With the year already coming to a close, you might be looking towards the new year and wondering about making a new start in your career.
You could be feeling unfulfilled in your current job, disappointed with the growth opportunities presented to you, or just feeling like doing something different that could make a difference.
One option that you could definitely consider is taking part in a paralegal program. This branch of law differs from becoming a lawyer in several key ways, most notably the different types of law that can be practiced and also the amount of education required to become licensed.
But are paralegals in high demand in the modern job market?
Paralegals have actually been gaining significant popularity in the past decade due to a variety of reasons, so let’s take a look and why becoming a paralegal might be a smart career move for you.
Changing Laws in Ontario
Whilst demand for paralegals has been steadily increasing around the country, Ontario has seen a greater increase in demand compared to the other provinces.
One of the key driving factors behind the demand for paralegals skyrocketing in Ontario specifically is the updated legislation that was passed to allow paralegals to become a recognised legal profession.
Officially becoming law in 2008, the provincial government in Ontario chose to make paralegals a regulated profession. This means that there are now minimum educational requirements that paralegal programs must include in order to be officially licensed by the Law Society of Ontario.
Along with the updated educational requirements comes increased responsibilities and professional duties. Unlike other provinces, where paralegals are not really different from law clerks or administrative assistants, in Ontario a licensed paralegal is able to represent clients independently from a lawyer in certain situations.
Paralegals can represent clients in Small Claims Court, Traffic Court, Arbitration, and some tribunals. Paralegals can be a lot more attractive and cost effective for many people when the amount of money to lose or gain is not substantial or when there is not significant jail time on the line.
Because people are becoming more price conscious and every dollar can count, especially in expensive metropolises like Toronto, a more affordable paralegal can be a better option. Thus, demand for paralegals is expected to increase by up to 25% by 2024.
Law Firms Looking To Optimize
Much like consumers, many law firms are also looking to streamline their spending and cut back on excessive expenditures.
After the Global Financial Crisis, many businesses had to take a critical look at their budgets and where they could make some cost savings. Law firms began to realise that, with the new legal framework installed by the Ontario government, paralegals made a lot of financial sense for their lower stakes clients.
Lawyers are infamous for the somewhat absurd amount of money they are able to charge per hour, sometimes reaching up into the hundreds of dollars. Whilst it might make sense to put down this kind of money for a case that is worth hundred of thousands of dollars or if there is a years long jail sentence on the line, if it is a relatively minor infraction then spending this amount wouldn’t make pursuing the case worthwhile.
Paralegals, on the other hand, charge significantly less than lawyers as paralegal programs do not require as much time or money as law degrees, and they only practice very specific niches of law.
Thus, many law firms have begun to replace their expensive lawyers with more affordable paralegals who can represent clients in low stakes but high volume situations.
Expanding Role of Paralegals
Paralegals are already able to practice a greater variety of law in Ontario compared to the rest of Canada, but that is set to expand even further in 2019.
The Law Society of Ontario (LSO) voted in 2017 to begin developing a license for paralegals to practice certain areas of family law including custody issues and divorces where property is not involved.
Once this comes into practice, paralegals will be considerably more valuable to potential employers and clients alike. Law firms will be able to further trim their expensive law staff down and replace lawyers with paralegals to handle family law cases. Clients will now have a more affordable option for dealing with sensitive personal matter cases.
According to the famous Bonkalo report, 57 percent of Ontarians did not have access to family court representation during 2014-2015. This represents over 100,000 cases where Ontarians had to represent themselves in court, or were forced to deal with the issue outside of the legal system.
Once paralegals are able to practice family law, their demand will likely increase substantially, making finding the right paralegal program today even more important. Cestar College offers one of the most comprehensive paralegal courses in Ontario, covering all aspects of law paralegals are able to practice.
Cestar College’s paralegal program also includes a 120 hour practical placement in a real world legal setting, which is required to be able to sit the licensing exam in Ontario. Not only does this program give you the opportunity to experience first hand what a paralegal career looks like, but also is a fantastic chance to network and develop potentially beneficial business relationships for the future.
Are you looking to take the next step in your career and join the ever growing paralegal market in Ontario? Contact us today to find out about our industry leading paralegal program today!