Paralegals are in high demand all over the country for their expertise, relative affordability and knowledge of everyday legal obstacles.
Whilst lawyers are infamous for their high costs and substantial waiting lists, paralegals are much more accessible to individuals facing more common legal battles such as traffic infractions or contractor arbitration.
But what does a paralegal actually do?
The answer to this question will depend on where in Canada you are, but we will discuss the general responsibilities of this exciting career below.
Legal research and administration
The most common task that paralegals take on in all parts of the country involve doing the legwork on upcoming trials and cases for their law firm.
Lawyers need a team of highly trained professionals supporting them behind the scenes to have all the information they need to properly represent their clients.
Paralegals make up the bulk of this support team, using their extensive training to locate important precedent cases, relevant legislature, and compiling case notes. Without this important groundwork, many lawyers would be left in the dark about how to proceed with their cases.
Legal proceedings also generate a lot of important paperwork that needs to be correctly completed and filed for future reference. Paralegals are vital in this process and keep the law firm running smoothly.
In all provinces except Ontario, legal administration and research are the primary responsibilities of paralegals and law clerks In Ontario, paralegals are recognise as regulated professionals with stricted education requirements. This allows them greater levels of freedom and responsibilities when it comes to their workload.
Smalls Claims Court
In Ontario, paralegals are also eligible to represent clients in Small Claims Court.
Small Claims Court deals with cases where the maximum financial gain or loss outcome at the end of the trial does not exceed $25,000, and the maximum jail sentence is six months.
These could be cases relating to personal property, contractor disputes, unpaid debts, and wrongful dismissal.
Hiring a paralegal instead of a lawyer for cases such as these with relatively low financial stakes makes a lot of sense to most individuals, as the cost of hiring a lawyer could often be more than the entire settlement is worth.
Paralegals in Ontario are also able to start their own practices completely independently from a law firm, allowing them to directly represent clients and increasing their earning potential.
Government paralegal positions can pay up to $70,000 per year, whilst a paralegal running their own firm could earn a six figure salary.
Small Claims Court cases are also relatively low stakes and low pressure, meaning paralegals are exposed to less workplace stress than lawyers dealing with decades long jail sentences or millions of dollars.
Perhaps the most frequent role a paralegal will play is representing clients in Traffic Court.
Traffic Court oversees any dispute relating to traffic and parking infractions including speeding, failing to observe a stop sign, and parking without a permit.
Individuals looking to fight a charge have the option of representing themselves, but when faced with law enforcement officers presenting evidence against them they can lose their nerve and lose the case.
Many people looking to dispute a traffic charge will seek out the services of a paralegal. Paralegals are highly specialized in traffic court proceedings and are acutely aware of the legal techniques and nuances that can enable them to reduce or drop a charge completely for their clients.
Paralegals who specialize exclusively in Traffic Court proceedings are able to start extremely successful practices, as traffic infractions are the most common legal dispute and can often be dealt with quickly and easily by experienced professionals.
Another area paralegals can represent clients is in a range of legal tribunals in Ontario.
These include the The Landlord And Tenant Board (LTB), Ontario Labour Relations Board, and Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.
Much like the above instances, hiring a lawyer for these kinds of cases would be prohibitively expensive for many people. A paralegal can offer them the legal expertise they need without adding additional financial stress.
Paralegals will be expected to fully understand the particulars of their client’s cases, argue in court for their best interests, and negotiate a settlement that suits their client’s needs.
How Do I Become A Paralegal?
Becoming a paralegal in every province except Ontario does not require any specific training, with many performing the same duties as a law clerk.
In Ontario, becoming a paralegal requires undertaking a paralegal education from an accredited educational institution, sitting and passing an exam and then becoming licensed.
Cestar College provides one of the most comprehensive and respected paralegal courses in Ontario. Our course combines rigorous studies covering all aspects of paralegal law with a 120 hour real-world co-op placement.
Work experience is a requirement of becoming a paralegal in Ontario, and so a diploma like the one offered by Cestar College is invaluable in saving time and money for anyone looking to become a paralegal.
If you’re interested in taking the next step in your career, contact us today.