Paralegals in Ontario are non-lawyer agents who are licensed to provide certain legal services to members of the public. Paralegals can handle quite a broad range of legal matters, making this career path particularly challenging and rewarding.
According to market research conducted by the Canadian government, demand for paralegal services has increased significantly in recent years, driven by good economic growth and constant changes in legislation and related regulations.
Crucially, paralegal services cost less than those of a lawyer, which has encouraged more individuals to seek out paralegal representation for relevant claims. This positive trend is expected continue into the foreseeable future.
If you’re considering becoming a paralegal in Ontario, you’re probably wondering what kinds of cases you might be hired to take on.
Read on for key information about small claims court, the range of legal matters handled by paralegals, as well as information about training and career paths.
Definition of Small Claims Court & Types of Claims
The Small Claims Court can handle any action for the payment of money or the recovery of possession of personal property, as long as the amount claimed is not more than $25,000. Claims that exceed $25,000 must be pursued in the Superior Court of Justice, and will be handled by a lawyer.
According to the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, paralegals can represent clients in a range of small claims cases, which can be divided into two categories: 1) claims for money owed, and 2) claims for property that has been damaged.
- NSF cheques
- unpaid loans
- unpaid accounts for goods or services sold and delivered
- unpaid rent
- property damage
- clothes damaged by a dry cleaner
- personal injuries
- breach of contract
Other Legal Matters Handled by Paralegals in Ontario
Paralegals in Ontario are empowered to represent clients in several common types of claims, such as traffic violations, minor criminal offences, and hearings before tribunals.
Traffic violations and matters related to municipal by-laws are handled in the Provincial Offences Court. Examples include:
- seatbelt violations
- driving without a license
- excessive noise
- animal control
- garbage disposal
Paralegals can also represent clients charged with minor criminal offences, as long as the maximum term of imprisonment is less than 6 months. These types of cases are handled in the Ontario Court of Justice, and include charges such as:
- harassing phone calls
- causing a disturbance
- theft under $5000
Some cases are argued before tribunals, and can also be handled by paralegals in Ontario. If you have a dispute with your landlord over rent, for example, you could hire a paralegal to represent you before the Landlord and Tenant Board Tribunal.
Examples of other tribunals (in which paralegals are authorized to represent clients) include:
- Workplace Safety and Insurance Board
- Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario
- Social Benefits Tribunal
Becoming a Paralegal in Ontario
Individuals who wish to become a paralegal in Ontario must first complete a college diploma program, and then apply to the Law Society of Upper Canada to obtain a paralegal license.
Because of the wide scope of their professional practice, paralegal training covers a broad range of course work—and typically includes an internship so students can gain experience in a real work environment.
Accredited paralegal training in Ontario includes study in the following areas:
- Torts and contracts
- Residential landlord and tenant law
- Tribunal practice and procedure
- Employment law
- Criminal/summary conviction procedure
- Statutes and by-laws
- Legal accounting
- Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
- Evidence and the litigation process
Once you have finished your training and obtained a paralegal license, you can expect to find work at a law firm, the legal department of a company, or a government office. Entrepreneurial paralegals may also set up a private practice, either on their own or in collaboration with other paralegals.
Interested in learning more about accredited paralegal training programs in Ontario?
Start by checking out Herzing College’s Paralegal Diploma Program. Delivered at the Toronto campus, this program takes just 12 months to complete and includes a 4-week internship for on-the-job training.