When I ask people what they think a paralegal is, many people conjure up an image of the character Rachel Zane in the USA Network legal drama “Suits”. Like Ms. Zane, many paralegals assist lawyers with drafting legal documents, research, and case preparation; however, in Ontario paralegals are highly educated legal professionals. Only in Ontario can Paralegals work independently without the need for being supervised directly by a lawyer. Paralegals can represent their own clients in defined areas and are licensed and governed by the Law Society of Ontario.
What are the defined areas of practice for Paralegals?
Paralegals can provide legal advice and represent clients in the following areas:
• In Small Claims Court.
• In the Ontario Court of Justice under the Provincial Offences Act.
• On summary conviction criminal offences where the maximum penalty does not exceed six months’ imprisonment.
• Before administrative tribunals.
• Paralegals are eligible to perform certain services in immigration law.
• Alternative dispute resolution (ADR).
• Licensed paralegals are also permitted to practise landlord and tenant law.
Education and Licensing
The Law Society of Ontario has strict accreditation requirements for Ontario Colleges that provide Paralegal programs which includes a field placement requirement. After obtaining a degree or graduate certificate in an accredited Paralegal program, all paralegal licensee candidates must be of good character and pass a 7-hour Law Society of Ontario licensing examination. Once licensed, Paralegals must complete 12 hours of continuing education programs each year and carry errors and omissions insurance.
What a paralegal can do for you?
Facing a legal problem can be frightening and confusing for most people. It is vital for the Canadian justice system to be accessible to all individuals. Unfortunately, many people cannot afford a lawyer and yet do not qualify for legal aid assistance. If your legal issue falls into the area of permissible services as outlined above, Paralegals can provide access to justice by providing high quality legal services that are affordable.
There are many legal situations where only a lawyer will be able to assist you. To help you determine the best legal professional follow this link: https://lso.ca/public-resources/choosing-the-right-legal-professional.
Paralegal services at Ron Ellis Law:
After 15 years as a Law Clerk working in Criminal Defence law offices, I felt a strong need to be able to do more for people who were facing legal challenges. At 46 years old, I decided to go back to school to obtain my Paralegal graduate certificate at Fanshawe college. With the support of the amazing team at Ron Ellis Law, I continued work in my Law Clerk/Office Manager role while I went to school. I am very proud of my achievements while attending college. I graduated on both the Dean’s Honour Roll as well as the President’s Honour Roll and I obtained the academic award for highest GPA in the Paralegal program. I am even more proud and thrilled to now be licensed by the Law Society of Ontario and provide legal services along side our amazing lawyers, Ron Ellis and Laura Ellis.
My services include:
• Representing individuals in the Small Claims court with both Plaintiff claims and Defence claims. Small Claims Court is a branch of the Superior Court of Justice that handles civil disputes where the amount claimed does not exceed $35,000. Claims for money owed under an agreement such as unpaid loans or unpaid account for goods or services sold and delivered are often filed in Small Claims Court. Damages claims are also presented in Small Claims Court, which can include property damage, personal injuries or a breach of contract.
• In the Ontario Court of Justice under the Provincial Offences Act. The offences covered by the act are generally less serious than criminal offences. Many offences in POA court are Highway Traffic Act matters including: speeding, racing, stunt driving, following too closely, and careless driving. Also offences under the Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act for charges such as driving without insurance.
• On summary conviction criminal offences where the maximum penalty does not exceed six months’ imprisonment. Offences such as causing a disturbance, possession of a weapon in public, disorderly conduct, and public exposure are all summary conviction offences.
• Records Suspensions (formerly called “Pardons”). While record suspensions do not require a legal professional, there are many advantages to obtaining my services to complete the application for you. I would be happy to meet with you to discuss those advantages and your potential eligibility.
With our full service of legal professionals, you’ll see why Ron Ellis Law is Just. Right. for you.
Blog post authored by Melissa Anjema