What is a Paralegal? Career paths, average salaries & more!
Typically working behind the scenes under the supervision of an attorney, paralegals generally assist in the preparation of law cases.
This job involves tasks such as:
- Legal research
- Drafting legal documents
- Conducting client interviews
- Locating witnesses
- Conducting witness interviews
That said, the paralegal’s career is not confined to working in law firms. These professionals can also work for corporations and business organizations like health organizations, banks, and insurance companies. They can also be employed by the government.
A paralegal who chooses to receive their license is authorized to provide legal advice and represent clients in certain areas of the law. These include:
Small Claims Court: civil suits worth less than $25,000.
Provincial Offences: quasi-criminal cases in the Ontario Court of Justice under the Provincial Offences Act.
Summary Convictions: under the Criminal Code where the maximum penalty is no longer than 6 months in prison.
Administrative Tribunals: representation before various administrative tribunals, including the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB), the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, and the Financial Services Commission.
Refugee & Immigration: matters falling under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
As with a lot of professions, there are plenty of myths and misconceptions about being a paralegal. In our article, “9 Myths of Being a Paralegal,” we debunk some misconceptions you may have about becoming a paralegal.
Types of Paralegal Career Paths
Paralegals can choose not to earn a license or represent clients. Instead, they can utilize their knowledge to pursue career paths in different sectors to support other important aspects of the legal system. Here we have 4 different types of areas where paralegals can establish a career.
A legal assistant or secretary supports a lawyer or a team of lawyers. They work in various different sectors including government, at private law firms, in corporate legal departments, at courthouses, and for community organizations.
Legal assistants or secretaries are not licensed to give clients legal advice or represent clients in court, however, they are an integral role for any legal team.
Typical responsibilities include:
- Assisting with legal research
- Drafting legal documents
- Communicating with clients
- Managing client files
- Scheduling appointments and meetings
- Filing court documents
- Generating bills and send out invoices
- Attending court, meetings or conferences to take notes, minutes and dictation
Litigation paralegals are similar to legal assistants/secretaries as they are required to assist attorneys and lawyers. However, they apply their skills during the discovery and investigative phases of a case (the litigation process).
Daily responsibilities include:
- Preparing, organizing, and filing documents and correspondence
- Conducting legal research
- Updating and maintaining internal databases
- Preparing witnesses and other materials for case preparation
- Organizing relevant documents for attorney review and case preparation
- Preparing for and attending depositions
- Preparing and organizing exhibits during depositions
- Preparing and filing all court documents
The main skillset of a paralegal includes strong organizational and research skills, both of which are applicable to a library technician career. You can utilize these skills in places such as:
- Law libraries
- Academic libraries
- Medical centers
- Government agencies
Legal Job Recruiter:
Legal job recruiters focus on securing legal talents for various firms or agencies. Depending on the program you take to become a paralegal, you will have had extensive training on the legal system, requirements, expectations, and also have a level of experience with firms and attorneys.
With more first-hand knowledge of the industry, becoming a legal job recruiter is a great career choice if you want to be a part of the legal sector without the stresses of paralegal duties. A legal job recruiter responsibilities include;
- Posting job openings
- Reviewing CV’s
- Conducting interviews
Average Paralegal Salaries in Ontario
In our previous post, “Average Salary for a Paralegal in Ontario,” we broke down the average salaries in major Ontario cities.
Here’s a brief summary:
Average Paralegal Salary In Toronto
- Early Career (Less than 5 years of experience) – $46,613 per year
- Mid Career (More than 5 years of experience) – $53,305 per year
Average Paralegal Salary In Ottawa
- Early Career (Less than 5 years of experience) – $42,447 per year
- Mid Career (More than 5 years of experience) – $46,500 per year
Average Paralegal Salary In Mississauga
- Early Career (Less than 5 years of experience) – $37,000 per year
- Mid Career (More than 5 years of experience) – $49,829 per year
Average Paralegal Salary In Hamilton
- Early Career (Less than 5 years of experience) – $35,000 per year
- Mid Career (More than 5 years of experience) – $41,806 per year
Unsure how to prepare for a paralegal job interview? We’ve got you covered in our previous post, “Paralegal Interview Questions and Answers.” Here we go over the most important questions asked during the interview process and provide extra tips to help you prepare.
Paralegal Training Requirements
To become a paralegal in Ontario, one must go through specific steps that are different from any other Canadian province.
This is because Ontario’s provincial government passed legislation in May of 2007 to clearly outline and define the responsibilities and educational requirements of a paralegal – thereby making it a fully accredited and regulated profession within the province.
While this means that the requirements will take time and effort, the rewards are significant when it comes to negotiating your salary and professional duties in the field.
In our post “How to Become a Paralegal In Ontario,” we break down 5 major requirements. Here is a quick summary of each step:
Step 1: Meet All the Education Requirements
- To begin on your journey to becoming a paralegal, there are different accredited institutions that offer paralegal programs with varying durations. Getting a degree will take 4 years. But if you want to opt for accelerated learning, there are two options:
- Getting a graduate certificate
- Getting a diploma
- In some cases, the shorter graduate certificate programs will suffice. In Ontario, a graduate certificate will generally allow you to practice as a legal assistant. This is because the paralegal field is quite competitive in Ontario.
- To get the added advantage of a broad and thorough education, and the opportunities that come with it, many opt to get a diploma from a paralegal education program that is accredited by the Law Society of Ontario. This kind of program usually takes 2 years to complete and is designed for individuals who have completed secondary education. Here at Cestar College, we offer a comprehensive, accredited Paralegal Training Program that spans 4 semesters and is taught by experienced lawyers and paralegals.
Step 2: Submit an Application for the Paralegal Licensing Exam and Settle the Needed Fees for Application
- The entire licensing process must be completed within 3 licensing years according to the schedule set out by the Law Society of Ontario.
- The first requirement to be eligible for the licensing exam is the individual’s official transcript.
- The issuing institution must be listed among the accredited institutions, and the program must include 120 hours of placement in a real-world legal setting (i.e. internship). The transcript is sent directly by the issuing institution to the licensing process.
Step 3: Settle the Fees for the Exam Proper and Pass the Paralegal Licensing Exam
- Aspiring paralegals must go through the self-study, open-book, seven-hour, multiple-choice Paralegal Licensing Exam.
- Currently, a fee of $1,075 must be paid to sit the exam. To view the most updated licensing examination fees, please go to this page of the Law Society of Ontario’s website.
Step 4: Be Deemed to Be of Good Character
- The Law Society Act requires that an aspiring paralegal must be of good character. The purpose of this is to protect the public and maintain high ethical standards within the profession.
Step 5: Get Your P1 (Paralegal) License
- Once all the requirements from the previous steps are settled, the aspiring paralegal can apply for the P1 (Paralegal) License.
- This license is the actual legal document that allows you to be a practicing paralegal in Ontario and currently costs $165.
Reasons to Become a Paralegal
Paralegals are an essential profession needed in many different aspects of the legal system.
By taking on more work previously given to secretaries and entry-level lawyers, such as handling documents, assisting in research, and managing clients in the various sectors listed above, paralegals have become a vital part of any legal team.
Other reasons to become a paralegal include:
- Profession demand and growth
- Flexibility within the law field
- Helping others and the legal system
Cestar’s Paralegal Program
I completed the paralegal program at Cestar College this year. The staff and faculty were all very helpful and knowledgeable. Instructors with real-world experience that they shared with the students. I feel that Cestar has given me the tools required to start my own practice with confidence. Recommended. – Joe Behar
By applying to Cestar College’s Paralegal program, you’re choosing:
- One of the most comprehensive paralegal curriculums in Ontario, covering all aspects of law that paralegals can practice, such as Legal Research and Writing, Administrative Law, Employment Law, Criminal Law, and much more!
- A paralegal program accredited by the Law Society of Ontario (LSO).
- 1100 hours of learning, including 120-hours of work placement, giving you the benefits of real-life work experience while still in school.
- Small class sizes that foster discussion-based education and provide a welcoming learning environment for all students.
- Dedicated instructors with years of experience as lawyers and paralegals who take pride in seeing their students succeed.
- A challenging but rewarding learning experience full of support from all Cestar College faculty and administrators.
Choosing Cestar College means enrolling in a Paralegal program designed to satisfy your educational requirements while exceeding your post-secondary expectations.
If you are interested in getting more information about our Paralegal Training Program here at Cestar College, head over to our course outline page. If you have any questions, we’d be very happy to help. Contact us today!