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22 Aug 2018

Is Becoming a Paralegal A Good Career Change?

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    Those unhappy in their current careers or financial positions might look towards investing in a paralegal profession.

    Paralegals in Ontario are in high demand due to their ability to work independently and detailed knowledge of Small Claims Court procedures and tribunal litigation.

    The median salary for a paralegal in Ontario is also twice the national median income at $58,712, offering a greater level of financial independence and stability.

    But what do you do if you’re not fresh out of high school and feel like a career change?

    Becoming a paralegal is in many ways a perfect midlife career change opportunity for a number of reasons.

    Let’s discuss why a paralegal career could make sense for you.

    Getting licensed is relatively quick

    One of the benefits to a later in life career change to a paralegal is that becoming fully qualified and licensed to practice in Ontario is a relatively quick process.

    There are several different levels of education available to becoming a paralegal. These include:
    Paralegal student looking at paralegal textbooks

    Paralegal certificate

    The quickest form of paralegal education can be completed in less than a year. Certificates are often offered online, on weekends or as evening classes for enhanced flexibility.

    A certificate will cover only what is required by law to become a paralegal. It does not include any general education courses.

    Paralegal diplomas

    Paralegal diplomas offer the relative speed of a certificate with the greater breadth in education offered by a full bachelor’s degree.

    Diplomas can be completed in 1-2 years depending on acceleration, and will cover some general education along with all required paralegal courses.

    Diplomas are also the only form of paralegal education that involve a co-op placement. This can be invaluable to midlife career changers as it provides real world paralegal experience and the opportunity to network with fellow legal professionals.

    Cestar College offers a comprehensive paralegal diploma available to all ages and experience levels in Ontario. Combining interesting general education subjects with focused paralegal studies, the course culminated in a 120 hour placement in a professional legal setting.

    The placements can be anywhere from law firms to financial institutions, and can lead to an offer of employment upon completion. The Law Society of Ontario (LSO) also requires some work experience before a paralegal license can be issued, so a diploma course with a built in co-op placement can be invaluable.

    Paralegal degrees

    The longest and most intensive paralegal education is a stand alone bachelor’s degree.

    These will typically take 4 years of full time study, and will involve a lot of general education classes along with the required paralegal courses.

    Whilst these are desirable to have on a resume, they can also be infeasible for people looking to change careers later in life and who cannot afford to stop working whilst they do so.

    Paralegal students meeting in cafe

    Open to all ages

    Paralegal courses are open to all ages and experience levels.

    Admission to most courses requires an Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) or having Mature Student status.

    Mature Student status applies if you are 19 years or older without an OSSD but with the prerequisite courses completed. These are listed next to your desired program and in some cases a GED may cover these requirements.

    This means that even if you completed your OSSD years ago, you can still easily apply for bridging courses and your paralegal diploma with a Mature Student status.

    Paralegal is a growing industry

    A career as a paralegal is also a smart move as the industry as a whole is growing.

    Predictions put paralegal industry growth in Ontario up to 18% by 2020, and then by an additional 8% through to 2024. This is substantially higher than the average growth in other industries and reflects the growing demand for paralegals in Ontario’s legal market.

    Many law firms are looking to cut costs following volatile economic performances since the GFC, and one of the ways they have done this is by replacing lawyers with paralegals.

    Paralegals can work independently from supervising lawyers, represent clients directly, and assist with legal filings and administration, all at a lower cost than a lawyer. This also makes them more valuable than a law clerk or administrative assistant, further enhancing their high demand.

    Becoming a paralegal can offer you independence

    Unlike in the rest of the country, paralegals in Ontario are uniquely permitted to operate independently from a lawyer and are able to start their own paralegal firms.

    If you are unhappy in your current profession and crave more control over your career, becoming a paralegal can offer you the opportunity to become your own boss.

    As paralegals can represent clients in a range of common legal scenarios like Small Claims Court and tribunals, there are no shortage of potential clients in Canada’s business capital.

    Pursuing a future as a paralegal can be a great opportunity for anyone looking to make a midlife career change or looking for more financial and professional independence.

    If you are looking at your options for becoming a paralegal, contact one of our friendly team members today who will be more than happy to answer any questions you might have and point you in the right direction to changing your future.


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