How Do You Become a Paralegal in Ontario?
To become a paralegal in Ontario, one must go through specific steps that are different from any other province in Canada. This is because the provincial government of Ontario passed legislation in May of 2007 to clearly outline and define the responsibilities and educational requirements of a paralegal – thereby making it a fully accredited and regulated profession.
Whilst this means that the requirements will take time and effort, the rewards are significant when it comes to negotiating your salary and professional duties in the field.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at how one becomes a Paralegal in Ontario and why it’s absolutely worth it!
Is Becoming a Paralegal in Ontario Worth It?
Paralegals in Ontario, Canada are able to enjoy numerous career benefits – such as job security, a competitive salary, and extensive options regarding where and how to work.
In an ever-increasingly litigious society, there will always be jobs for professionals in the legal field. But due to rising legal costs and a limited number of lawyers, law firms, corporations, hospitals, banks, and the like, are turning to paralegals. The demand for paralegals is estimated to increase up to 25% by the year 2024
The average salary for a paralegal in Ontario is $55,000 per year. This, of course, is just the average amount. Other factors like level of experience, physical location, the employer, the particular area of law to be practiced, and the current demand, all contribute to the paralegal’s salary.
Moreover, this amount may not yet reflect overtime hours (which are common in law firms), bonuses, commissions, and the like. If you’re interested to learn more about how much paralegals make in Ontario, check out this article.
It’s true that paralegals are an essential part of every law firm. Without them, law firms wouldn’t be as efficient and as thorough with everything that they need to get done. This, however, doesn’t mean that paralegals are restricted to law firms; they can also work in other environments such as corporations, hospitals, banks, insurance companies, and so on. Paralegals also have the option to freelance on the side or be independent contractors – which is a great way to broaden one’s network while also enjoying freedom and flexibility.
Another important thing to consider is that unlike other provinces, Ontario offers a broader scope of practice for paralegals. Here, paralegals are fully permitted to practice law within certain limitations. They may represent clients accused of small claims, minor provincial offences, and labour law issues.
Considering that one does not need a degree to enjoy all of the above job benefits, becoming a paralegal is truly rewarding for anyone seeking to establish themselves in the legal industry as quickly as possible. Now, let’s talk about the steps you need to take to become a paralegal.
Step 1 – Meet All the Educational Requirements
To begin on your journey to becoming a paralegal, there are different accredited institutions that offer paralegal programs with varying durations. Getting a degree will take 4 years. But if you want to opt for accelerated learning, there are two options: getting a graduate certificate or getting a diploma.
In some cases, the shorter graduate certificate programs will suffice. In Ontario, a graduate certificate will generally allow you to practice as a legal assistant. This is because the paralegal field is quite competitive in Ontario. So to get the added advantage of broad and thorough education and the opportunities that come with it, many opt to get a diploma from a paralegal education program that is accredited by the Law Society of Ontario.
This kind of program usually takes two years to complete and is designed for individuals who have completed secondary education. Here at Cestar College, we offer a comprehensive, accredited Paralegal Training Program that spans for 4 semesters and is taught by experienced lawyers and paralegals. The 1100 hours of training, which includes an immersive internship (i.e. field placement), prepares aspiring paralegals with the skills and knowledge that they need to succeed in the profession.
Step 2 – Submit An Application for the Paralegal Licensing Exam and Settle the Needed Fees For Application
After completing the needed education and training, the licensing process begins. The entire licensing process must be completed within three licensing years according to the schedule set out by the Law Society of Ontario. Currently, the licensing process year runs from June 1 to May 31 of the next year. Also, the deadline to apply is at the start of December of the previous year.
So let’s talk more about the licensing process. The first requirement to be eligible for the licensing exam is the individual’s official transcript. The issuing institution must be listed among the accredited institutions and the program must include 120 hours of placement in a real-world legal setting (i.e. internship.) The transcript is sent directly by the issuing institution to the licensing process.
Also, the application itself, along with the needed application fees, must be settled.
- Application is submitted online and you can get started on this by going to this page from Law Society of Ontario’s website.
- And to view the most updated fees for application, please refer to this page from the Law Society of Ontario’s website.
Step 3 – Settle the Fees for the Exam Proper and Pass the Paralegal Licensing Exam
Aspiring paralegals must go through the self-study, open-book, seven-hour, multiple-choice Paralegal Licensing Exam. The purpose of this exam is to assess if an aspiring paralegal, who has completed the required training, possesses entry-level competencies related to the profession – so that they may be able to provide effective and ethical legal services.
Currently, a fee of $1,075 must be paid in order to sit the exam. To view the most updated licensing examination fees, please go to this page of the Law Society of Ontario’s website.
The fee covers study materials that will be provided by the LSO to help prepare for the test. Students are allowed to mark up their study materials to help them in any way they see fit for the open-book exam but must forfeit them upon finishing the exam.
After passing the exam, one is only a few small steps away from obtaining the P1 (Paralegal) License.
Step 4 – Be Deemed to Be of Good Character
The Law Society Act requires that an aspiring paralegal must be of good character. The purpose of this is to protect the public and maintain high ethical standards within the profession. Currently, there is no fee for this part of the licensing process.
Good character is assessed by the Law Society of Ontario by allowing the applicant to answer questions that assist the Law Society to determine if the applicant is of good character. The questions will also allow the applicant to self-report conduct or circumstances that might raise issues about their character. Any affirmative responses will require detailed documentation surrounding it and does not necessarily mean an application will be rejected.
Step 5 – Get your P1 (Paralegal) License
Once all the requirements from the previous steps are settled (i.e. all fees are paid, the examination is passed, and good character is deemed in the applicant), the aspiring paralegal is able to apply for the P1 (Paralegal) License.
This license is the actual legal document that allows you to be a practicing paralegal in Ontario and currently costs $165. To view the most updated fees, please go to this page of the Law Society of Ontario’s website.
Once the application has been received and approved, your P1 License will be mailed to you approximately two weeks later and will include your Law Society Paralegal member number.
I Want to Start My Journey to Becoming a Paralegal, What’s Next?
As cliche as this might sound, the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step – and in becoming a successful paralegal, that first step is crucial. By enrolling in a comprehensive, accredited Paralegal Training Program, you are priming yourself for the best opportunities.
If you are interested in getting more information about our Paralegal Training Program here at Cestar College, head over to our course outline page. If you have any questions, we’d be very happy to help. Contact us today!
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Posted on November 25/2019 By Opinder Singh
Is there any limitation on the attempts or time period in the licence examination after completing the paralegal program?