Who is a Paralegal? What can they do for you?

Many people today still are not aware of the legal services a paralegal can provide and the legal role they play here in Ontario. The paralegal profession is not new and has been around in Ontario for several decades. Paralegals may be less known than lawyers, but in many legal matters they may be the better choice. Paralegals and lawyers are regulated and governed by the Law Society of Ontario. Both are required to abide by the same professional code of conduct.

In Ontario paralegals must successfully complete their education from an accredited college by the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities. The program is usually a minimum of 2 years, and some colleges offer an accelerated condensed program. Paralegal education program is intense and compact. The paralegal education program offered by the college must also be accredited by the Law Society of Ontario.

Once the paralegal candidate has graduated from the paralegal program and would like to be licensed. They are required to by the Law Society of Ontario to take the Paralegal Licensing Exam. The paralegal exam administered by the Law Society of Ontario. The exam time is 7 hours divided into morning and afternoon sessions at 3.5 hours each. If successful in passing the exam you will receive notice from the Law Society of Ontario that you have passed and are now licensed.

In the areas of law where both the paralegal and lawyer offer services, for example Small Claims and Landlord & Tenant, choosing a paralegal is a more cost effective option. While lawyers can represent clients in all areas of law, paralegal have a limited but scope of practice. Paralegals are authorized to represent the public in the following areas:

-> Small Claims Court (up to $35,000 as of January 1st, 2020)

-> Tribunals and Boards (Landlord & Tenant Board, Human Rights, WSIB, Social Benefits Tribunal, Immigration Refugee Board, and other tribunals)

-> Licensing matters such as (Dog Owner’s Liability Act, Liquor License Act cases, and

-> Traffic offences under the Provincial Offences Act

-> Summary conviction offences (minor criminal charges) under the Criminal Code.

If you seek guidance or representation in these areas consider going with a paralegal. Remember to do your research. Paralegals are just as competent, educated and knowledgeable to provide legal services in these areas. The great news is it usually cost much less to hire a paralegal than a lawyer which grants more access to the court system for the people of Ontario.

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