How Do You Become a Paralegal in Ontario?
Becoming a Paralegal in Ontario is a completely different ball game than becoming one in any other province in Canada. Unlike in provinces like Quebec or B.C., the provincial government of Ontario passed legislation in May of 2007 to clearly outline and define the responsibilities and educational requirements of a Paralegal, making it a fully accredited and regulated profession. Whilst this means that becoming one is harder and more time consuming, the rewards for putting in that hard work are significant when it comes to negotiating your salary and professional duties. If you’re considering taking the plunge into one of Canada’s fastest growing professions, you’ll need to know everything you’re required to do in order to become a Paralegal. Let’s take a look at how one becomes a Paralegal in Ontario.
Hit the books
A somewhat obvious first step, to begin on your journey to becoming a Paralegal, you will need to complete a course of study through an accredited paralegal education program. These typically fall into one of three categories: a certificate, diploma, or degree. A certificate is the fastest and perhaps “easiest” option, as it focuses purely on paralegal education without any additional general education requirements and can be completed in one year. These are designed more for people already busy in the workforce or with home life commitments. In Ontario, a certificate will generally only allow you to practice as a legal assistant.
The next step up is a paralegal diploma. A diploma usually takes two years to complete, and is designed for aspiring paralegals who have completed some tertiary education and have some experience in the legal field. Much like the certificate, a paralegal diploma does not include general education requirements, but builds upon legal knowledge in a more comprehensive way. A paralegal diploma is enough to begin practicing in Ontario as an independent paralegal, so is a good option for people who want to get into the workforce as fast as possible.
For those wanting the highest level of paralegal education and the subsequent improved employment opportunities that come with it, a paralegal degree is the way to go. These courses will take approximately four years and comprise of both paralegal and general education coursework. Cestar College in Toronto offers one of the most comprehensive and well respected paralegal degrees in the city and covers everything from employment law to small claims court procedures. The course also includes a 120 hour internship placement in a real world legal setting, giving students a chance to experience the everyday work of a paralegal and gain valuable insight into the industry.
Submit a Statement of Good Character
In order to be accepted into the Law Society of Ontario (LSO), prospective paralegal students need to submit a statement of good character. This application covers a range of topics and areas that the LSO deems to be essential in determining whether an applicant is of good character and eligible to practice law in the province. The statement will be in the form of a range of questions where an affirmative answer to any of them would be an opportunity for an applicant to self-report on any incidences in the past that may draw their character into question. Any affirmative responses will require detailed documentation surrounding it and does not necessarily mean an application will be rejected.
Pay a registration fee
An application and registration fee applies to anyone wishing to become a paralegal in Ontario. This is paid to the LSO and currently costs $160. This is non-refundable, and if the application is submitted after the due date, an additional $75 late fee will be added to the cost.
Write and pass the Paralegal Licensing Exam
The final hurdle in becoming a fully registered and accredited paralegal in Ontario is to sit and pass the Paralegal Licensing Exam. This is a self study, open-book, seven-hour, multiple choice exam. The exam can only be sat upon successful graduation from an accredited paralegal program in Ontario, including 120 hours of placement in a real world legal setting. A fee of $1,075 must be paid in order to sit the exam, and this 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 conclusion of the exam. The exam is designed to test knowledge and understanding of the most vital paralegal competencies to protect the public, including legal procedures, ethics and client confidentiality.
Get your P1 License
Once you have successfully passed the Paralegal Licensing Exam, you are required to become fully licensed with the LSO by submitting an application for a P1 License. This is the actual legal document that allows you to be a practicing paralegal in Ontario, and currently costs $165. 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.
Congratulations! You are now a fully qualified and registered paralegal in Ontario! If you are looking for more information on your options in becoming a paralegal, head over to our course outline page and put your career in the fast lane.