The world of law can seem many different things- expensive, cutthroat, difficult to enter, demanding, exciting- the list goes on. Yet, it is a highly sought after and recognized career path that is essential to our society. If this seems like the world for you, but you’re not sure where to begin, let us ask you one question. Have you considered a career as a paralegal?
Perhaps the lesser-known, less-appreciated arm of the legal system are paralegals. As a lawyer, paralegals are a licensed professional that can provide legal aid and advice to clients. Paralegals, however, are unique as they can work both as part of a typical legal team, as well as independently. They’re also sought after by many for their typically lower fees than traditional lawyers, meaning you will be in high demand and ready to assist in most legal proceedings.
Unsure where to go to school? Wondering what a paralegal is even qualified to do? We’ve got you covered. Read on to learn about Toronto’s premier paralegal program, how to become licensed, and what issues you can expect to handle throughout your career.
Let’s Start At the Beginning
To kickstart your career as a paralegal, you’ll have to head back to school. You can complete one of Ontario college’s 73 accredited paralegal programs, or one of many independent college programs across the province, with many located right here in Toronto! Programs range from certificate to degree and can take up to four years to complete depending on your preferred career path. While a degree may take a bit longer, it also provides the most comprehensive education and will allow you to practice more widely, and under more umbrellas of the law.
Cestar College out of Toronto offers a thorough and widely respected paralegal program that will prepare you for your paralegal licensing exam and beyond. Cestar’s program is accredited by the Law Society of Ontario (LSO), ensuring that you will be among the highest calibre of legal representatives in the province. This also means that you’ll be well prepared for your LSO licensing later on! At Cestar, you’ll gain real-world experience with a 120-hour internship to help you leverage your skills over the competition. Best of all, Cestar’s paralegal course is taught by experienced lawyers and paralegals, also accredited by the LSO, so you learn from experts in the field. You couldn’t ask for a better start to your career.
You Mentioned an Exam?
So you’ve finished your paralegal education at Cestar College in Toronto and are ready to hit the ground running. Not so fast though! To become a certified paralegal in Ontario, you will have to take a few extra steps. Not to worry, the LSO outlines their requirements on their website to make it easy for you.
There are only four steps left before you can begin your paralegal career:
- Submit a character statement– all applicants must be of good character and submit an application to verify this prior to moving forward with their licensing.
- Pay the registration and application fee- You knew this one was coming. There is a $160 application fee payable to the LSO to cement your application.
- Pass the Paralegal Licensing Exam– Yes, you have to pass an exam, but it’s self-study, open-book, and multiple-choice; you’re welcome. And if you go to school at Cestar College, you’ll have nothing to worry about!
- Get your P1 license- The final step to becoming a paralegal. Your P1 license is your legal ticket to practicing as a paralegal in Ontario and will give you your LSO member number.
Voila! You’re now a licensed paralegal and ready to start your career.
So… What Does a Paralegal Do?
Let’s take a minute to review. You’ve attended paralegal school at Cestar College in Toronto. You’ve proved you’re of good character, paid your fees, passed your exam, and received your license. Now what?
As we mentioned above, paralegals are in high demand, and with your well rounded education, you are able to speak to a range of fields in depth, and at a lower cost to clients. It’s a win-win for everyone! Let’s break down what your key areas of expertise will be, and what sort of disputes you’ll be handling.
Small Claims Court is a prime example of paralegal work, which handles smaller civic disputes, of financial or property claims of up to $25 000. This is a key part of our judicial system and where paralegals can make a big difference in the lives of everyday citizens in Toronto and beyond. This can cover a range of disputes, from wages, rent, property damage, and breaches of contract.
Another area that paralegals are trained in are criminal summary convictions. These are considered less severe infractions that can face up to 6 months in prison or a $5 000 fine. Think counterfeiting, fraud, and trespassing. Similarly, paralegals can also represent clients with provincial offense charges, such as speeding, or occupational health and safety issues.
The final piece of the paralegal’s portfolio are boards and tribunal disputes. What does this mean? You’re qualified to represent clients in tenant/landlord disputes, licensing disputes, and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) disputes. Along with criminal summary convictions and small claims court, these will form the bread and butter of your career as a paralegal. Your work will always be varied, addressing key issues, and will better the lives of your clients in real time!
Ready to Take the Leap?
We’ve taken you through your educational requirements, accreditation requirements, and typical cases as a paralegal. If you’ve made it this far and are still hooked, that’s a pretty good sign that this is the career for you. The best time to get started is now!
Your first step to paralegal success is to head to school and hit the books. Cestar College in Toronto is ready to help you take that step with their LSO-accredited course and internship program, taught by experts in the field. Start your career off on the right foot. What are you waiting for?