Everybody knows that being a lawyer is a very prestigious profession and one which our society values among the most highly of the lot. It’s usually up there with being a doctor or a judge as the most impressive occupations to have. A profession that’s also growing it’s reputation in the same way is the Paralegal.
The demand for legal services is increasing across the board, which is why the Paralegal profession is growing in demand. It’s no longer reserved for high-powered boardrooms or top-level consulting groups, these days there’s a ton of potential for exploring a life in the service of the law in a number of different ways. However, with such a huge amount of choice, it’s more difficult to figure out what the best option for you is.
Today, we’ll be discussing the difference between being a paralegal and being a lawyer, and how you might go about deciding which is the direction you want to ultimately pursue. Even though it will, in the end, come down to personal choice as much as anything, it’s always good to know both sides of the story — after all, you want to give yourself the best chance at doing something you love!
Here are some of the key differences you’ll want to consider as you decide whether to become a paralegal in Toronto versus being a lawyer.
Any discussion of law school options must start, with talks about the financial obligations involved. Law school is known for being a high-cost option that can incur significant amounts of debt, so it’s best to arm yourself with all the facts before making the final call.
Becoming a paralegal in Toronto, for the vast majority of cases, won’t involve taking on anywhere near the amount of debt that going to standard law school will. Some reports state that law school debt can actually come to more than six figures in total, which — for most people — is an enormous amount to commit to.
If you’re concerned about whether you’ll be able to work passionately for as many years as you’ll need to pay off such a massive amount of debt, you may be better off looking at options as a paralegal, since there’s such a huge difference in what’s required.
Time in Training
In the same vein as the point above, the time commitments required to become a paralegal in Toronto or a lawyer vary massively. Time is money, as the saying goes, so if you’re taking into account how much the schools will cost, you’d better consider the amount of time you’ll have to commit to either project as well.
While some paralegals can enter the workforce as soon as three months after beginning training, most firms are going to require some certifications in order to employ you as a paralegal. More often than not, these take the form of Associate Degree programs, which top out at a maximum of about two years’ completion time (assuming you get everything right the first time around).
In stark comparison, the amount of time you’ll need to spend becoming a lawyer will be at least seven years after graduating high school. This is split between a Bachelor’s degree and a post-grad law qualification, both of which are required to begin to practice law in any capacity. You’ll also have to factor in the time it’ll take you to pass the bar exam, which is another key aspect of any professional lawyer’s qualifications.
Of course, all that money and time people spend training to become a lawyer isn’t for nothing. Lawyers have among the highest salaries available in the entire working world. In addition, there’s another major plus, which is that it’s possible for practicing lawyers to basically operate their own practice and work autonomously. Even though the salary distribution varies across the profession (like it does with practically every job out there), there’s potentially no upper limit to the amount of money a lawyer can earn, especially if they get themselves onto the partner track at a major firm.
Paralegals, on the other hand, make less money in general, with a standard salary falling somewhere between the $60k and $90k benchmarks (although there have been examples of some particularly high-powered paralegals earning in the six figures). Whether you’re in it for the money or you’re in it for the love of the game, you’ll have to be careful to consider carefully what kind of salary you’d be happy earning for the majority of your working life.
As a final point, even though the paralegal salary is comparatively much less than a lawyer’s, they don’t have anywhere near the same amount of debt to contend with. In practice, this basically means that they can put their money to work for them (in the form of investment portfolios or other similar options) sooner rather than later.
In truth, there is no ‘right’ answer to whether you should be a lawyer or a paralegal in Toronto. Because your own personal situation is the only one you really need to take into account when you’re making the call. You’re the only person who can figure out to what extent the benefits of each option outweigh the negatives associated with it.
In general, it’s best to be conservative when you’re thinking about your future salary. In business as in life, things don’t always go your way. The last thing you want is a situation where you were overly optimistic going into it, only to find out that something has gone seriously awry and your plans are going to need to take a major change in direction.
Regardless of where you are in your career, if you focus on the three main points outlined above when you’re weighing up whether to become a paralegal in Toronto or a lawyer, you won’t go too far wrong. If you’re still on the fence and would like some more precise advice, why not contact our team here at Cestar College? We’d love to talk through your options with you and see if there’s anything we can do to help make things a little clearer.