If you have an interest in law, but can't see yourself spending several years becoming a lawyer, you should consider paralegal college.
After only 12 months of study, including a 4-week internship, you'll be qualified to write the licensing exam and begin your career.
Paralegals in Ontario have a special status not available in other provinces, which allows them to represent clients in small claims court and before certain tribunals.
They can legally practice in many areas of law, including landlord and tenant disputes, immigration, labour law, and some criminal matters.
Becoming a paralegal is an opportunity to make a real difference in people's lives while making a great living for yourself. Along with the right to manage legal cases independently, you'll have the power to start your own paralegal practice.
While owning a business is a big responsibility, there are many advantages to being your own boss. You can determine your own earning potential, and choose your own legal specialty, working hours and office environment.
What does it take to run a successful practice after paralegal college? Here are some tips to get going in the right direction—and see if this option is right for you.
1. Define your paralegal practice
First and foremost, you should be aware that managing a business requires certain leadership, time management and problem solving skills. Consider whether you have the initiative, flexibility and risk tolerance to establish and maintain a successful practice.
The secret to success for most endeavors is good planning, and that is especially true when you're launching your own enterprise. Creating a well-defined business plan will get you thinking about key steps you'll need to take, and your long-term goals.
For example, what kind of paralegal would you like to be? Determine your target client and the types of legal services you will offer them.
According to Payscale, higher pay is associated with skills in corporate governance and real estate. But money isn't everything.
Perhaps you will offer more generalized services in the beginning while figuring out which area of law best suits your natural talents, and the needs of your target clients.
Where will you open your practice? Will you stay in Ottawa, and if so, which neighborhood?
Consider whether finances or certain obligations limit your flexibility regarding location. If you are renting an office, is there room for growth as your practice expands?
It's a good idea to research the demand for legal services and the existing competition in the area, before you make your final decision.
2. Take care of the nitty-gritty details
Will you set up your business as a sole proprietorship, or perhaps join a colleague to create a partnership or professional corporation?
You'll need to ensure your practice complies with all the laws and regulations applicable to the option you choose.
If you have employees or taxable services over a certain amount, you'll need a Business Number (BN) from the federal government. This is necessary for opening a payroll account, remitting Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) and acquiring an income tax number.
Check whether the municipality where you operate requires you to obtain a license and if you need to register your business name with Service Ontario.
To run a successful business, you'll need an effective support network, including the assistance of a financial institution. Research various banks and other institutions to see how they evaluate financing applications and build a good working relationship with a trusted financial advisor.
You'll have to consider your start-up costs and ongoing expenses, and how you will secure the necessary loans. And don't forget about personal liability and other insurance.
In paralegal training, you'll learn that good management of finances and accounts is a key to success.
3. Market yourself strategically
Marketing is important to gain exposure to your target clientele, and demonstrate that you can handle their legal needs.
Before launching your own business, talk with people who already own a private practice to get valuable advice and personal support. Go to networking events, reach out to other business owners and join legal associations.
You can start developing a healthy professional network while still in paralegal college and continue to build connections throughout your career.
To expand your visibility and attract new clients, consider making business cards, advertising in directories, and enrolling in a paralegal referral service. You may also want to offer free consultations or other special promotions to build a client base.
You'll need to create a website that includes your legal focus, location and client testimonials—be sure to add an email contact form. Social media marketing, blogging, and online ads are great ways to increase awareness and attract clients to your practice.
4. Create a healthy work/life balance
Establishing your own business will be a lot of work, especially just after earning your paralegal diploma. It's important to consider how you will separate your business and personal world, and how this work could affect your family and social life.
It may be cheaper and easier to have a home office—just keep in mind how this might affect your productivity and professional image, and whether you want clients waiting in your driveway.
Assess your personal and professional needs when deciding your working hours. While you can probably handle almost everything at the early stages, as you grow you'll want to hire staff so you can more efficiently manage your time.
When owning your own practice, it's important to establish boundaries and ensure you set aside sufficient time and money for your own wellbeing.
With the right attitude and preparation, you can create a fulfilling and successful paralegal career—on your own terms.
Ready to take the next step and get started with Paralegal training?
Chat live with an Admissions Advisor to learn more about Herzing's accelerated Paralegal program. Or click below to explore the program and get more information. We're here to help!