Paralegals in Ontario occupy a dynamic position in a challenging, rewarding and evolving discipline. Traditionally, and in the broadest of terms, paralegals have assisted lawyers in nearly every aspect of their work.As lawyers work in many capacities and specialize in many different aspects of the law, so too do paralegals. Many paralegals will begin their career assisting a lawyer or lawyers within a law firm, a corporate legal department, or a government agency, although a growing number are employed by paralegal companies, or independently, especially later in their careers. Although there are many variations depending on the type and size of firm, business or institution that employs a paralegal, their duties may typically include the following:
- Assist lawyers by interviewing clients, witnesses and other related parties, assembling documentary evidence, preparing trial briefs, and arranging for trials.
- Prepare legal documents, court reports and affidavits.
- Research records, court files and other legal documents.
- Draft legal correspondence and perform general office and clerical duties.
- Administer oaths and take affidavits and depositions.
- Witness and certify the validity of signatures on documents
- Draft contracts, prepare promissory notes and other legal documents.
While all workers performing the above duties are not required to be licensed, since May 2008, paralegals in Ontario have been regulated and licensed by the Law Society of Upper Canada, the same body responsible for the regulation of lawyers. Licensed paralegals are required to carry professional liability insurance, and are qualified to represent the public in a number of proceedings, such as small claims court, traffic court for charges under the Provincial Offences Act, Tribunals, such as the Landlord and Tenant Board or the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, or minor criminal charges under the Criminal Code heard in the Ontario Court of Justice. While lawyers are licensed to provide a full range of legal services, paralegals are certified to provide specific legal services.
In response to the high cost of lawyer’s services and concern that this is resulting in inequalities in the legal system, the role of paralegals in the legal system is expanding. Paralegals continue to lobby the Ontario government for the right to represent and advocate for individuals in a variety of jurisdictions.