Photo: Ilya Medovikov, Paralegal program instructor at Herzing College Ottawa
Considering becoming a paralegal and have questions about training and careers? You've come to the right place.
This week, we interviewed Ilya Medovikov, Crown attorney for the government of Canada and Paralegal instructor at Herzing College.
We asked Ilya to give us a tour of the program, and answer some of the frequently asked questions we get from applicants.
He shared some excellent career advice, plus a detailed inside-look at the classroom experience at Herzing.
Read on to meet the instructor, find out what to expect in class, and see if Paralegal training is right for you.
Q: Can you share a little about your education and professional background?
Ilya: I earned my law degree from Queens University in Kingston, Ontario.
I currently work for the federal government as a Crown attorney. About a year ago, I started teaching the Paralegal program at Herzing College in addition to my full-time work.
I’ve always had a passion for teaching. During my university years, I really enjoyed working as a teaching assistant.
When I was going through law school, I did a lot of work in paralegal practice areas, such as provincial offences and landlord-tenant disputes. I found I had a lot of useful professional experience to share with students, particularly in these legal areas.
Ultimately, this is what inspired me to join the faculty at Herzing as a Paralegal instructor.
Q: What’s the main difference between a Paralegal diploma, certificate, and degree? What should students keep in mind when choosing a program?
Ilya: Students should keep in mind that regardless of which credential they pursue, the goal is the same: to pass the Ontario Paralegal Licensing Examination and become a licensed paralegal.
If your goal is to become a licensed paralegal, any of these programs will lead you to that result, provided that you meet the applicable licensing requirements of the Law Society of Ontario.
The key difference is the length of training. Herzing’s Paralegal diploma program is accelerated. It takes just 12 months to complete plus a 4-week internship.
Graduate certificate programs also tend to be shorter. On the other hand, a bachelor's degree in paralegal studies is a four-year commitment.
It all depends on your priorities. If you’re looking to practice as a paralegal and want a quicker path to licensing, a diploma or certificate program could be a good option.
Q: What is the most challenging aspect of Herzing’s Paralegal program?
Ilya: It’s an accelerated program, so the training is quite fast-paced and intensive. Most colleges offer two-year programs, whereas we condense the coursework into just one year.
In my experience, the most challenging aspect is time management. Students are in class four hours a day, Monday to Friday. They also have tests and assignments to complete on top of that, so good organizational skills are important.
It’s definitely manageable, but students should be aware of the pace up front.
Q: Can you share a few examples of assignments students do for the program?
Ilya: One good example is the course on managing your own paralegal practice. Students learn a variety of practical tools, from accounting techniques to setting up and managing client files.
We also teach how to conduct legal research using databases, and how to draft a variety of legal documents.
Students learn how to prepare a statement of claim for small claims court, documents for administrative tribunals (like the Landlord and Tenant Board), and charter applications for criminal court.
Q: How do you prepare students for the courtroom? Do you hold mock trials?
Ilya: We teach an 8-week advocacy course and mock trials are a key part of that course.
Each trial takes about a week and a half to complete, so about 12 hours of hands-on practice.
Students are divided into prosecution and defence teams, and others play the role of witnesses. They run the trial from start to finish.
Everyone gets a chance to examine and cross-examine, introduce evidence, make opening and closing statements, and take a position on sentencing.
We spend a lot of time simulating a real courtroom experience, so students are well prepared for real-world scenarios.
Q: Can you tell us about the internship? How does it work?
Ilya: The paralegal internship runs for four weeks. Once students complete all the coursework for the diploma, they begin the internship, which is a requirement for paralegal licensing in Ontario.
For the most part, internships are hosted by private sector law firms.
Herzing goes above and beyond to try and match students with lawyers or paralegals who work in an area of law that interests them.
The primary purpose is to shadow the supervising lawyer or paralegal, learn how they interact with clients and communicate with opposing counsel, and observe how meetings are conducted.
Q: On average, how many of your students plan to take the Paralegal Licensing Exam?
Ilya: In my current class, about 85% are planning to challenge the licensing exam. Many students are aiming to run their own paralegal business.
Others are already working as legal assistants. They are pursuing licensing so the law firm they work at can offer more services.
Q: What if a student decides not to take the licensing exam. Can they still find work?
Ilya: Even without a license, someone with a paralegal diploma is certainly qualified for a legal assistant position. This is a common path for students who don’t earn their license.
Employers who hire legal assistants may prefer graduates of paralegal training, because of the additional skills and knowledge they bring to the table.
Q: What are the most popular areas of practice for Paralegals these days?
Ilya: Provincial offences is a very significant practice area. There is always a steady flow of cases in this area. Small claims is also very popular, as are tribunals, such as the Landlord and Tenant Board. Many of my students are interested in representing tenants or landlords.
Q: How does someone know they’d make a great paralegal? What core qualities should they possess?
Ilya: Great organizational skills are important, including the ability to meet deadlines and carefully follow guidelines.
You need excellent communication skills for interviewing clients, establishing trust and rapport, and conducting yourself professionally in front of a judge.
The ability to analyze information is key, so you can thoroughly understand legal principles and advocate effectively for clients.
It’s also important to have a strong moral compass. Paralegals are regulated by the Law Society of Ontario.
This means they have a duty to follow strict codes of professional conduct and adhere to high ethical standards in their private lives as well.
You must be prepared to take on that responsibility.
Still have questions about Paralegal training?
Herzing College offers an accelerated 12-month Paralegal diploma program, which is available at both the Ottawa and Toronto campus. Training includes a 4-week internship, which is held at the end of the program.
If you're wondering if this program is right for you, or have questions about training, we suggest speaking with Admissions.
An Admissions Advisor will guide you through the program and answer any questions you have about applying, tuition, financial aid, and class schedules.
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Explore the Paralegal program in more detail and chat live with Admissions Advisor. We're here to help.