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Who are Paralegals and what can they do?

Region: Ontario Answer # 2800

A paralegal is a professional who has the required education and experience to provide legal services to the general public, but they are not lawyers. In Ontario, paralegals are licensed by the Law Society of Ontario and are regulated as officers of the court. Since 2007, the Law Society has had governing jurisdiction over approximately 9,000 licensed paralegals in the province.

What are paralegals authorized to do?

Licensed paralegals are authorized to represent individuals in the following areas:

  • Small Claims Court litigation (up-to $35,000)
  • Traffic and other offences under the Provincial Offences Act, which are heard in the Ontario Court of Justice
  • Statutory Accident Benefits (SAB) claims covered under the Insurance Act, for minor injuries due to motor vehicle accidents
  • Hearings before administrative tribunals and boards (including the Landlord and Tenant Board, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, the Financial Services Commission of Ontario, Social Benefits Tribunal, Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, and the Immigration and Refugee Board)
  • Certain criminal law matters including:
    • Assault
    • Criminal harassment
    • Mischief
    • Theft under $5,000
    • Fraud
    • Breaches of court orders
    • Four criminal driving offences: Dangerous Driving, Failure to Stop after Accident, Flight from a Police Officer, and Operation while Prohibited

Criminal Code offences

Paralegals can provide legal services in Ontario on a number of Criminal Code summary conviction offences.  More information and a full list of permitted Criminal Code conviction offences where a regulated paralegal can represent an individual is available from the Law Society.

When representing a client in any of the authorized areas, a licensed paralegal can provide the following legal services:

  • Give legal advice concerning legal interests, rights or responsibilities with respect to a proceeding or the subject matter of a proceeding,
  • Draft or assist with drafting documents for use in a proceeding, and
  • Negotiate on behalf of a person who is a party to a proceeding.

What can’t paralegals do?

Other than under the supervision of a lawyer, paralegals are also not allowed to provide legal services that only a lawyer may provide, such as drafting wills, handling real estate transactions, and representing clients in serious criminal matters.

Family Legal Services Provider (FLSP) License

Paralegals are currently not permitted to appear in Family Court.  However, on December 1, 2022 the Law Society of Ontario (LSO) approved a proposal for the Family Legal Services Provider (FLSP) License, which will allow paralegals to offer certain services in family law.

In the approved motion, paralegals who obtain the licence will be allowed to:

  • Appear in court on motions to change child support where a person’s income is less than $150,000 (and determined by their employer) and to respond to proceedings to enforce support payments through this licence.
  • Assist individuals through procedures like filing deadlines.
  • Help in preparing and completing applications for simple joint and uncontested divorces, domestic contracts, and name changes.

To obtain the licence, paralegals will have to complete 260 hours (about three months) of full-time education and training and pass an exam. It may be at least two years before paralegals can start providing family legal services, as those programs still have to be created.

More info

For more information about paralegals and what they can and cannot do for their clients, refer to the Law Society of Ontario.


 

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