Photo: Paralegal students at Herzing College in Ottawa pose for a class photo
Updated February 2021.
Licensed paralegals in Ontario have a lot more power, work options, and opportunities than their peers in other parts of the country.
If you become a licensed paralegal in Ontario, you'll be allowed to represent clients in small claims court, and before certain tribunals (such as the Human Rights, Landlord and Tenant, Immigration and Refugee, and Workplace Safety tribunals).
Or, you could pursue a paralegal job in government, and work at a courthouse, with a lobby group, or for a provincial or federal department (like the Department of Justice).There are also opportunities for paralegals in the corporate sector, where you could work as part of an in-house legal team for a large company.
For people who want a challenging legal career—but don't want to spend years at university and law school—paralegal training in Ontario is the obvious alternative.
But what can you expect from the training and licensing process? How long does it take to complete a paralegal program, and exactly what knowledge and skills will you graduate with?
And most importantly: Is this the best move for you right now?
Let's take a look at the features of a typical paralegal diploma.
By the end of this post, you'll know if this training is right for you and what steps to take next.
How long does it take to complete paralegal training in Ontario?
You can find Ontario paralegal programs that take just 12 months to complete. These are full-time, accelerated diplomas that usually run Monday to Friday, with several hours of class per day. It's an intensive experience, but within just one year, you'll be ready to start your legal career.
Like most fast-track programs, 12-month paralegal training takes focus and hard work. You'll be covering a lot of ground in a single year of study; everything you need to know to pass the Law Society of Ontario paralegal licensing exam.
The trade off is less time spent in school, just one year of tuition costs, and a quicker path to employment.
Major legal areas & topics you'll study in class
Paralegal training in Ontario is designed to prepare students to represent clients independently (in certain areas of the law), and provide support to lawyers who work at corporations, private firms, etc.
These are some of the key topics and legal areas you can expect to tackle in class:
- Residential landlord and tenant law
- Employment law
- Motor vehicle offences
- Tribunal practice and procedures (you will study various boards and tribunals, including the Social Benefits Tribunal, Financial Services Commission of Ontario, Assessment Review Board, and the Ontario Municipal Board)
- Small claims court
- Alternative dispute resolution (negotiation, mediation, and arbitration)
- Administrative law
- Criminal/summary conviction procedures
- Evidence and the litigation process
- Consumer protection law
- Witness preparation, cross examination, and final arguments
Learning how to start your own paralegal practice
Quality paralegal training in Ontario also includes coursework on how to actually setup and run your own legal practice.
This part of the program will focus on practical skills like legal accounting, how to use computerized billing, create and manage digital client files, etc.
You will also learn important small business skills, such as:
- how to write a business plan
- how to get financing for your paralegal practice
- office management
- marketing and advertising tactics
- client relations
Whether you want to launch a practice right after paralegal college, or wait a few years, your training will offer a helpful overview of what this process involves and how to get started.
Getting field experience with a paralegal internship
A reliable paralegal program will always include some kind of work placement. Your internship should last at least several weeks, and be carried out at a local law firm, paralegal practice, or corporate office.
The internship should be a mandatory part of your training. Why does it matter? Because real work experience helps paralegal students absorb and apply the concepts and skills taught in class.
It's also an opportunity to add experience to your resume, connect with a potential local employer, and gain confidence before heading out into the workforce as a newly minted paralegal.
Finally, you want to choose a paralegal college that has good relationships with local legal practices.
Schools that offer internships are well connected to the business/legal community, better recognized as quality educational providers, and on top of the latest job market trends.
Choosing a reliable paralegal program
First and foremost, look for a paralegal program that is accredited by the Law Society of Ontario. After you finish training, you'll need to apply to the Law Society for licensing (and pass their exam), before you can start work.
Next, consider the track record, history, and reputation of the college itself: how long has the school been in operation?
Is it accredited by a reliable educational organization? (For example, if you're considering a career college, it should be accredited by the National Association of Career Colleges)
Take a close look at the website, and make sure you can access a detailed course list for the paralegal program. It's important to make sure the training is thorough and includes an internship. See if you can find online reviews from former students.
And of course, it's always a good idea to talk with an admissions representative. Does the paralegal college you're considering offer an advising service to prospective students?
Can you chat online to ask questions about the diploma? How helpful are the college staff?
All of these elements will play an important role in your overall learning experience, the value of the paralegal training you receive, and the success you'll have starting your career.
Be sure to cover all your bases before you enroll.
Next Steps: Finding the right paralegal program for your needs
If you're ready for the challenges of paralegal training, and feel excited by the topics you'll be studying in class, it's time to figure out your next steps.
College is a big investment of time, energy, and money. Before enrolling, take some time to talk with an advisor, and make sure paralegal training is truly a good fit for your interests, natural skills, and career goals.
An advisor can also help you with financial aid, and mapping out a class schedule that works with your job/family responsibilities. Start by clicking below to explore Herzing's 12-month Paralegal Diploma Program.
Browse a detailed course list, chat live with an Admissions Advisor, and set up your personal advising appointment and campus tour. Get started today!