Hearings and Discipline > Become a Paralegal > Paralegal Frequently Asked Questions

Paralegal Frequently Asked Questions

To answer questions about paralegal regulation, the Law Society has developed a set of frequently asked questions and answers, which is updated regularly as soon as new information becomes available. This Q& A was updated on March 2011.

Please feel free to send any questions you may have to the Law Society via e-mail, at: lawsociety@lsuc.on.ca,or call 1-800-668-7380, or 416-947-3315.


Who needs a licence?

  1. What is the permitted scope of practice for paralegals?
  2. Who needs a licence?
  3. Can paralegals provide legal services related to immigration law?
  4. Do collection agencies staff require a licence?  
  5. Do process servers require a licence?
  6. Do individuals who work for a lawyer require a licence?
  7. May licensed paralegals take affidavits?

Becoming licensed

  1. When did the Law Society begin issuing licences?  
  2. How do I become a licensed paralegal?
  3. Is there still a “good character requirement” for new applicants?
  4. Has the Law Society accredited any post-secondary institutions yet?
  5. Which Paralegal Education Programs at post-secondary institutions has the Law Society accredited?
  6. What if I attend or have graduated from a non-accredited legal services program that does not meet all of the Law Society’s conditions and did not apply by June 30, 2010?
  7. How do I know if my transcript meets the requirements to enter the Paralegal Licensing Process?
  8. Can I submit an application to enter the Paralegal Licensing Process after the annual application deadline?
  9. What does the licensing examination entail?
  10. When do licensing examination(s) take place?
  11. What is the best way to prepare for the examination?
  12. Are there any provisions available to applicants with special needs?

Additional licensing questions

  1. What are the insurance requirements for a paralegal?
  2. How are paralegal business structures affected by licensing?

Books and records

  1. What are the bookkeeping requirements for paralegal licensees?
  2. Are there any bookkeeping resources available to aid paralegals?
  3. Why are trust accounts considered necessary for consumer protection?
  4. I am currently a practising paralegal. When am I required to meet the bookkeeping and trust account requirements?
  5. What happens to the interest gained on my trust account?
  6. Are there any rules regarding cash payments?

Costs

  1. What are the application and examination fees?  
  2. Will any financial assistance be available to offset the costs of writing the exam?
  3. What is the annual fee for a licensed paralegal?  
  4. What are the annual fee categories?

Governance and Conduct

  1. How does the governance structure work?
  2. Are paralegals required to abide by a code of conduct, as lawyers are?

Complaints

  1. Is there a process for complaints about paralegals?  

Compensation

  1. Will I be entitled to compensation if I’m the victim of a paralegal’s dishonesty?

Who needs a licence?

  1. What is the permitted scope of practice for paralegals?
 

The regulatory scheme set out in the Law Society's By-Law 4 permits paralegals to practise in what were already permitted areas of practice. Subsection 6 (2) authorizes licensed paralegals to represent someone:

  • in Small Claims Court
  • in the Ontario Court of Justice under the Provincial Offences Act
  • on summary conviction offences where the maximum penalty does not exceed six months' imprisonment
  • before administrative tribunals, including the Financial Services Commission of Ontario.

A person with a paralegal licence can do the following in the course of representing a client in any of the above-mentioned proceedings:

  • 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
  • negotiate on behalf of a person who is a party to a proceeding.

As of May 1, 2007, paralegals are not permitted to appear in Family Court.

Other than under the supervision of a lawyer, paralegals may not provide legal services that only a lawyer may provide, such as drafting wills or handling real estate transactions or estates.

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  1. Who needs a licence?

Anyone in Ontario who provides legal services requires a licence, unless they are exempted under the Law Society Act or a Law Society by-law.

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 3. Can paralegals provide legal services related to immigration law?

Bill C-35, An Act to Amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act came into force on June 30, 2011 and paralegals who are licensed by the Law Society are now eligible to provide certain legal services in the field of immigration law. Paralegals who are licensed by the Law Society can appear before the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) to represent a client or clients in an IRB hearing, and can provide legal services to clients for matters relating to an IRB hearing.  Drafting of documents or other legal services practices that are not related to an IRB hearing remain outside of a Paralegal’s scope of practice. For additional information, paralegals are encouraged to consult the Law Society’s Bylaw 4, section 6 (2)(iv) on this matter.

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  1. Do collection agencies staff require a licence?

Staff of collection agencies, working in the normal course of debt collection, do not need a licence to carry on that work. However, drafting pleadings for a case in Small Claims Court or appearing in Small Claims Court constitutes the provision of legal services and can only be performed by a person licensed by the Law Society, operating through a permitted business structure.

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  1. Do process servers require a licence?

People who merely serve documents are not providing legal services. Process servers who serve documents for their employers can continue to do so without obtaining a paralegal licence, as long as they are not making decisions about what documents to serve, how to serve the documents and on whom to serve the documents. People who perform these latter actions are providing legal services and will require a licence.

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  1. Do individuals who work for a lawyer require a licence?

People whose work is supervised by a lawyer are governed by Rule 5.01(2) of the lawyers' Rulesof Professional Conduct. Individuals who prepare documents under the supervision of a lawyer and who are not appearing in front of a court or tribunal do not require a licence. Individuals in this category include law clerks in law firms and independent contractors, such as document preparers and title searchers whose only clients are lawyers.

Non-lawyers appearing in court or before a tribunal require a licence, even if they are supervised by a lawyer, unless they are appearing on behalf of a lawyer on a scheduling or other related routine administrative matter. By-Law 7.1.s.5 (1) (b)

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  1. May licensed paralegals take affidavits?

The matter of who may take affidavits is not determined by the Law Society. The Commissioners for Taking Affidavits Act sets out who may take affidavits.

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Becoming licensed

  1. When did the Law Society begin issuing licences?

The Law Society began issuing the first paralegal licences to grandparent applicants who fulfilled all the necessary licensing requirements (including insurance) in April 2008.

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  1. How do I become a licensed paralegal?

For Information of how to become a Licensed Paralegal, please visit our Become a Paralegal page.

New paralegal applicants are not able to provide legal services until they are licensed, but are eligible to apply to become licensed as paralegals if they have graduated from a Law Society accredited paralegal services program.

To date, the Law Society has accredited these college programs.

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  1. Is there still a “good character requirement” for new applicants?

Yes, there is a good character requirement for all those who apply. Please refer to By-Law 4 and the Law Society Act for details.

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  1. Has the Law Society accredited any post-secondary institutions yet?

Yes. The list of accredited college paralegal programs can be found on our website under Paralegal Education Program Accreditation. These programs meet the standards and competencies for paralegal education program accreditation. All paralegal applicants who apply for a paralegal licence with the Law Society after June 30, 2010 must have graduated from an accredited legal services program. Colleges interested in obtaining an accreditation package can download it from our website found on the CPD Accreditation Process page. Only accredited colleges will be entitled to state that they have a program accepted by the Law Society.

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  1. Which Paralegal Education Programs at post-secondary institutions has the Law Society accredited?

The list of Paralegal Education Programs at post-secondary institutions that have been accredited by the Law Society is located on the Paralegal Education Program Accreditation page. This list is updated when a new Program is accredited. All paralegal applicants who apply for a paralegal licence with the Law Society must have graduated from an accredited paralegal education program in order to be eligible to enter the licensing process. These accredited programs meet the standards and competencies that are required by the Law Society. Colleges interested in obtaining an accreditation package can download it from the Paralegal Education Program Accreditation page. Only colleges on this list will be entitled to state that they have a program that is accredited by the Law Society.

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  1. What if I attend or have graduated from a non-accredited legal services program that does not meet all of the Law Society’s accreditation requirements and I did not apply by June 30, 2010?

You may contact a College from the list of accredited programs to find out the options that are available to you. A Prior Learning Assessment, Advanced Standing, or upgrades to your current education, are options to explore and consider discussing with the College. Note: Some of these options may include an additional charge by the college, especially if you are required to complete additional courses to upgrade your program. All applicants must graduate or be graduating from a College approved by the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities and a Law Society accredited program to be eligible to apply to the Paralegal Licensing Process.

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  1. How do I know if my transcript meets the requirements to enter the Paralegal Licensing Process?

Upon graduation from an Accredited Paralegal Program, your transcript must show the following:

  1. The completion the Accredited Paralegal Program,
  2. The completion of a Professional Responsibility and/or Ethics course,
  3. The completion of a minimum of 120 hours of field placement,
  4. The month and year of Graduation.

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  1. Can I submit an application to enter the Paralegal Licensing Process after the annual application deadline?

Yes, however, applications submitted after 5:00 p.m. (EST) of the application deadline, are considered late applications and a late application fee of $75 (plus tax) will apply.  Applicants must ensure all documents and fees are submitted well in advance of the 30 business day deadline for a scheduled Paralegal Licensing Process Examination in order to be considered registered.

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  1. What does the licensing examination entail?

The open-book examination contains approximately 130 multiple-choice questions which candidates have up to 3.5 hours to complete. The examination focuses on the Paralegal Rules of Conduct, professional responsibility, ethics and practice management issues. Starting with the August 2015 administration of the paralegal licensing exam, candidates will be tested on substantive and procedural law concepts as well as professional responsibility, ethics and practice management areas.

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  1. When do licensing examination(s) take place?

Please refer to the Paralegal Licensing Examination Dates and Locations page for details. And note that candidates must apply well in advance of these dates in order to be processed, approved and registered for an exam sitting.

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  1. What is the best way to prepare for the examination?

All applicants approved to write the examination receive supporting information, including tips and suggestions on how to best prepare for the examination. The sooner applicants learn their materials and familiarize themselves with the information, the better prepared they will be to write the examination. Please refer to the Paralegal Licensing Examination Guide for more information. Candidates writing the August 2015 administration of the licensing examination will receive exam study materials as part of the licensing process.

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  1.  Are there any provisions available to applicants with special needs?

Yes, the Law Society may be able to provide you with assistance regarding your special needs requirements.

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Medical Absenteeism Form

1. What is the deadline to submit this form?

This form must be submitted within 10 business days of the missed examination. It is intended for candidates who are requesting special consideration based on illness or injury and were unable to meet the deferral deadline for their assigned Licensing Examination sitting.

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2. Does my physician or licensed medical practitioner need to complete Part B?

Although it is preferred, we will still accept this form if a qualified staff member of the physician or licensed medical practitioner completes Part B. Please note, only a physician or other acceptable medical practitioner may complete Part C and sign the form.

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3. My attending physician or licensed medical practitioner is not available within the 10 business day deadline. What should I do?

In order to request an extension to the 10 business day deadline, you are required to inform the Licensing Process, Licensing and Accreditation Department of when you expect to have the form completed and submitted. Law Society staff will review the circumstances and information provided and inform you on how to proceed.

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4. My chronic medical condition has been previously documented by the Law Society. Am I still required to submit this form? 

This form must be completed for each examination that is not deferred by the deadline due to illness or injury so that we are able to properly assess your request for special consideration. 

If you know in advance you will be unable to attend, you are to fill out the “Request for Change or Deferment” form and submit it at least 5 business days prior to the examination sitting. If your illness/injury occurs past that deadline, you will be required to submit the “Medical Absenteeism Form” when you are unable to write at an examination sitting for which you registered.

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5. I'm not able to write my examination at the main site due to a medical condition. What are my next steps?

In order to be assessed for special needs accommodations for an examination sitting, candidates are required to first contact Support Services staff at the Law Society by email to supportservices@lsuc.on.ca . Further information on special needs accommodations can be found on our website in the Support Services section.

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Additional licensing questions 

What are the insurance requirements for a paralegal?

Paralegals who provide legal services to the public must carry professional liability insurance in accordance with By-Law 6, Part II, section 12 (1). 

Licensees must provide written proof of their compliance with this requirement to carry mandatory insurance before they begin providing legal services, as well as on an annual basis.

The following companies currently offer policies that meet the Law Society's minimum requirements:

  • A.M. Fredericks Underwriting Management Ltd.
  • Berkley Canada
  • Encon Group Inc.
  • Holman Insurance Brokers Ltd
  • Integro Insurance Broker (representing Lloyd's of London)
  • Travelers Guarantee Company of Canada
  • Tripemco Burlington Insurance Group Ltd.

This insurance is available through your insurance broker. 

The Law Society cannot advise as to the cost of insurance.

Important insurance information for paralegals working under the direct supervision of a lawyer.

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  1. How are paralegal business structures affected by licensing?

Paralegal services may be provided via a sole proprietorship, partnership or professional corporation.

Licensees are strongly encouraged to seek professional advice on the best business structure for their particular situations.

More information on professional corporations is available in the Resource Centre of the Law Society website.

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Books and records

  1. What are the bookkeeping requirements for paralegal licensees?

All paralegal and lawyer licensees are required to keep proper books and records and comply with trust account rules. For paralegals, these requirements will be effective as soon as an applicant becomes licensed.

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  1. Are there any bookkeeping resources available to aid paralegals?

Yes, a Paralegal Bookkeeping Guide is available in the Resource Centre of the Law Society website.

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  1. Why are trust accounts considered necessary for consumer protection?

Maintaining a trust account is a consumer protection practice designed to ensure that client fees are available for refund in the event a paralegal becomes incapacitated or is otherwise unable to provide the paid-for services. As a result, rules on trust accounts are the same as they are for lawyers - and paralegals will be required to comply with the trust account rules as soon as they become licensed.

Licensees who do not receive fees in advance of rendering service and who do not receive other client funds such as settlements, have the option of not establishing a trust account.

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  1. I am currently a practising paralegal. When am I required to meet the bookkeeping and trust account requirements?

Bookkeeping and trust account requirements need to be met as soon as one becomes licensed.  However, a transitional period has been granted to grandparent applicants only, applying solely to fees collected prior to licensing, starting on the day applicants receive their licence and concluding on May 1, 2010. This means that funds received by a grandparent applicant prior to his or her licensing may be left in the operating account until the services are provided, but must be transferred to a trust account by May 2010 if the services have not been provided. All other funds received by the applicant after he or shebecomes licensed must be placed in a trust account, even if the money relates to a previously existing file.

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  1. What happens to the interest gained on my trust account?

As with lawyers, interest on trust accounts will be paid to the Law Foundation of Ontario, with 75 per cent of the total going to Legal Aid Ontario (LAO), as set out in the Law Society Act. Although paralegal services are not covered by legal aid certificates, LAO funds the clinic system which makes considerable use of community legal workers.

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  1. Are there any rules regarding cash payments?

The same rules that apply to lawyers regarding the receipt of cash from clients or third parties will apply to paralegals - a limit of$7,500 - as found in Law Society By-Law 9. This By-Law was established to assist in the fight against money laundering.

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Costs

  1. What are the application and examination fees?

Licensing fees are set by Convocation in the annual Law Society budget. Please refer to the Paralegal Licensing Fee Schedule for details.

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  1. Will any financial assistance be available to offset the costs of writing the exam?

The Law Society isn't aware of any financial assistance by way of bursaries or government loans/grants available. Applicants may wish to speak to an accountant or tax specialist about their ability to deduct some or all of the fees from their taxes.

Licensing Process - Paralegal Monthly Payment Plan Application Form:http://rc.lsuc.on.ca/pdf/licensingprocessparalegal/pa26frmMonthlyPaymentAppliForm.pdf

The Paralegal Monthly Payment Plan is available only from April to July of the same Paralegal Licensing Cycle

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  1. What is the annual fee for a licensed paralegal?

Annual fees are set by Convocation in the annual Law Society budget. Please refer to the Budget Fact Sheet* http://rc.lsuc.on.ca/jsp/membershipServices/payingYourFees.jspfor details.

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  1. What are the annual fee categories?

The annual fee categories for paralegals are the same as they are for lawyers, as set out in Law Society By-Law 5. These three categories are as follows:

  • Paralegal licensees who provide legal services as defined in the Law Society Act, whether they are practitioners or employees, will pay 100 per cent of the annual fee.
  • Paralegal licensees who are working but do not provide legal services will pay 50 per cent of the annual fee.
  • Paralegal licensees who are not providing legal services and do not engage in any remunerative work or are in full-time attendance at a university, college or designated educational institution, or are on maternity or adoption leave, will pay 25 per cent of the annual fee.

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Governance and Conduct

  1. How does the governance structure work?

Paralegals have a prominent role in their regulation, through the Law Society's Paralegal Standing Committee. Five members of the 13-membercommittee, including the chair, are paralegals. The remaining eight comprise five lawyer benchers and three non-lawyer benchers. These eight members are part of the Law Society's governing body, known as Convocation.

The Paralegal Standing Committee considers a wide array of issues such as scope of practice and education, as well as any necessary transitional provisions.

Currently, two paralegal members of the standing committee have been appointed to Convocation as benchers, giving them a formal role in the regulation of all legal service providers in the province.

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  1. Are paralegals required to abide by a code of conduct, as lawyers are?

Yes. The Paralegal Rules of Conduct are based on the Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers and on principles found in the 2004 Reportof the Task Force on Paralegal Regulation, as well as input from publicconsultations. The rules are structured around obligations to variousparties, including general duties, as well as duties to clients, tribunals, other licensees and the Law Society. Paralegals can also refer to the Paralegal Professional Conduct Guidelines for assistance in interpreting the Paralegal Rules of Conduct.

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Complaints

  1. Is there a process for complaints about paralegals?

Yes, a process for receiving and investigating complaints has been established, which mirrors the process already in place for lawyers.

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Compensation

  1. Will I be entitled to compensation if I’m the victim of a paralegal’s dishonesty?  

Yes, the Law Society's Compensation Fund helps clients who have lost money because of a lawyer or paralegal's dishonesty.

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Contact Us: If you have additional questions about paralegal regulation that aren't answered here, please contact the LawSociety at 416-947-3315 or 1-800-668-7380, or send an e-mail to lawsociety@lsuc.on.ca

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