What is a Paralegal? By Jeff Bogaerts

“A person trained in subsidiary legal matters but not fully qualified as a lawyer.”

Another way to describe a Paralegal is to draw a similarity in the healthcare industry. A Doctor can do everything a Nurse can do, but a Nurse cannot do everything a Doctor can do. This is the same with Lawyers and Paralegals.

Paralegals in Ontario take the same core academic training regardless of the school they attend. This is because the Law Society of Upper Canada (“LSUC”) is the ruling body that sets the criteria for the course material.

After completing school, each Paralegal candidate must write two final exams hosted by LSUC. If you pass the exams, a security check, be of good character, take the Oath and a few other items, then a license will be issued allowing you to represent people in legal matters. For further details and requirements on how to become a Paralegal, refer to the LSUC website, www.lsuc.on.ca.

What can a Paralegal do to represent me?

This is called the “scope of practice” which is regulated by the Law Society. The details may be found at the LSUC website in By-law #4, sub-section 6. I am including some of the scope of practice areas for Paralegals in this article.

  1. Criminal matters, where the Crown has elected to proceed by Summary Conviction. Summary Conviction is an offence where the penalty does not exceed 6 months in jail or a fine greater than $5,000 or a combination of both.
  2. Small Claims Court not exceeding $25,000.
  3. Charges that are laid under the Provincial Offences Act, for example;
    A) By-laws of municipal corporations, e.g. property standards, tree cutting, building permits, septic system inspections etc.
    B) MNR fishing, hunting, firearms, endangered species, provincially significant wetlands and woodlots.
  4. Ministry of the Environment, Labour, Highway Traffic, Liquor and Licensing, Landlord and Tenant issues, Conservation Authorities, Planning, OMB, MPAC and numerous administrative tribunals and boards.
  5. May give legal advice concerning legal interests, rights or responsibilities or responsibilities with respect to a proceeding or the subject matter of a proceeding.
  6. Draft or assist with drafting documents for use in a proceeding.
  7. Negotiate on behalf of a person who is a party to a proceeding.
  8. Once licensed, Paralegals are Commissioners for taking affidavits without applying for a commissioner appointment and pay an appointment fee.

The legal issues that a Paralegal cannot do are;

  1. Family Court, Wills, Estates, Real Estate transactions
  2. However, some items not in scope may be done if they are done under the supervision of a Lawyer.

For more details please refer to the LSUC website for a full listing.

Now that we have established what is in the scope of practice of a Paralegal, why would I not continue to use a Lawyer? That is a good question. Let us refer back to the medical model. You have some minor procedure requiring a few stitches. You have a choice of either having the 30 year experienced ER Nurse or the Doctor that graduated last week from med school. Which one would you choose? Since there is no cost, the one with the most experience gets the job. However, if there was a cost, with the Nurse at say $200 per hour and the Doctor at $500 per hour (or more) then the Nurse becomes more likely to be the person doing the surgery.

With the Paralegal and Lawyer, it is the same scenario. The experienced Paralegal costs less than the Lawyer just called to the bar. As in all things in the reality of life, experience and cost are deciding factors in the decisions that we all make. Paralegals and Lawyers are no different. The Ontario Landowners Association is now able to recommend to our membership, licensed legal services supplied by both Lawyers and Paralegals in our determination to regain our lawful property rights lost over many years of complacency. The extensive research done by members of the OLA and Liz Marshall, Director of Research for the OLA, will be the foundation for our evidence.

Jeff Bogaerts is President of the Lanark Landowners, VP of the Ontario Landowners, a Director of the International Property Rights Association and a Licensed Paralegal. He is an Associate with Green and Associates Law Offices in Ottawa. Contact Jeff at 613-560-6565(work), 613-222-3174 (cell) or through the OLA website at www.ontariolandowners.ca/contact.