Schools Training

Embarking on a Paralegal Career

8 APR 2013
Career Path : Law

We all love those films where the court case takes a last minute turn thanks to some key piece of evidence that brings a momentary sense of justice to the world. With the reams of data to research and over a century of intricate legal history to pore through, it’s no surprise that a lawyer can’t do it all by him or herself. That’s where the paralegal comes in. While lawyers are ultimately responsible for legal work – setting fees, giving legal advice and presenting cases in court – they often delegate many of their tasks to paralegals.

What does a paralegal do?

A paralegal assists lawyers with a variety of tasks, including preparing for trials, hearings and closings, doing research, and drafting legal documents. They research the facts of the case and previous judicial decisions and laws to ensure all relevant information has been considered. They may prepare contracts, lawsuit motions, mortgages or separation agreements while interacting with clients, locating and interviewing witnesses and retrieving information from governmental or other institutions. There are so many branches of law and complexities to be considered that tasks can vary greatly, depending on the employer, and many become specialists. Within specialties, functions can be further broken down, such as labour law specialists focusing exclusively on employee benefits.

Paralegals in Canada

In Canada, they are considered to be a formal part of the legal system, able to represent on many matters including provincial offences, and may become Commissioners, Notaries Public and act as a Justice of the Peace. In 2007, paralegal became a regulated profession in the province of Ontario, as distinct from law clerks. With a license from the Law Society of Upper Canada, paralegals may act independently on behalf of clients to represent a more affordable option for simpler matters such as small claims, landlord/tenant disputes and other minor civil matters.

Career Prospects

Paralegals can be found in all types of organizations but most are employed by law firms, corporate legal departments or various governmental offices. Banks, insurance companies and courts also employ paralegals. Law firms come in all shapes and sizes and paralegals may find themselves sifting through stacks of papers in their early days, acting more as a clerk. Lawyers often know each other and may be aware of the reputations of legal assistants so it is ideal to not burn any bridges, particularly for those just who have just finished their paralegal courses.

Shifting demographics and increasing legal complexity are creating a promising career outlook for people who want more pay, more upside and more control over where they’re going. With increased competition in the paralegal field, many beginning a career supplement their learning and specialization qualifications with accounting or payroll courses. While legal professionals continue to navigate through social, economic and technological changes, the future looks bright for embarking on a paralegal career.

Visit Algonquin Careers Academy for more information on paralegal or medical office assistant courses.