There are four main career paths open to graduates of paralegal training in Ontario: government, law firms, large companies, and private practice.
But within these four broad streams, graduates will find a wide variety of choice, both in terms of work environments and areas of law in which to specialize. Options are diverse for paralegals, particularly in Ontario, where the scope of practice is far broader than in other parts of Canada.
Working toward a paralegal diploma, but unsure which path you will follow?
Take a closer look at the opportunities, responsibilities and challenges you'll face in both private and public sector positions, including setting up your own paralegal business.
Working as a Paralegal in Government Organizations
Government paralegal jobs are often considered an excellent entry-level option for recent graduates. Paralegals work at all levels of government, including community-based organizations, lobby groups, courthouses, and provincial and federal departments (such as the Department of Justice).
Duties often include typical paralegal tasks, such as conducting research, preparing and filing documents, and conducting interviews. However, depending on where you work in government, you may perform additional duties, such as providing legal aid, community outreach, and obtaining and indexing evidence.
Paralegals in local government roles may find themselves drafting city regulations and resolutions, coming into contact with city council members, and meeting with citizens.
Starting out with a government organization or administrative agency is a great way to serve the public and gain valuable insights into how the legal system works at the local, provincial, or federal level.
Starting a Paralegal Career in the Corporate Sector
The primary role of paralegals in corporate environments is to support a company's in-house legal team. This generally entails routine tasks, such as updating company files, drafting employment and non-compete contracts, attending and logging minutes at meetings, and reviewing documents.
More specialized corporate paralegal duties may include:
- Researching the governmental and financial regulations the company must follow (compliance)
- Creating documents and filings related to contracts, financial reports, and shareholder information
- Helping to draft merger and acquisition documents, and real estate closings
- Reviewing licensing agreements, trademarks, and patent information
- Assisting with loan and bankruptcy filings and investment agreements
- Assisting with corporate transactions and preparing materials for the Board of Directors
Working at a Private Law Firm as a Paralegal
The work you do as a paralegal at a private law firm will depend, in large part, on the legal focus of the firm. A business law firm, for example, will require similar tasks as a corporate legal department. If you work with a practice specializing in real estate, you will be assisting lawyers with real estate and land development transactions.
Plan to work with a litigation firm? Your responsibilities will include helping with depositions, witness preparation, assisting the lawyer during court proceedings, and managing case files. You'll be drafting correspondence, briefs, motions, and pleadings, and the many other documents required in preparation for court.
Working with a private law firm gives paralegals the opportunity to specialize in a particular area of law. Or, perhaps more than one area, if you're assigned several lawyers to assist. With experience, you can build a specialized legal skillset that will qualify you for more senior positions and a higher salary.
Starting Your Own Paralegal Practice
Paralegals in Ontario are licensed to provide legal advice and services in certain areas of practice, and may appear before certain lower level courts and tribunals. After graduating from paralegal training in Ontario, you may want to take advantage of the special status of paralegals in this province, and launch your own private practice.
Your paralegal business may offer a range of legal services, or have one or two areas of speciality, such as landlord and tenant disputes, or small claims cases (these are the types of small claims cases paralegals are authorized to handle).
You may decide to diversify the legal services you offer by partnering with other paralegals—or choose to remain a sole proprietor.
Either way, launching and growing a successful practice demands more than thorough legal knowledge. You'll need business and marketing skills, a well designed website and social media presence, and be willing to regularly attend networking events to promote your practice and attract clients.
While private paralegal practices require extensive work to setup and maintain, the trade-off is total independence and the satisfaction of being your own boss. This post will walk you through four key steps to starting a paralegal business, and some important points to keep in mind if you choose this career path.
Explore course requirements, college admission criteria, and potential employers by visiting Herzing College's Paralegal Training page. Chat live with a friendly advisor, see a detailed list of topics you'll study during training, and more. We're here to help!