What is a Paralegal?
In Canada, paralegals are legal agents who have the ability to represent on many matters, including all Provincial Offences, work for Provincial Tribunals and Boards, as well as Summary Criminal Cases. In Ontario, every person who provides with paralegal services must have a licence. Paralegals are not “law clerks” and considered to be a formal part of the legal system. Paralegals may become Commissioners, Notary Publics and act as a Justice of the Peace. The profession is regulated by the Law Society of Upper Canada. Paralegal services may be provided via a sole proprietorship, partnership or professional corporation. A paralegal license allows a paralegal to independently represent clients.
What are paralegal scope of practice?
Many paralegals in Ontario work in the areas of permitted practice for paralegals and also work alongside lawyers in areas of practice that are only permitted to be practiced by lawyers. It is illegal for paralegals in Ontario to independently practice in an area of law that is permitted only for lawyers. The paralegal areas of practice are:
1. Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS) claim or a matter related to a SABS claim, including a mediator, a person performing an evaluation, an arbitrator or the Director acting under relevant sections of the Insurance Act.
2. Small Claims Court, including claims for damages or return of property worth $25,000 or less
3. Ontario Court of Justice under the Provincial Offences Act, for matters involving:
- Highway Traffic Act
- Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act
- Liquor Licence Act
- Trespass to Property Act
- Environmental Protection Act
- Occupational Health and Safety Act
- Blind Persons Rights Act
- Municipal By-Laws
4. Summary Convictions Court under the Criminal Code (Canada), for summary convictions and “true” summary conviction matters where the maximum penalty is a $2,000 fine or imprisonment to a maximum of 6 months, or both, for offences such as:
- indecent acts, public nudity, prostitution
- causing disturbance, vagrancy, cruelty to animals assault, possession of a weapon, mischief regarding property
- theft under $5,000 or possession of stolen property under $5,000
- fraud, forgery, making false statements
5. Tribunals established under an Act of the Legislature of Ontario or under an Act of Parliament:
- Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO)
- Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB)
- Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal
- Landlord and Tenant Board
- Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC)
- Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario
- Social Benefits Tribunal
- Assessment Review Board
- Ontario Municipal Board (OMB)
- Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB)
- Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario
- Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal
- Health Professions Appeal and Review Board
- Ontario Highway Transport Board
- Ontario Parole and Earned Release Board
How can I check if a paralegal has a licence?
Paralegals in Ontario are licensed and regulated by the Law Society of Upper Canada, which also regulates and provides licenses for all lawyers in Ontario. The Law Society began issuing the first paralegal licences to grandparent applicants who fulfilled all the necessary licensing requirements (including insurance) in April 2008. Paralegals who provide legal services to the public must carry professional liability insurance in accordance with By-Law 6, Part II, section 12 (1). Licensees must provide written proof of their compliance with this requirement to carry mandatory insurance before they begin providing legal services, as well as on an annual basis. To know if a paralegal is licensed, go to the website of the Law Society of Upper Canada – www.lsuc.on.ca
I need to hire a Paralegal, but I do not know what should I ask for?
Ask the Paralegal to show proof that he is licensed by the Upper Canada Law Society and he is carrying liability insurance.
Can I hire a Paralegal to deal with family matters?
No, Paralegals are not authorized to practice in the areas of family law.
I hired a Paralegal; I feel that he has forgotten me, what should I do?
If you are certain that the Paralegal is not performing the services that you hired him for; you can make a complaint to the Law Society of Upper Canada: www.lsuc.on.ca or call 416-947-3300
Does the Paralegal have a code of conduct?
Yes, the rules are similar to those that apply to Lawyers.
I have been sued in the Small Claims Court and I want to hire a Lawyer because I think they have more experience than Paralegals, the problem is they are more expensive than Paralegals. What should I do?
There are areas in Law in which a Paralegal can not compete with a Lawyer because those are beyond their scope of practice, but, in the specific case of the Small Claims Court, Paralegals have vast knowledge on this field and you can hire one without any hesitation.