process, to assist us in that regard. Thank you.  

Jennifer Quito:           Thank you. 

I'm now going to speak about the format and content of the Paralegal Licensing Examination. I first want to emphasize that we have extensive materials on the Law Society website setting out this information. You should review all the materials closely when you begin studying for the exam. 

You are required to successfully complete the Paralegal Licensing Examination in order to become licensed to provide legal services in Ontario.   

The examination is designed to assess whether a given licensing candidate demonstrates the minimum level of competence required of an entry-level paralegal. The licensing examination tests competencies required for entry-level practice. It focuses on the competencies that have the most direct impact on the protection of the public and on effective and ethical practice.  

The Law Society engages experts across the legal profession to establish the entry-level competencies that are assessed in the exam. A competency is defined as the knowledge, skill, ability, attitude or judgement required for entry-level practice. There are 179 entry-level paralegal competencies which are divided into the following categories: ethical and professional responsibilities, Canadian law, civil litigation, criminal and quasi-criminal law and procedure, administrative law, problem and issue identification, analysis and assessment, alternative dispute resolution, litigation process, and practice management issues.  

The entry-level paralegal competencies have undergone a rigorous development and validation process. They are all listed on the Law Society website and I would encourage you to review them as part of your preparation.  

These entry-level competencies form the basis for the test specifications for the licensing examination. These test specifications are a primary component of the blueprint document that is developed for the exam.  

A blueprint document is used to ensure that the items being assessed on the examination are both valid and representative of paralegal practice.  

It also ensures that the same categories of competencies are being assessed to the same standard of competence even though items being assessed change from one sitting of the licensing examination to another.  

This provides consistency between each examination sitting and enhances their reliability, validity, fairness and defensibility. The competencies and the blueprint parameters are reviewed on a regular basis in accordance with the established best practices for professional licensing examinations. 

Practitioners representing all relevant practice areas develop licensing examination questions, which we refer to as items, under the guidance of psychometricians with expertise and professional licensing test development and validation.  

These items are derived from information in the study materials prepared by the Law Society for that licensing year, and reflect the established competencies for the examination.  
 All licensing examination items undergo a rigorous review and validation process. A paralegal advisory group, comprising exemplary practitioners from a cross section of practice areas and firm sizes in Ontario, sets the examination according to the blueprint parameters. Setting a licensing examination involves approving the items that will be assessed. 

The licensing examination is seven hours in total length, and is comprised of a total of approximately 240 multiple choice items.  

Each examination sitting is comprised of two parts, each of which is three and a half hours in length. Part one takes place during the morning and part two takes place during the afternoon with a break in between the two parts.  

The licensing examination is self-study. You are provided with the study materials, which support all competencies on the examination. The licensing examination is also an open-book format. You are permitted to bring into the testing area any materials prepared for the purpose of assisting you in writing the examination, including any study materials, notes and textbooks. 

You must mark your answers on an answer sheet provided by the Law Society. Only those answers marked on the answer sheet will be scored. The answer sheet is numbered from 1 to 200. However, there are only approximately 120 items on each part of the licensing examination.  
 You should periodically check to ensure that the answer bubbles you are filling in on your answer sheet correspond correctly to the respective items you are answering. 

All items on the licensing examination are in a multiple choice format. You must choose the best answer from four possible options provided. Each item has only one best answer, and you will receive credit only when you have received the best answer.  

For any item for which you indicate more than one answer on your answer sheet, the answer will be marked as incorrect.  

The items on the licensing examination assess three different levels of cognitive ability: knowledge and comprehension, application, and critical thinking.  

The examination will include items in both independent multiple choice and case-based multiple choice format.  

Independent multiple choice items are independent of each other. Case-based multiple choice items are preceded by a case scenario that will also apply to other items. However, each item within the series of items preceded by that case scenario is derived directly from that case scenario and is independent of all the others. In other words, determining the correct answer to item number 3 in a series of case-based items is not dependent on answering either of items number 1 or 2 correctly. 

There are no all-of-the-above or none-of-the-above multiple choice options in examination items.
 
For each sitting of the licensing examination, multiple different versions of the examination are developed. Each candidate who has registered for that sitting is randomly assigned a version of that examination. Each version of the examination complies with the blueprint parameters.  

A small number of new items are piloted on each licensing examination as experiment items. These experimental items are not counted towards a candidate's score, and therefore do not contribute to a pass or fail result. A majority of examination items are operational items on which the candidate's score is based. 

To achieve the piloting objectives, and consistent with best practices for professional licensing examinations, there are no indications in the licensing examination booklet to identify a given item as either an experimental item or an operational item. The administration of non-scored experimental items is an essential step in developing future licensing examinations.  

The examination is marked on a pass/fail basis. Scores equal to or higher than the established passing mark receive a pass result. Scores lower than the passing mark receive a fail result.  

A candidate's score is based on the number of correct answers chosen. There are no penalties for failure to choose an answer or for choosing an incorrect answer.  

At the same time that it sets a licensing examination, the paralegal advisory group also sets and approves the passing mark for that examination. The passing mark is the same for each different version of the same licensing examination. The passing mark represents a single overall score for the examination. Candidates are not required to individually pass separate sections or areas of law on the examination. 

The passing mark represents the expected performance of a minimally competent entry-level paralegal.  

To ensure consistency between each sitting of the licensing examination, the paralegal advisory group applies the same standard to the particular set of items on each examination. The setting of a passing mark is based on the informed judgement of the subject matter experts and is determined through rigorous consultation and dialogue.  

This approach to setting the pass mark helps to ensure that the same performance standard is applied consistently for each licensing examination so that only those candidates who meet or exceed that standard will pass the examination.  

Only an individual candidate's performance, compared to the standard, determines whether that candidate passes the licensing examination. The candidate's performance is not assessed in comparison to the performance of other candidates by using a curve or otherwise. There is also no predetermined rate for the proportion of candidates who will pass the licensing examination.  

There are several important pages on our website in the Paralegal Licensing Examination section that you need to review to prepare for the examination. These provide detailed information on what to expect and prepare for, and will ensure a smooth experience on the morning of the exam.  
 The page includes information about the security and screening procedures at the exam venue, and you should note that these are more formal and structured examinations than you may be accustomed to from college or other exams.  

These pages also include information about the check-in process at the venue and what items to bring with you. We have a list of permitted items that you can bring into the testing area, as well as prohibited items. You should review these lists in detail. 

Our website also offers a short orientation video to the licensing examination which I would encourage you to watch.  

Finally, you should also review the website to understand the conduct that is expected of candidates at the examination venue. We appreciate that this is a high-stakes day for the candidates and we need to ensure that the process runs smoothly and that a respectful and stable environment is maintained for the benefit of everyone.  

Now, a note on receiving your exam results.  

Inevitably, as soon as each exam ends, candidates begin wondering about how they performed. Please note that results will not be released until about six to eight weeks after the examination day. We will send your result to your confidential online licensing account and you will get an email notifying you that it is there.  

There's no need to call into our office and check whether the results are out yet. Results cannot be released before that timeframe for several reasons. In order to ensure the integrity of the marking process, up to six to eight weeks are required to receive, grade and verify exam results and to provide them to candidates.  

Examinations are written in both official languages and it takes some time to ensure that all licensing examinations are received and marked appropriately.  

If you are unsuccessful on a licensing examination don't panic. You can re-register for one of the subsequent scheduled sittings. Candidates are permitted a maximum of three attempts at the examination within their three-year licensing term. All information regarding re-writing an exam will be sent confidentially in a message to the candidate through their online licensing account and you won't be the first or the last to be in that situation, I assure you. So please feel free to contact our Licensing and Accreditation department if you have any further questions on the next steps for rewriting.  

Finally, a note on the process for deferrals. If close to the day of the exam you find you are unable to write, you must defer your examination by sending a deferral form to our office at least five business days prior to the examination date.  

Ken Osborne:            Thank you very much, Jennifer, for that information about the licensing examination guidelines. Now we're going to talk a little bit more about the examination itself and discuss some tips and general guidance around preparing for the exam, and to do that, I would ask Peninah Brickman, Team Manager, Entry-Level Competence, for that assistance.  

Peninah Brickman:           Thank you, Ken. 

Before we get into examination preparation, let me begin by saying just a few words about examination preparation courses.  

You may be aware of the paralegal exam preparation courses offered by various providers. Although it is certainly up to you whether you wish to take these courses, we want to ensure that you are aware of two things.  

First, none of these courses are endorsed by the Law Society, and second, all of the material you need to know for your examination is contained in the paralegal study materials.  

As Jennifer explained, the licensing examination is open book. There may be a misconception that you don't need to study as much for open-book exams since you can bring your materials into the exam. However, this type of examination requires you to analyze information and apply it to new situations. So you do need to fully understand the contents of, and be very familiar with the study materials before you write the exam. You don't want to waste your valuable time during the exam searching through your study materials or other documents you bring with you. Rather, you want to devote your time to carefully reading each question and choosing the best answer.  

So what will help you succeed?  

First, having a solid understanding of what is in the paralegal study materials is absolutely essential. If there's any portion of the materials that you don't understand as you are reading, reviewing and taking notes, take the time to ensure that you understand that area prior to writing the examination. 

It takes time to adequately prepare for the examination. There are no short cuts. While study tips and examination writing tips can help you prepare, there is no replacement for building a solid base of knowledge of the entire study materials.  

Second, preparing and implementing a study strategy early on is key. I'll discuss that further in a moment.  

Finally, maintaining a positive attitude with a calm and focused approach is important. Some candidates use specific techniques to help them remain calm and stay focused, both while they are studying and during the exam itself. Consider whether any of these techniques may be helpful to you. 

Let's take a look at study strategies. Although each of us learns and studies differently, there are some techniques that research tells us work better than others. Consider taking a systematic approach that includes, number one, a study schedule, so that you can organize your study time efficiently; number two, effective reading and note taking so that you will remember what you've read when you are writing the exam; number three, organization of your materials in light of the open-book nature of the exam; and lastly, practice questions. There are some available on the Law Society website and you may wish to create some for yourself.  

Let's take a look at each of the elements I just mentioned in a bit more detail. 

Let's start with the ways to organize your study time.  

First, it's always a good idea to begin studying early. Research suggests that studying in short, manageable increments spaced over time is more beneficial than cramming all the material in a long study session just before the exam.  

Second, consider setting up and maintaining a regular study schedule. I may want to set aside a specific time of day for studying. Ideally, try to schedule study time when you are wide awake and alert. In most, but not all cases, this means not scheduling study time at night. You are less likely to retain material when you are mentally or physically tired. So synchronized study times when you are most likely to be ready to learn. 

And don't forget to leave room in your study schedule for unanticipated events that may require your time.  

Next, to help focus your study sessions, consider setting specific goals for each session. For example, you might decide to study a specific chapter or review the rules and guidelines relevant to a particular topic during a designated block of time.  

Taking breaks during study sessions is also a good idea. Studying requires mental effort, so take breaks as part of your study sessions.  

Here's an example of what I mean: After studying for, let's say 50 minutes, you might take a 10-minute break. And then after three consecutive one-hour study blocks, you would take a longer break. Perhaps an hour. And then start the study cycle again. 

If a given section of the material is more difficult for you, shorten each of the study sessions for that topic, but have more of them, and take more frequent breaks. So for more challenging material you may want to study for only 20 or 30 minutes, followed by a five-minute break. 
 When you're studying the more challenging material, you may want to take your longer break after only two study blocks instead of three.  

Next, it’s a good idea to start each study session by reviewing the material you've previously learned. Reviewing material you have learned will help you keep knowledge fresh in your mind.  
 If you wait too long to review the material, you may waste time trying to relearn what you knew, but forgot.  

Also, try to use the weeks just before the examination to review, integrate, and reinforce your understanding of the content. 

So let me recap: 

When considering how to organize your study time, start early, maintain a regular study schedule, have specific goals for each of your study sessions, take frequent breaks, review previously learned material at each new study session, and use the last weeks before the exam not to learn new information, but rather to reinforce what you already know.  

Turning now to reading and note taking for open-book exams, let's consider how best to review the paralegal study materials so that you understand and retain what you have read.  

This usually involves careful, active and systematic reading. In most cases, this will mean reading the material more than once to really understand the content. To build a solid base of knowledge, you may need to read the material once to gain a general understanding and overview of the content, and then second and third times to reinforce important concepts or to fully understand more challenging concepts.  

You may want to take the opportunity during these subsequent reviews to consider what types of questions could be asked about each concept and competency, and to consider how different concepts and competencies interact and overlap with other concepts.  

It’s a good idea to begin highlighting and taking notes only once you have a general understanding of what you're learning. If you start too early, you may end up highlighting or writing down too much information. Research suggests that reviewing material on a regular basis can help you retain information in your long-term memory.  

So what are some of the things you can do to prepare materials for use during the exam?  

The goal is to organize your materials so that you can quickly access relevant information. Prior to the examination, take some time to make your study materials as user-friendly for you as possible.  
 We have three suggestions for organizing your material. 

 One, use tabs or a colour-coding system to delineate certain subject areas and key topics. Two, prepare short, manageable summaries on selected topics. Finally, create an index or a table of contents listing key topics in corresponding pages.  

The point of these strategies is to help you quickly find information in your materials during the exam, so choose a method that works best for you. As you are organizing materials in the way that suits you best, bear in mind that some concepts cut across several areas of law. 

Lastly, don't forget to take some time to review the sample questions posted on the Law Society's Licensing Process page. The questions will give you an idea of the types of questions that will be asked, the thinking required, and the degree of difference between correct and incorrect answers.  
 Once you've reviewed these sample questions, you may want to try to create some for yourself as you pass through various sections.  

Implementing pre-study exam strategies will help you feel more confident about writing the exam. Also don't forget the basics. Getting enough sleep and maintaining good nutrition. Being active in other areas of your life, whether socially, physically or intellectually may also be part of an effective exam strategy.  

Once you build a solid base of knowledge, you'll be in a better position to think positively. It's common to feel some anxiety before, after and during the exam. But if you start to feel overwhelmed, consider taking slow, deep breaths to relax. Calming yourself physically will help calm you emotionally. The calmer you are during the examination, the better you will be able to concentrate.  

Also, depending on the individual, it might be more helpful to avoid focusing on the anxiety and instead to focus on the next task.  

Remember that you've already accomplished a lot and that you are doing your best. Success is often a result of effective and sufficient effort and preparation.  

While it is not uncommon to have some concerns about an examination, part of controlling those concerns involves being prepared for what lies ahead. Your goal is to be emotionally, physically and intellectually prepared for the day you write your exam.  

Knowing your material thoroughly and organizing your material in advance will likely prove key.
 
Ken Osborne:            Thank you very much, Peninah.  

Before I turn it over to Gina, I just want to remind those on the webcast that we are taking questions; we do want your questions to come through. We have a few questions. So again, as information is coming to you, if you do have any questions related to that information, please don't wait till the end of the session. Feel free to send us your question over the service and we can address it at the end.  

Now we're going to talk a little bit about what can be expected on the examination day, and to do that I'd like to turn it over to Gina. And she'll talk about the exam day process. She'll also discuss a little bit of the support services that are available to candidates and will address dates to remember and fees.  

Gina Haros:           Great. Thanks, Ken. 

The licensing examination is seven hours in length, but there is a break after the first three and a half hours. It's held at a relatively large venue with a very formal setup in terms of assigned candidate seating, dedicated check-in stations, coat check and security screening areas.  

One week prior to the exam, please ensure to double check online for the venue address, the arrival time, the check-in time and things of that nature. Plan your route and transportation to the exam so that you can arrive early. All of the information online is basically there to avoid any hiccups on the morning of the exam. 

On that day, the exam site may seem a little overwhelming for some when they realize they could be writing with about six or seven hundred other candidates at the same time who are also checking in and being screened at that point. 

Take the time again to review not only the information online but the video that Jen mentioned earlier regarding the venue and what to expect on the day of the exam. The link to that page is on the agenda for today's webcast. I encourage you to access it when you have a moment.  

Of course, bring lots of snacks, leave your cell phones in the car and try to carve out a rare moment of calm before you begin writing. 

Once you check in and pass through the security screening area, you'll be expected to sit in your assigned seat for the duration of the examination period, except during the lunch time break. 
 Now I'm going to briefly talk about some candidate supports that as part of the Licensing and Accreditation department, we have exam and administration staff that can provide various forms of assistance and accommodation to candidates in the licensing process. 

The aim is to improve the testing environment for students who are otherwise unable to comply with some of the conditions or requirements of the licensing process. Some of the services include examinations in alternative forms, such as audiotape, brail, and text-to-speech; and special equipment for persons with visual or auditory impairments.  

If you're a person with a disability or a condition that requires some support or accommodation during the licensing process, please don't hesitate to contact examination administration staff directly once you submit your application in order to explore some options that could be available to support you during the process. 

Another additional support available to candidates is tutoring. Candidates who receive an unsuccessful result may contact Licensing and Accreditation to inquire about tutoring services. Candidates who request tutoring form the Law Society will be connected with a tutor for up to five hours of tutoring paid for by the Law Society, provided a request is submitted by the deadline. More details can be found on the website under Candidate Support. 

Also under the Candidate Support section of the web you'll find information on the monthly payment plan, which allows candidates to pay exam and material fees in equal installments. You can review the deadlines of this payment plan and other information once it's posted in February 2019.  

As I mentioned earlier, important dates relevant to your progress in the licensing process are posted on the Dates to Remember page on the website. I encourage you to bookmark that page as you'll probably need to refer to it several times as you move through the licensing process. Please be mindful that the deadlines posted there are all in business days unless otherwise indicated. Some candidates are unable to register on time because they assume the deadline is 30 calendar days instead of the business day deadline.  

Again, meeting the deadlines for payment and filing of transcripts and other required documents will ensure you'll have timely information of the study information, the distribution periods, the exam confirmations – all of that information that secures your spot for the exam sitting that you select. 

You can also review next year's examination dates as they have now been posted. And again, that can be accessed through the Becoming Licensed tab.  

At this point, I’ll turn it over to Ken for some final thoughts.  

Ken Osborne:            Thank you very much, Gina, and thank you Jennifer and Peninah as well for providing a useful overview of the examination process, the licensing process and candidate preparations.  

We're now going to open things up for discussion and questions and we've received quite a few questions so far, which is great. So we'll try to get to as many as we can.  

We have our contact information up, and we have it up for a few reasons. One, if we don't get to your specific question today, then you can reach out to us. Please use these contact details to connect with us and ask us questions as you need.  

Secondly, if some of you have specific questions that relate to your personal circumstances or individual circumstances, then we would ask that you reach out to us using these contact details rather than through the webcast. What we're trying to do today is address as much as possible those questions of a general nature that would affect or have importance for the majority of the candidates that are online. And any event, personal, individual circumstances are probably best addressed one-on-one with the Licensing Process staff.  

I mention that simply because I do see some of you asking about your specific circumstances and we would encourage you to send those kinds of inquiries to us through our contact coordinates which are provided on the slide.  

I'm going to moderate the questions as they're coming in and pass them along to the panel members here. 

The first question relates to some timings and specifically the materials, and the question is, if I apply to the Licensing Process to write the exam in July of 2019, I was wondering why I will not be receiving the study materials until just a few months before the exam. Is there any way to receive those materials sooner?  

I'd like Peninah perhaps to take on that question.  

Peninah Brickman:           Thank you, Ken.  

The study materials are updated annually to ensure that the materials are current and reflect changes in the law. As a result, the materials are not available any earlier than the date, the first date for pickup. This is to ensure that candidates have the most up to date available information. There is a currency date in those materials and they are produced in both languages.  

That's the reason for the date when the materials become first available.  

Ken Osborne:           Thank you, Peninah. The next question relates to proof of legal name. I'll have Gina answer this question. The question is, for proof of legal name, is there specification on whether the certified copy of the birth certificate needs to be long or short form? 

Gina Haros:            Thanks, Ken.  

Very good question. We have a little bit more expanded information on the website in terms of which form is acceptable. There are some dates that you should look into on that form. Before a certain date, it's one form and after a date it's another.  

You'll have to access the Completing the Paralegal Licensing Process application document, which is available online, in order to see which category you would fall into and what document would be required if you don't have a regular birth certificate card.  

Ken Osborne:            Thank you, Gina. This next question's for you as well. It pertains to registration dates. If we are writing the exam in February of 2020, do we have to register by the 3rd of December 2018?  

Gina Haros:            Very good question. We get this question a lot actually, and what we would suggest is that even though the option is on the current application to register for February 2020, students can wait until the next intake period, which is next fall. So next fall in October they'd be able to select the 2020 examination. 

Now if you've already applied online and selected that sitting, that is fine as well. It's just your deadlines will be slightly different than those candidates coming through to write in July.  

Ken Osborne:            Thank you, Gina. The next question relates to indexes. And the question is, are there any examples – on the Law Society website – of any indexes or what they might look like to assist on the examination? I'll address that question. 

No there isn't because really we provide the study materials, and that is all that's required of the candidate to use for the examination. We are aware, of course, that indexes are prepared by candidates – they’re individual tools that candidates prepare for themselves to meet the needs of themselves for the exam. It's not something that we would need to standardize or provide to candidates because it is an individual tool that candidates prepare.  

So on that note, really, you have to determine what it is you need, or you feel you need, to bring into the exam to support your performance on it. If an index is something that you want then you have to figure out what should be contained in it, how it should look like, how it should be formatted because it's to support your individual performance.  

The Law Society simply provides the materials, which is the tool that you need to meet the exam on the day.  

This next question will be for Peninah and it relates to the materials themselves again. Roughly how many pages or how long are the study materials?  

Peninah Brickman:           Thank you, Ken. 

The study materials are typically around eight to nine hundred pages. It's important to bear in mind that some of those pages are the introductory information, such as tables of contents, and the conclusory information such as appendices.  

In terms of the paragraphs of content, you're typically looking at between 500 to 700 pages that will vary from one year to the next, as mentioned earlier. The materials are updated annually.  

Ken Osborne:            Thank you, Peninah. We have another question related to candidate supports and I just want to provide this question to everyone because I think it's important to remind candidates that the Law Society does have an accommodations policy and a process.  
 the question is, do we have an accommodation protocol and are there accommodations available for the paralegal examinations, and the answer for that is yes. If you feel you need an accommodation for the examination, we ask that you submit a request for that accommodation. There is a process and a protocol that is found on our website on how to do that. And it will require, obviously, some support for that request, in some cases perhaps medical documentation. But you are able to make an accommodation request. The Law Society endeavours to meet its obligation on the Ontario Human Rights Act. So the answer to that question is yes.  

This next question relates to licensing examination deadlines. For the February 2019 licensing exam, what is the deadline for the accredited paralegal college to send in the final transcript to the Law Society of Ontario?  

Gina, could you take on that question?  

Gina Haros:           Sure. Thanks, Ken.  

Those deadlines have been posted on the Dates to Remember page. Normally it's 30 business days, but because of the closure we've extended it slightly. It is an early January deadline date though. You can have a look at the Dates to Remember page in order to obtain that information.  

Ken Osborne:           Okay.  

So, this next question relates to the Licensing Process and application fees, or fees in general.  

The question is, after part 1 of the Licensing Process and paying the $160 application fee, are the rest of the fees due by December 3rd 2018, or are the rest of the fees not due until February 2019?
 
Gina?  

Gina Haros:           Thanks, Ken. Very good question. What you'll be responsible for paying up front is the application fee. And the examination and study material fees will be due prior to the sitting that you select. So if you are intending to write next July, then you would have a late May deadline which will be posted shortly.  

But if you intend to write in February of 2019 then you will have an earlier deadline to pay for the exam and study material fees.  

We also have a question here on whether or not it's too late to apply by the December 3rd deadline to write in July because of the postal strike. Absolutely not a problem for anyone to apply at this time. Applications can be couriered in, they can be dropped off in person in our mail room in order to meet that deadline. We'll still be accepting applications after the deadline, however there is a late fee that will be applied. 

But absolutely you can still apply in order to get in for the July sitting.  

Ken, we also have a question here about the venue information for next October 2019 examination sitting. That is normally posted closer to the date of the examination. The exam dates are up on the website, but the venue information will likely be up there about six weeks prior to the examination date so that you can prepare and diarize the information. We do encourage you to check the exam information about a week or two before the actual date to ensure that there's no venue change.  

Ken Osborne:           We only have really a couple of questions left, so we'll take those on and again. If you have questions and you want to send them in, please continue to do so. We have booked a fair bit of time for this webcast so, if there are questions out there we'd like to try to address them in the time that we have available. 

This next question is, if you wait until the next intake period, October 2019, to apply for the February 2020 examination, when and how would you get study materials?  

Gina Haros:           I can help with that.  

Because the timeline is a little bit tighter in that instance, you would basically receive the materials as soon as you pay for them. So if you apply next October, you would be eligible to sit the February 2020 examination sitting, and since those materials have already been released for that licensing year, you'd have almost immediate access upon payment.  

I also have a question here, Ken, about the exact documents that are required for part two of the application process. Again, information is available on the website in the memo that I mentioned earlier. However, the exact documents that you'll need for part two of the application include the pdf of the application you create when you are online, as well as all the supporting documents, in terms of your birth certificate, eventually your transcript at a later date and any good character supporting documentation – all of that information needs to be submitted with your application.
 
Ken Osborne:            We have another question here just in regards to dropping off materials at the Law Society. And the question is, where are we located? And can you drop your application materials off here?  

We're located in downtown Toronto, 130 Queen Street West. That information, of course, is found on our website, and you most certainly can come down and drop materials off. Certainly, in respect to the postal strike, that would be one way of ensuring that you have materials getting to us on time and you are aware that in fact they've been received by us.  

So you certainly can come down and drop those materials off at our location, 130 Queen Street West in Toronto.  

Gina Haros:           During business hours. 

Ken Osborne:            Of course.  

So one other question, when will the study materials be available? And do we have to pay for the licensing exam before we get the materials?  

Gina Haros:            I'll take that one, Ken. The short answer to that is if you're writing in July of next year, the materials will be available at the end of May in order for you to pick them up or have digital access to them. And you do not have to pay for the licensing exam before obtaining the study materials, but most students opt to pay for them at the same time in order to ensure that their registration is finalized and that they have their spot secured for the summer sitting because it is a relatively large sitting.  

Ken Osborne:            Okay. We have another question that has come in regarding the examination results. And the question is, how will we know that we have successfully passed the licensing exam? I'll ask Jennifer to take that question on.  

Jennifer Quito:            Yes. So approximately six to eight weeks after you write the exam, we will send your results to your confidential online licensing account and you will get an email notifying you that it's there.  

So as I mentioned before, there's no need to call into the office. You will receive the information directly on the confidential online licensing account approximately six to eight weeks after you write the exam.  

Ken Osborne:            We have another question. Are practice questions available online at all times? Where on the website are they located? And are the accessible on the account, or the candidate's account? 

Peninah would you mind taking on that question?  

Peninah Brickman:            Sure. Yes, the sample questions are available online, and you don't need to log into your account to see them. If you go to the website and look into the Paralegal Licensing Process, licensing examinations, you will see that there is a guide, and on that page you will see some sample questions.  

In terms of logging into your account, that is not necessary.
 
Ken Osborne:            Thank you, Peninah.  

Okay. We'll just take a couple of minutes here to see if other questions come in.  

Peninah Brickman:            Ken, I have one here. The question asks whether the French and English exams are the same. Yes, they are. There's a translation process that is involved. So no distinction is made between candidates writing their licensing examination in French and candidates writing their licensing examination in English.  

Ken Osborne:            Thank you, Peninah.  

Are there any other questions? We seem to have cleared our list. I'll just give it a couple of seconds to see if it populates again, but I'm sensing that we are nearing the end.  

Okay, so more coming in. Just give me a second here.  

This question relates to review classes for examination preparation run by private businesses. I believe, Peninah, you mentioned or provided some information in respect of those programs. Could you reiterate that please?  

Peninah Brickman:           Sure. The Law Society does not review, endorse or otherwise involve itself in examination preparation courses that may be offered by private industries, so we cannot really comment on their content or whether they will assist you. It may be that for some students they're of assistance, and it may be for others that they aren't.  

Ultimately, the material that's available to you in the study materials is what is necessary for the examination.  

Ken Osborne:            I'll just mention one other aspect. That particular question was related to preparation for the exam. There is - I want to reiterate - a candidate support that the Law Society does provide in regards to results coming from one's attempt at the exam, and in those cases where a candidate has failed the exam, the Law Society does provide tutoring support up to five hours, to support that candidate's study and preparations for their next attempt. 

But as far as third-party providers are concerned, we do not endorse them. They're out there operating. We do not support them. We provide nothing to them that would give them any insight or awareness of our licensing process and our examination procedure.  

If you feel you need to use them, that's a personal choice that you make. But I do want to say that as a conundrum support for individuals who have failed the exam, there is a tutoring process that you can avail yourself of and again, that information is available on the website on the Candidate Supports area. 

Okay. So I think we've pretty much come to the - no, one more question just came in.  

How do you apply for tutoring before the exam?  

Tutoring is not available for before the exam. It's not something that is provided by the Law Society in preparation for your exam. Again, the only occasion when tutoring is provided by the Law Society is when you’ve attempted the exam and you have failed it. And in order to assist you with your next attempt, the Law Society will provide five hours of tutoring that is provided free by the Law Society so that you can prep for that next attempt.  

But it's only on occasion of a failure and it's only on the occasion of an individual requesting or applying for it. So I just want to make that distinction. It's not something that we provide for any attempt or preparation for the exam, only in respect of those who have failed and are going to reattempt the exam.  

Peninah Brickman:            I have another question here, Ken, that's shown up. What advice might we have for candidates who are writing at some point in the future? They don't yet have their study materials, yet they want to begin studying at this stage.  

And I would just recommend to you that you look on the Law Society website for the list of competencies that are relevant to the Paralegal Licensing Examination and then you can go back to some of your existing materials that you may have and ensure that you have a very solid understanding of all of the different areas on which you will be tested. 

You will have gone through a paralegal education process, so you will have materials from that. If you feel that you have some areas where you see a competency and you don't have the confidence, then you could begin reviewing those materials, even before you get the formal study materials. 

However, it is important to remember that the law does change - case law, statutes, etc., so the most important thing to do once you receive those study materials is to read them very thoroughly multiple times and become quite familiar with the content.  

Ken Osborne:            I have another question here, as it pertains to the materials again, and the question is, are we only tested within the content of the materials?  

The examination is structured on competencies, so you are taking the examination based on a blueprint that attempts to gauge whether the individual taking the examination has met the competencies of essentially a first-year entry-level competent practitioner.  

The materials support that in that they are structured with a number of substantive legal areas. They are structured with an amount of content that supports the competencies that you're being examined on.  

I want to be clear that the materials are a tool that will help you answer the questions. You're not necessarily going to find the answers word for word in the materials. The purpose of the exam is to apply that information, to critically think and reason through the scenarios and questions that you're getting, and apply the knowledge that you have through your accredited paralegal education program and the knowledge that's available in those materials to meet the question requirements.  

Again, the exam itself is structured on competencies. You can view those competencies on the website so you have an idea what we're endeavouring to engage as entry-level competence. The materials, like case law, like a document, are merely a tool that will assist you as a new professional to meet the challenge of the exam or in the case of a licensed paralegal, a client who walks into your door with issues and things that have to be resolved.  

You will rely on a resource, presumably, to do that. The materials are in some respects a symbol of that type of tool that you will use.  

Peninah?  

Peninah Brickman:            If I could just add to that, Ken, I would note that as set out on the Law Society website and the guide that’s available there, you will encounter questions of different types and critical thinking questions are a very important aspect of ensuring entry-level competence. So it is important to understand that you will be obligated or required in the context of your licensing examination not just to have memorized specific bits of information, but also to be able to show that you can apply that information and critically think through scenarios to arrive at the correct result.  

Ken Osborne:            Thank you, Peninah.  

Another question's come in. What's the process for registering for a rewrite on an exam?  

Gina, would you like to take that question?  

Gina Haros:            Sure. So, once the candidate receives a message in their online account that they've been unsuccessful on an examination, they would then refer to the website under the Fees and Forms section and download the registration form for the next available sitting.  

There's a ton of information on that form in terms of the date, and the language that you'll need to specify when you register. Once that form is received, you'll be invoiced in your account for the next sitting, and if applicable, the new set of materials. 

If you're rewriting in a new licensing year - so the first time you wrote in the current licensing year, however you'd like to now register for a rewrite in a new licensing year, you'll be responsible for purchasing the new set of materials on which the exams are based.  

Ken Osborne:            Okay. So it seems that we've exhausted most of the questions that we have here.  I'm going to bring the session to a close and the webcast. 

I'd like to thank all our panelists for all the knowledge and information that they've imparted to us today.  

Just a reminder too that an archive version of the presentation will be available in approximately two weeks' time or so on the Law Society's website, so please keep a lookout for that if you want a refresh on the information that's been provided to you today. 

Further, I'd like to thank all of you, the candidates, for you enthusiastic participation. Lots of good questions came in today. We're pleased to answer any more questions that you might have and feel free again to connect with us with the contact details that you see online. If there are personal circumstances or particular individual issues that you want to direct to us, we'd be happy to work through them with you. So feel free to contact us at the information that's there.  

And in closing, I'd like to wish all of you the best of luck with your paralegal education studies. I know they're, in some cases, still continuing, and I certainly want to wish you all the best of luck in your examination preparations. I hope on behalf of the Law Society that we'll have the opportunity and the privilege of welcoming each of you to the paralegal profession in good time.
 
Thank you very much.  

[End of recorded material 01:09:32]