What is the difference between a lawyer and a paralegal? That is one of the most common questions I am asked by clients.
One of the most obvious differences between lawyers and paralegals is education; however, this blog will focus on the scope of practice of a paralegal.
Lawyers are not limited on what area(s) of law they wish to practice in. Paralegal training is nowhere near as extensive as lawyers, which limits what a paralegal can do.
The Law Society of Upper Canada authorizes licensed paralegals to represent parties in Small Claims Court, offences under the Provincial Offences Act (traffic Court, etc.), summary conviction offences (where six months’ imprisonment is the maximum penalty), and Administrative tribunals such as the Landlord and Tenant Board and the Human Rights Tribunal.
While representing a party in any of the above proceedings, a paralegal can provide legal advice regarding the subject matter of that proceeding. Paralegals can also draft pleadings and other documents that are used in the course of those proceedings, and paralegals are permitted to negotiate settlements on behalf of a party to a proceeding.
Paralegals cannot provide legal services in areas outside of the scope permitted by the Law Society that only a lawyer can provide.
Some paralegals, like lawyers practice in multiple areas of law, while others specialize in one area.
One common element between paralegals and lawyers is that must both abide by codes of conduct: the Paralegal Code of Conduct, and Rules of Professional Conduct, for lawyers. They are quite similar.
Both paralegals and lawyers serve pivotal roles which are necessary in the interests of justice.