Updated December, 2020.
There are several key advantages to becoming a paralegal in Ontario right now. Ontario paralegals enjoy more autonomy and a broader scope of practice than their peers in other parts of Canada—and there is constant pressure to expand their role even further.
Demand for affordable legal services has generated steady work for Ontario paralegals over the last few years, and according to the latest job market data from the Canadian government, this trend is expected to continue.
But aside from job prospects and the unique regulation of paralegals in Ontario, what else should prospective students know about this career path?
What pros and cons should you be aware of if you're considering paralegal training this year?
Here are a few key points to weigh and compare before making your decision.
Pro: You can earn your paralegal diploma in just 12 months
In Ontario, you can hit the ground running as a paralegal in as little as 12 months. That's a far cry from the many years of university and law school (not to mention the crippling debt) you'd be looking at to become a lawyer.
A quality diploma program will include instruction in all approved areas of practice for Ontario paralegals, as well as skills related to managing your own practice, such as accounting, leasing office space, and marketing your legal services.
Con: Accelerated paralegal training is intense, requires hard work
If you opt for an accelerated one-year paralegal program, you must be ready to work hard—because those 12 months will cover a lot of ground.
You will study a wide range of topics, and absorb a considerable amount of information on legal theory, practice, and procedures. This is a fast-paced program, and demands strong reading, writing, and critical thinking skills.
But don't be dissuaded: if you're passionate about law, and excited about pursuing a legal career, you'll feel right at home and ready for the challenge.
Pro: Choose from several paralegal career paths
Not interested in starting up your own paralegal practice? This doesn't have to be your default career move after college.
Paralegals in Ontario have plenty of other options, such as:
Government work: including courthouses, community-based organizations, provincial and federal departments, lobby groups, and legal aid services
Corporate sector: supporting an in-house legal team with research; drafting documents for contracts, mergers, and acquisitions; reviewing licensing, trademark, and patent information; assisting with corporate transactions and real estate deals; etc.
Private law firm: likely specializing in a particular area of law, and working closely with a lawyer (or several lawyers) on research, document preparation, witness preparation, depositions, court proceedings, etc.
Con: Ontario is a competitive market for paralegals
Because Ontario offers paralegals more career opportunities than other parts of Canada, it has become a competitive market for new grads.
The Government of Canada Job Bank still predicts steady demand for paralegal services for the foreseeable future in Ontario, but that doesn't mean it will be easy to land a great job, or attract private clients.
Ontario is home to more paralegals than any other province, so while demand is good, you will need to be savvy and driven to find your ideal position.
If you're planning to start a private practice, this means getting smart about marketing, advertising, and networking to grow your client base. You will need sharp business skills, as well as legal expertise, to be successful.
Pro: You can start your own paralegal practice
Speaking of starting your own practice...for many students, this is one of the biggest advantages to becoming a paralegal in Ontario.
As a private practice owner, you can set your own hours, choose your own colleagues, select your own areas of expertise, and determine your own earning potential.
In an interview with the Globe and Mail, Judi Simms (president of the Paralegal Society of Canada) observed that many paralegals in private practice start their billing at about $70 per hour, and go up from there.As your track record and list of happy clients grows, so can your hourly rate.
Of course, it takes hard work, and no paralegal practice becomes successful overnight—but the idea of "being the boss" is a huge selling point for many Ontario paralegal grads.
Learn more about paralegal training
Looking for quality, comprehensive paralegal training in Ottawa to launch your legal career?
Explore the Paralegal Diploma available at Herzing College, Ottawa campus.
Chat live with an Admissions Advisor to learn about applications, costs, financial aid, and class schedules.
Or click below to explore the program in more detail. We're here to help!