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What is the Difference? Lawyer vs Paralegal in Ontario

Lawyer vs Paralegal? Here’s a quick overview of the difference between the two and when you’d need one over the other.


When navigating the legal landscape in Ontario, understanding the distinction between a lawyer and a paralegal can be pivotal in determining the kind of legal assistance you require. Each profession holds a unique place within the justice system, with specific roles and responsibilities. This article will explore the differences between a lawyer vs a paralegal to help you make an informed choice for your legal needs.


Educational Paths and Credentials




·       Completion of an undergraduate degree followed by a Juris Doctor (JD) from a recognized law school.

·       Licensing by the Law Society of Ontario, which includes passing the bar examination and completing an articling period.




·       Achievement of a paralegal education accredited by the Law Society of Ontario.

·       Successful completion of a licensing examination by the Law Society of Ontario.


Scope of Practice


The scope of practice between a lawyer and a paralegal in Ontario varies distinctly, which affects the type of legal work each can perform:


Lawyers are authorized to:


·       Provide legal advice on a broad range of issues.

·       Represent clients in all levels of court in Ontario.

·       Draft and file legal documents for various proceedings.


Paralegals are licensed to:

·       Offer Legal Advice: Paralegals can provide guidance on legal matters, rights, or obligations related to a legal case or its subject.

·       Legal Representation: Paralegals are allowed to represent clients in various legal settings, including:

o   Small Claims Court for cases involving up to $35,000.

o   Proceedings under the Provincial Offences Act at the Ontario Court of Justice.

o   Criminal Code cases in summary conviction courts, where the penalty is a fine up to $5,000 or imprisonment up to two years less a day.

o   Proceedings before tribunals established by Ontario's Legislature or by an Act of the Canadian Parliament.

·       Legal Documents: They can select, draft, complete, revise, or help with these tasks for documents used in legal Proceedings.

·       Negotiate on Behalf of a Client: Paralegals can negotiate a client’s legal rights, interests, or responsibilities in relation to a legal case or its subject matter.

·       Handle Legal Documents: They are also skilled in selecting, drafting, completing, revising, or assisting with these tasks for documents that affect a client’s legal rights, interests, or responsibilities in a legal case or its subject matter.


Duties and Responsibilities


While both lawyers and paralegals serve crucial functions in the legal system, their day-to-day duties can differ significantly:

Lawyer Duties


·       Arguing cases in higher courts and providing strategic legal planning.

·       Offering representation that encompasses all areas of law, including family, criminal, and corporate law.


Paralegal Duties


·       Providing representation in permitted courts for issues such as traffic violations, small claims courts, and minor criminal matters.

·       Assisting lawyers by conducting client interviews, legal research, and preparing case briefs.

·       Advocating for clients at tribunal hearings and in other alternative dispute resolutions.


When to Choose a Lawyer or a Paralegal


Making the right choice between a lawyer and a paralegal will depend on the nature and seriousness of your legal issue:


Opt for a Lawyer when:


·       The case is complex and falls outside the jurisdiction of a paralegal.

·       The potential consequences of the case include significant financial or liberty interests.


Choose a Paralegal when:


·       The case involves matters within the monetary limit for small claims court.

·       You require representation before a tribunal where paralegals are authorized to practice.

·       You're seeking cost-effective legal services for less complex issues.


Knowing the difference between a lawyer vs a paralegal is the first step in seeking appropriate legal help in Ontario. With this understanding, you can better navigate your options and choose the right professional for your situation. Whether you're facing a straightforward dispute or a complex legal challenge, recognizing who to hire is crucial for a successful outcome.

Yuliya Molchanova is a paralegal in Mississauga and the founder of Y M Paralegal Services. She specializes in helping you with your small claims court matters, Landlord and Tenant Board disputes or immigration service needs. She will work closely with clients to provide exceptional legal services, catered specifically to you. For a free, 30-minute consultation about your legal needs, Get In Touch.

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