Paralegals are an increasingly attractive career option for many looking to enter the workforce or interested in a career change.
Paralegal studies are less time consuming than a law degree, they cost less to complete, and many law firms are actively looking to increase the number of paralegals on their staff compared to lawyers.
So do you need a degree to become a paralegal?
There are different requirements in different provinces in Canada in order to become a paralegal. We look at what it takes to enter this profession across the country.
In all provinces except Ontario
In the majority of Canada, becoming a paralegal is not an officially recognised education process.
In provinces like British Columbia, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Nunavut, and the Maritimes, there is no required educational level that must be achieved in order to attain the title of a paralegal. There are courses available at universities and colleges that provide educational backgrounds that can assist in the day to day responsibilities of a paralegal, however, they are not legally enforced as requirements to practice.
In every province except Ontario, paralegals share many of the same responsibilities as legal clerks and assistants, generally doing research and filing legal documents. This makes becoming a paralegal in these provinces quite easy, however, it also means professional responsibilities and earning potential are somewhat limited.
Unlike all the other provinces in Canada, Ontario has specific rules and regulations pertaining to becoming a paralegal.
In 2008, the provincial government made paralegal services an officially regulated profession, requiring potential paralegals to undertake specific educational programs and pass a regulated exam.
This means that anyone looking to become a paralegal in Ontario will need to complete certain educational courses to practice legally. There are a few options available for becoming a paralegal in Ontario.
The longest and most expensive option is the paralegal degree.
This is a three to four-year educational program that combines general courses with paralegal specific classes that cover everything a paralegal needs to know before entering the workforce. This will include ethics classes, legal frameworks, court proceedings as well as chosen electives.
A paralegal degree will give you the highest level of education available for an undergrad paralegal student. However, it is a full-time course, which may not work for people who are already working or who have children to look after.
If you are interested in becoming a paralegal but need a bit more flexibility in your education schedule, you might want to consider a paralegal diploma.
A paralegal diploma is another option for anyone looking to get into the paralegal profession.
A diploma is perfect for anyone who has taken some post-secondary classes or has some experience working in a legal setting and wants to improve their career prospects. Diplomas involve all relevant classes for becoming a paralegal along with some general education classes and typically take two years to complete.
Cestar College’s paralegal program is one of the most comprehensive in Ontario, offering small classes and one-on-one interactions with professors to ensure the highest level of understanding is achieved. Our program also involves a 120-hour co-op placement in a real-life legal setting, which is not only crucial to becoming a paralegal but also is a great opportunity to network with your potential future colleagues.
A paralegal certificate is the fastest route to becoming a paralegal.
Certificates focus exclusively on paralegal courses and can often be completed in a year. They are designed for people who are currently working full time and need to do the majority of their classes online or in the evening. Graduate certificates are available to people who have already obtained a bachelor’s degree or some other post-secondary qualification.
There are also certificates available for people wish to enter the legal workforce but do not wish to commit to becoming a licensed paralegal professional. These courses would entitle someone to become a law clerk and assist in a legal office in some capacity.
As mentioned above, all other provinces except Ontario do not have officially recognized paralegal licenses.
In Ontario, however, paralegals are required to sit an exam (similar to the Bar Exam sat by lawyers) to prove that they are capable of best representing the interests of the public.
The exam is standardized across the province and is held at regular intervals throughout the year. Exam materials are provided by the Law Society of Ontario (LSO), and a fee is charged in order to sit the exam.
Upon successful completion of the exam, new paralegals will be required to join a law society such as the Ontario Paralegal Society. They will also receive their official license from LSUC and are now eligible to begin representing clients.
Are you interesting in becoming a paralegal? Cestar College is a fantastic option for those looking to fast track their new career and receive real-world experience in the field. We offer small classes with dedicated professors who are available to all students for a one-on-one consultation. Contact us today and take your first steps towards a better future.