Paralegals are individuals who have been professionally trained to help lawyers in a variety of legal roles. Their responsibilities are more than mere clerical chores as they are responsible for a wide variety of substantive legal work, legal and factual research, producing legal documents, assisting clients, and managing cases.
To become a paralegal in Ontario, you must meet the educational and field requirements, you must also pass the required professional examination and you must apply for licensing which is regulated under the Law Society of Ontario.
A paralegal works under the supervision of an attorney and cannot perform duties that are to be performed by only licensed attorneys. The duties and responsibilities of a paralegal include:
- Conduct client interviews
- Locate and take statements from witnesses
- Conduct legal research
- Prepare legal documents, letters, and pleadings
- Perform administrative duties
- Help lawyers prepare for court cases
- Draft wills, deeds, and trusts
- Author and sign correspondence as long as the paralegal status is stated properly and the correspondence does not contain independent legal views or advice.
- Independent paralegals can give legal advice to clients and also represent clients in small claims court and other lower court proceedings.
How to Become a Paralegal in Ontario?
The requirements needed to become a paralegal are regulated by the laws of each state. However, paralegals in law firms require a bachelor’s degree in law or a law college diploma and also in-house training from a law firm or legal establishment.
To become a Paralegal in Ontario, you must be licensed under the Law Society of Ontario (LSO). To become licensed, here are the steps you should follow:
Get Formal Education
To commence your journey in this career path, you will need to earn an Ontario Secondary School Diploma or its equivalent with credit in grade 12 English. Asides from the basic knowledge and skills you will get after earning your high school diploma, the diploma also serves as a prerequisite to being enrolled in an Ontario College Paralegal Program.
Graduate from a College Paralegal Program
You will be required to enroll in an accredited paralegal education program in Ontario. This program offers courses and even field placements (of at least 120 hours) which helps students gain practical experience and also prepare them to take licensing exams and earn certifications.
There are many colleges with accredited paralegal education programs in Ontario e.g. Algonquin Careers Academy, CDI College, Centennial College, Durham College, Flemming College, George Brown College, etc. These colleges offer courses in a variety of types of law including; criminal law, business law, immigration law, employment law, etc. which helps students develop strong research, resolution, and negotiation abilities, as well as court and tribunal practices and procedures.
Apply to the Licensing Process
After meeting the educational requirements, you can go ahead to commence registration for the licensing process. The licensing process is divided into three steps which must be completed within 3 years. The steps include:
STEP 1. Pass the licensing examination– the licensing exam is a self-study, open-book, multiple-choice examination. The examination assesses competencies in the following categories; ethical and professional responsibilities, Canadian law, civil litigation, criminal/Quasi-criminal law& procedure, administrative law, problem/issue identification analysis, and assessment, alternative dispute resolution, litigation process, and practice management issues.
The total cost for the examination is about $1075 and this covers the cost of the study materials that will be given to you. Although the exam might look difficult to pass, there are several tips and tutoring available on the law society website which can be useful in preparing for the exams.
STEP 2. Meet the good character requirement– to be licensed as a paralegal in Ontario, the law society Act requires you to meet the good character requirement. The requirement for good character is meant to protect the public and preserve high ethical standards in the profession by ensuring that persons licensed as paralegals show respect for the rule of law and administration of justice as well as conducting themselves with honesty, integrity, and candor.
When applying for the license, the application form will include questions that will be used to test for your good character. The subject areas of the questions you should accept are:
- Current or past criminal proceedings
- Judgments involving fraud
- Academic misconduct
- Violations of legislated human rights
- Outstanding civil judgments
- Past refusal of admission into a professional body
- Past court sanctions or penalties
- Past denial or revocation of license as a result of failure to meet a good character, etc.
STEP 3. Apply for a P1 license– after you have successfully passed the examination and have been approved to have met the good character requirements, you will be required to pay an applicant licensing fee of about $165 then apply for the license.
The license is the final step to becoming a paralegal in Ontario and it allows you to practice as a paralegal under the rules and regulations enforced by the Law Society of Ontario.
Requirements of a Paralegal in Ontario
- Must have a high school diploma
- Must graduate from an accredited paralegal education program in Ontario
- Must complete 120 hours of field placement
- Must pass the licensing examination
- Must meet the requirement of good character as required by the law society of Ontario
- Must apply for a paralegal license while paying all the required fees
How Much Does a Paralegal Earn in Ontario?
Although there is no fixed salary payment, the average salary of a licensed paralegal in Ontario is about $60,000 per year for an entry-level worker while most skilled and experienced paralegals earn as high as $105,000 per year. Variations in salaries are due to the level of experience, location, and the type of firm you work with. Paralegals working for government firms usually earn higher than those working for private institutions.
Are Paralegals in Demand in Ontario?
Yes, paralegals are in demand in Ontario. According to the government of Canada job bank, over the next few years, demand for paralegals should be consistent across Ontario and this is due to the high concentration of law firms, courthouses, corporate headquarters, administrative boards, and tribunals in this province and also because a number of employees will retire over the next three years and this gives room for employment of new staff for replacement.