In Ontario, both lawyers and paralegals are licensed by the Law Society of Ontario. Lawyers are licensed to practice law and provide legal advice regarding all Ontario laws. Paralegals are licensed to provide legal advice regarding specific Ontario laws. Both lawyers and paralegals are professionally educated, insured, and required to complete annual continuing professional development hours to remain up to date to new legal developments.
In all legal situations, while it is not recommended, a person may represent themselves. There are some situations where both lawyers and paralegals are licensed to help, and others where only a lawyer is only able to help. In situations where both lawyers and paralegals are licensed to help, generally hiring a paralegal is a more affordable option.
Additionally, paralegals may have more experience in court filing, procedures, and research, whereas lawyers are often better suited to take on more complex cases due to their extensive knowledge of the law.
Lawyer Scope of Practice
A lawyer is licensed to provide a full range of legal services, including:
- Family matters, such as divorce, separation, and child custody;
- Criminal matters in all levels of court;
- Civil litigation matters in all levels of court;
- Wills, powers of attorney, and estate matters;
- Real estate matters, including buying and selling personal or commercial property; and,
- Administrative law matters, including appearances before tribunals.
Only a lawyer may prepare legal documents such as wills, powers of attorney, custody, or settlement agreements relating to family and matrimonial law.
Paralegal Scope of Practice
A paralegal is licensed to provide legal services in certain levels of court, including:
- Civil litigation matters in the Small Claims court;
- Prosecution and defence of provincial offences under the Provincial Offences Act;
- Administrative law matters, including appearances before tribunals and boards; and,
- Certain summary conviction criminal charges under the Criminal Code proceeding in the Ontario Court of Justice.
Paralegals may also draft documents and negotiate on a party's behalf relating to the above-noted proceedings.