Career Profile: Paralegal and Legal...

Career Profile: Paralegal and Legal Assistants

by Marianne Stephens
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

Paralegals and legal assistants are two very different careers depending on the firm’s need for them. Paralegals can make up to $25/hr. Legal assistants are at the same pay level as paralegals, showing that there are similarities between the two jobs. For one, the biggest difference is the educational level required. As compared to a lawyer, becoming a paralegal requires a higher standard of education by going for an undergraduate degree in university first as it is a graduate degree. Paralegals are also required to take the admissions test for the Law Society of Ontario to practice and can take on the same opportunities while working for a wider legal field as a lawyer can, but with different responsibilities. Paralegals do the research and the legal requirements in order to file the case with the courts that are needed in accordance to the restraints demanded of paralegals.

Paralegals can work within several areas of the law, not limited to  family, criminal, housing employment, immigration, human rights.  New emerging legal fields that new paralegals can consider include cyber-related law, immigration law (especially with more refugees and others seeking citizenship), and entertainment / copyright law. There are a wide variety of areas of law, I’ve only just included a couple of the more well-known fields, so you can see the wide range of possibilities.

Important information, answers to common questions and the path towards the paralegal career path can be found on the Law Society of Ontario (formerly known as Law Society of Upper Canada) paralegal website: https://www.lsuc.on.ca/licensingprocessparalegal/. They also have a Frequently Asked Questions page in order to help you decide if you want to become a paralegal and what college program you want to consider applying to. The page is as seen here: https://www.lsuc.on.ca/with.aspx?id=2147503988.  This document is the best guide to tell you what you can and cannot do: http://www.lsuc.on.ca/with.aspx?id=1072.

On the other hand, legal assistants, have a different set of skills. Also known as legal office assistants, they have to know the same areas of law as a paralegal or a lawyer, but unlike the other two careers, the legal assistant does not take the Paralegal Licensing test and does not deal with the public. Instead, they support the legal team by dealing with various tasks: legal research, archiving and retrieving files, and most importantly, time management – deadlines are an essential part of this career. For these reasons, a legal assistant is often described as a legal clerk (the job responsibilities overlap quite a bit). The role is similar to an office administration position. Even so, it is important to know the difference between a legal assistant and a paralegal.

Computer skills are a necessity for these two career positions. Becoming a paralegal and a legal assistant are not easy, and require a lot of legal, records management and research knowledge and a lot of work time and education, but can be a very rewarding career.

“Job Vacancy and Wage Survey, Second Quarter 2017.” Government of Canada. Government of Canada, 7 Dec. 2011. https://www.jobbank.gc.ca/LMI_bulletin.do. Accessed 06 Jan 2018.

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