Should You Hire a Paralegal in Ontario?
Sometimes we get asked by our users why we have paralegals listed in our database. That’s a valid question, because in most of Canada, a paralegal is simply a lawyer’s assistant. They work under the supervision of a lawyer and do research, draft documents, review records, and do filings, among many other things.
However, in Ontario, a licensed paralegal is allowed to practice law and represent clients for a number of legal issues. This is why paralegals are so valuable, and why we list them!
So, let’s talk about paralegals, then.
What Is a Paralegal, in Ontario?
A paralegal, in Ontario, is a legal professional that is licensed by the Law Society of Ontario – the same law society that licenses lawyers in Ontario – to represent the public for a variety of legal matters. To become a licensed paralegal, candidates must show that they meet all of the requirements set out by the law society, which include graduating from an accredited paralegal education program, passing the Paralegal licensing examination, and being judged to be of good character. This licensing process ensures that any paralegal you hire is qualified to provide services effectively and in your best interest.
How Does a Paralegal Differ from a Lawyer?
A paralegal is very similar to a lawyer within the scope in which they are licensed. The difference is exactly that – the scope of their license. Paralegals are only permitted to represent the public in certain legal matters, but within those areas, their practice is exactly that of a lawyer: they abide by the same standards and rules, they can give legal advice, and they can fully and independently represent clients in and out of court.
The education required to become licensed as a paralegal is different from the requirements for a lawyer for exactly the same reason. A paralegal is only required to complete a specialized paralegal certificate course, whereas a lawyer must obtain a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) or a Juris Doctor (J.D) degree (which is why they can charge the big bucks) to be eligible for licensing.
What Legal Matters Can a Paralegal Help Me With?
Paralegals are licensed to represent you and provide you with legal advice for the following legal matters:
Offences under the Provincial Offences Act include, among others, matters involving:
- The Highway Traffic Act
- Municipal By-Laws
- Occupational Health and Safety Act
- Liquor License Act
- Trespass to Property Act
- Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act
- Environmental Protection Act
- Blind Persons Rights Act
Summary Criminal Matters
Paralegals can represent you for criminal matters when the maximum penalty is one or both of a $2000 fine and not more than 6 months in prison. Some examples of these are:
- Possession of a weapon
- Breaking and entering
- Theft under $5000
- Indecent acts
- Engaging in a prize fight
- Many other offences
Paralegals can represent their clients for matters in Small Claims Court. Small Claims Court is where you go to sue a person or a business for something you are owed, whether that be money or property, when the amount is $35,000 or less. Anything above that goes to the Superior Court of Justice, and for that you would need a lawyer. Some things for which you can sue someone in Small Claims Court:
- Goods and services that were not paid for, or were paid for and not received
- Unpaid loans or rent
- Damages to property or goods
- Breach of Contract
If you need to appear before an administrative tribunal for dispute resolution, a paralegal is licensed to represent you. There are a lot of different tribunals, so we won’t list them all, but a few tribunals you may end up in front of are:
- Landlord and Tenant Board
- License Appeal Tribunal
- Workplace Safety and Insurance Board
- Ontario Human Rights Commission
- Financial Services Commission of Ontario
- And many, many more
- Immigration as a Consultant
- Alternative Dispute Resolution
*This is by no means a completely exhaustive list, and keep in mind that things change over time, as they tend to do.
Some issues a paralegal cannot help with:
- Federal crimes
- Family court
- Pretty much everything else not listed above!
Why Use a Paralegal Instead of a Lawyer?
The obvious reason is cost. Paralegals cost less than lawyers do. Using a paralegal when you have the option could save you some money or give you access to legal representation where you may otherwise have had none.
2. Education and Experience
Unlike buying furniture or electronics, cheaper in this case does not mean sacrificing quality. On the contrary, paralegals’ limited scope means that they have an in-depth education in their practice areas and extensive experience within their specialties.
3. Quality of Service
Paralegals are often able to devote more time and effort for each individual client. Where a lawyer is able to take on many more clients at once because some of their work might be outsourced to -you guessed it- paralegals working under them, an independent paralegal in their own practice typically does everything for each client themselves. This focused attention could result in a better experience for you overall.
If you are in Ontario, and you have a legal issue for which a paralegal is licensed to represent you, consider hiring one! They are regulated, educated, experienced, and cheaper than a lawyer! If you have a legal issue that a paralegal is not licensed to help with, you should definitely get a lawyer! If you’re not sure, just ask us! We’ll get you to the right professional 😊