What is a paralegal?
In Ontario, a paralegal is professionally trained and regulated to provide legal services in specific areas of law. The services of a paralegal are generally an affordable alternative to hiring a lawyer. Paralegals are known to be ‘hands-on’ service providers that will assist with the drafting of documents, providing effective legal representation. A paralegal is likely to explain the legal system in a manner that a client can easily understand.
The services a paralegal can offer are like that of a lawyer, but their expertise is specific to certain areas of law.
A licensed paralegal providing legal services in Ontario must adhere to professional rules of conduct, guidelines and comply with the defined by-laws set out by the Law Society of Ontario (‘LSO’); the organization that regulates the profession of both lawyers and paralegals. The LSO has a duty to protect the public interest and promote access to justice for Ontarians. The requirement to be regulated is unique to the province of Ontario. Paralegals are required to adhere to strict rules/regulations outlined by the LSO.
To become a paralegal in Ontario, one must first be accepted and graduate from an accredited paralegal education program in Ontario and pass the licensing exam. Paralegals are required to carry professional liability insurance, pay annual fees, complete professional development programs on an annual basis, participate in practice audits, and file annual reports. All these tasks are like that of a lawyer.
What areas of law can paralegals provide legal advice and representation?
- Superior Court of Justice, Small Claims court – civil litigation
- Provincial Offences including Traffic court
- Criminal Summary Convictions
- Tribunals such as but not limited to:
- Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario
- Landlord & Tenant Board
- Workers Safety & Insurance Board
- License Appeal Tribunal
- Animal Care Review Board
- Social Benefits Tribunal