A recent graduate from a paralegal program recently informed me that Access Legal Services Profession Corporation ("Access Legal"), a North York paralegal firm, had posted an anonymous advertisement on Craigslist soliciting applications from paralegals and legal assistants for a six-month unpaid internship. Access Legal is owned by Thambipillai "Deva" Devendran, a licensed paralegal. The advertisement appears to have been posted by Mary Renuka Selvanathan who is a licensed paralegal and an employee of Access Legal.
Access Legal is a firm that primarily works in the areas of personal injury and disability litigation. The duties that the firm wants the unpaid intern to perform include: administrative tasks, making expense payments, conducting legal research, drafting legal documents, and writing file summaries. The advertisement requests that the person send a cover letter, résumé, and references. Overall this looks very much like a job and decidedly not like a training opportunity.
In all likelihood this unpaid internship offerred by Access Legal is in contravention of the Employment Standards Act, 2000 ("the ESA") and the associated regulations. Consider the following, the six pronged test under the s. 1(2) of the ESA would most likely be breached as this internship would offend prongs one and three of the test (those dealing with training being similar to a vocational school and the employer deriving little benefit). While there are two other exclusions, neither s. 3(5)(2) of the ESA relating to students enrolled in post-secondary education would apply (as Access Legal's advertisement is looking for a licensed paralegal), nor would the exclusion enumerated under s. 2(1)(e) of O Reg 285/1 (it only applies to students).
This appears to be a possible case of misclassification with the aim to avoid adhering to the minimum requirements under the ESA (such as minimum wage, vacation pay, and overtime pay). It's troubling to see these sorts of labour practices being deployed by legal professionals and given the growing prevalence of unpaid work the Law Society of Upper Canada should look at regulating a living wage for new lawyers and paralegals. Young workers shouldn't be subjected to rampant exploitation that devalues their work and subjects them to the indignity of indentured servitude. If you're a recent paralegal graduate struggling with unpaid work let me know the labour market you're facing by sending me an email.