what is a paralegal?

As a paralegal, you work in legal settings, assisting lawyers with research and casework preparation. Some of your duties include drafting legal documents, interviewing witnesses and assisting lawyers during trial. You are educated in Canadian Law but work under the supervision of a lawyer. While the responsibilities of paralegals are closely related, each province or territory has unique restrictions.

In Canada, each province sets its standards of practice for paralegals. For instance, you can only work as a paralegal in Ontario with a license from the Law Society of Ontario, which also licenses lawyers. If you are a paralegal in Ontario, you represent the public on specific legal matters. You represent clients in and out of court on provincial offences, small claims and administrative tribunals. However, paralegals cannot help with federal crimes, family court and major criminal offences.

As a paralegal, you can work in various settings, depending on the scope of your duties. Most paralegals work in law firms, government agencies and businesses. Regardless of where you work, you need exceptional legal knowledge to cover the scope of your responsibilities. In some provinces, you are allowed to provide legal advice but not permitted to receive payment, and in most regions, you must only work under the supervision of a lawyer.

Would working as a paralegal suit your legal knowledge and administrative skills? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in a paralegal role.

paralegal jobs

average paralegal salary

According to Job Bank, the median salary of a paralegal in Canada is $72,000 per year or an hourly rate of $37.00. In entry-level positions, you start with a salary of $57,500 per year. As you gain experience, your earnings increase gradually, and you can take home over $80,000 per year.

what factors affect the salary of a paralegal?

Your earnings as a paralegal depends on various factors. When you have extensive experience in dealing with legal matters, you are likely to earn more since you handle complex duties for lawyers. Additional accreditations boost your earning potential, as you'll be qualified to represent clients in and out of court.

The location also influences your earnings. Some provinces like Ontario have a wider scope of duties for paralegals, which boosts your earnings. The demand for paralegals and the cost of living in large cities also increase the hourly rates. Working in small towns lowers your earning potential, mostly due to the low demand for paralegal services.

Aside from location, the size of the company or law firm you work for also influences your earnings. When you work in a small law firm, you are likely to earn less since the firm handles fewer clients. Large companies can afford higher salaries because they have access to vast resources.

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types of paralegals

Paralegals can specialize in many fields. Some of the different types of paralegals include:

  • corporate paralegals: as a corporate paralegal, you work with corporate lawyers representing an entire organization instead of a single client. Your duties involve reviewing specialty contracts, researching regulations and paying attention to business impropriety.
  • estate planning and probate paralegal: as a paralegal, you work under the supervision of probate lawyers in estate planning. Your duties include writing wills, working with probate pleadings and deeds, and planning estates. You also manage inheritance taxes and record deeds.
  • government paralegal: you perform the same duties as a typical paralegal but work for the government. In some government departments, you provide legal aid assistance or assist prosecutors and public defenders.
woman and man working together using laptop
woman and man working together using laptop

working as a paralegal

If you are interested in starting your law career as a paralegal, take a look at the specific duties, responsibilities and work environments.


paralegal skills and education

To work as a paralegal in Canada, you need the following educational requirements:

  • bachelor’s degree: the minimum educational requirements for paralegals in Canada vary depending on the province. Some employers accept a paralegal certificate, while others require a bachelor’s degree. You can get a paralegal certificate after secondary school. The certification takes less than a year to complete and prepares you for your role. Alternatively, get a bachelor's degree in paralegal studies, which takes four years, or an associate degree for two years.
  • work experience and licenses: most provinces don't regulate the paralegal profession, which allows you to work without a license. However, in Ontario, you require a license from the Law Society of Ontario. You should join a professional association like the Canadian Association of Paralegals (CAP). Alternatively, improve your experience and access resources in provincial paralegal associations, such as the Alberta Association of Professional Paralegals.

competencies and characteristics of paralegals

Some of the skills and qualities of paralegals include:

  • attention to detail: as a paralegal, you work on legal documentation and draft documents. It is important to pay attention to details since the accuracy of the documents is vital. After preparing the legal documents, you proofread them to check for minor errors and ensure client and witness statements are accurate.
  • communication skills: as a paralegal, you require excellent communication skills. You speak to clients and witnesses, which requires strong verbal communication. It is also crucial to develop exceptional listening skills to understand your clients and ask critical questions during fact-finding. Your writing skills should be polished, thorough and accurate.
  • interpersonal skills: as a paralegal, you work closely with legal assistants, lawyers and legal secretaries. Your interpersonal skills help you collaborate with other professionals and build positive working relationships in the industry.
  • critical thinking and analytical ability: as a paralegal, you sift through large amounts of information when handling clients' cases. Having analytical skills helps you analyze the reports and witness testimonies and find the best legal strategies to help clients. Critical thinking skills help you discern material evidence vital to client’s cases.


Here, you will find the answers to the most frequently asked questions about the profession of a paralegal.


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