You’ve heard of lawyers, but what exactly is a “paralegal”?
Put simply, a paralegal is a licensed individual in Ontario who works in a legal capacity regarding specific areas of law. Compared to lawyers, paralegals cannot provide legal advice for all areas of law, but they may still represent clients regarding certain matters. In other words, they cannot do work that is outside the scope of their practice. In Ontario alone, there are over 9,000 paralegals who are currently licensed and working in the field.
While paralegals in other provinces cannot provide legal advice, paralegals in Ontario have the unique opportunity to do so for clients and even represent them very specific areas, including the Small Claims Court (for claims up to a maximum amount of $35 thousand), and on various boards and tribunals, such as the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, Workplace Safety Insurance Board, Licence Appeal Tribunal, and more. Additionally, paralegals can also work on minor criminal summary convictions (where there is a maximum of a $5 thousand fine, and a penalty of 6 months imprisonment) and for all kinds of provincial offences. These include offences under the Highway Traffic Act, Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act, Tobacco Tax Act, Consumer Protection Act and many more. Think of speeding or traffic tickets. DUI charges, however, remain outside the scope of the paralegal’s capability to provide legal advice.
Apart from representing clients, paralegals also have many other duties as well! This can include writing documents such as affidavits, meeting with clients and reaching out to them, doing research of prior case law, and other administrative tasks. Good paralegals are always up to date with the latest developments in law, and develop a good sense of what is best for a client. Together with a lawyer, they can make for a great team.
However, paralegals are actually different from ‘legal assistants’ in Ontario. These terms should not be used interchangeably. Legal assistants are those who cannot provide legal advice to clients, but who may still work in the legal field and perform certain tasks under the direction of a lawyer. This can include administrative work like filing court documents or providing other assistance. However, unlike paralegals who are focused on specific areas of law, legal assistants can actually work in any field of law, so long as the lawyer they are working for is concentrated in that area.
Much like lawyers, paralegals in Ontario also have to receive their licence through the Law Society of Ontario (LSO). After graduating from an accredited school program and finishing a field placement for at least 120 hours, potential applicants will need to pass a seven-hour open-book exam. This may test them on various subjects, such as civil litigation, alternative dispute resolution processes, administrative law, and criminal law. Not only this, but applicants must also prove that they are of ‘good character’. Eventually, after paying the required fees and if all goes well, they will receive a P1 licence.
Aitken Robertson Paralegals
At Aitken Robertson, we have licensed paralegals who are ready to serve you and your particular needs! Our paralegal team includes Adriana Dong, Brenda Yu, Carol Betz, and Jami Sanftleben, who are all licensed and prepared to offer legal advice. You can book a free 30-minute consultation online through our website www.fightthecharges.com, or by calling us toll-free at 1-800-668-1657.