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FAQs

To answer questions about paralegal licensing, 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 September 2019.

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

  • Who needs a licence?
    • What is the permitted scope of practice for paralegals?

      The regulatory scheme set out in the Law Society's By-Law 4 authorizes paralegals to represent persons in certain proceedings and to engage in specific activities related to such proceedings. Paralegals are responsible for ensuring they provide legal services only in relation to matters that fall within the permissible scope of practice as outlined in By-Law 4. Accordingly, paralegals should consult By-Law 4 when determining whether they are permitted to take on a client matter.

      Section 6 of By-Law 4 permits licensed paralegals to represent persons in a proceeding or intended proceeding:

      • in the Small Claims Court
      • in the Ontario Court of Justice under the Provincial Offences Act
      • in a summary conviction court under the Criminal Code (Canada) in respect of
        • an offence where as of September 18, 2019 an accused was permitted to appear or examine or cross-examine witnesses by agent.  A list of these Criminal Code summary conviction offences is available online
        • an offence under ss. 320.13(1) (dangerous operation), 320.16(1) (failure to stop after accident), 320.17 (flight from peace officer), or 320.18(1) (operation while prohibited) of the Criminal Code (Canada).
      • before administrative tribunals established under an Act of the Legislature of Ontario or under an Act of Parliament.
      • before a person dealing with a Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS) claim or a matter related to a SABS claim (excluding a claim of an individual who has or appears to have a catastrophic impairment within the meaning of the SABS), including mediation, evaluation, arbitration, or related proceedings under the Insurance Act.

      A licensed paralegal is permitted to engage in the following activities on behalf of clients in relation to a proceeding or intended proceeding described above:
       
      • give legal advice concerning the client’s legal interests, rights or responsibilities with respect to the proceeding or the client matter that is the subject matter of the proceeding
      • select, draft, complete, or revise a document for use in the proceeding or a document  that affects a client’s legal interests, rights, or responsibilities with respect to the proceeding or the client matter that is the subject of a proceeding, or assist another to do any of these things
      • negotiate a client’s legal interests, rights, or responsibilities that relate to the proceeding or the client matter that is the subject of the proceeding, or
      • anything mentioned in s. 1(7) of the Law Society Act, provided the activity is required by the rules of procedure governing the proceeding.
       
      Paralegals are prohibited from providing legal services to persons in relation to family law matters or legal services that only a lawyer may provide, including for example, drafting wills, handling real estate transactions, or advising on corporate matters.
       
    • Who needs a licence?
      Anyone in Ontario who provides legal services requires a licence, unless they are exempted under the Law Society Act or section 30 of By-Law 4.
    • 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 (By-Law 4, s. 6(2)2(iv)).  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.
    • Can paralegals provide legal services related to the Youth Criminal Justice Act?
      No. The Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) is the law that governs Canada's youth justice system. It came into force on April 1, 2003, completely replacing the previous Young Offenders Act (1984-2003). The YCJA provides the legislative framework for a fairer and more effective youth justice system. While the YCJA applies the Criminal Code (Canada) to youth criminal justice proceedings, the YCJA is a separate and distinct federal law governing the youth justice system. Criminal offences under the YCJA are heard before the Youth Justice Court.
       
      Paralegals who are licensed by the Law Society cannot represent youth in proceedings under the YCJA. Sections 6(1) and 6(2)2(iii) of By-Law 4 only permit paralegals to represent persons in respect of certain offences in a proceeding or intended proceeding before a summary conviction court under the Criminal Code (Canada).  Consequently, the practice of law or provision of legal services before proceedings in a Youth Justice Court under the YCJA remain outside of a paralegal’s permissible scope of practice. For additional information, paralegals are encouraged to consult s. 6 of  By-Law 4.
       
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Do individuals who work for a lawyer require a licence?

      People whose work is supervised by a lawyer are governed by Section 6.1 of the lawyers' Rules of 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 under s. 5(1)(b) of  By-Law 7.1.

  • Becoming licensed
  • Medical Absence Form
  • Costs
    • 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.
    • 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.

      The Paralegal Monthly Payment Plan is available from April to July and again from October to January of the same Paralegal Licensing Cycle

    • Can I give my credit card over the telephone or send it by fax to pay for my Licensing Process fees?
      No, you cannot provide credit card information by telephone, nor should you fax, scan or email the information. You may pay online through your online web account prior to the deadline or pay in person at the Client Service Centre of the Law Society. As of October 2019, the Law Society will no longer be permitted to accept credit card information over the phone, by fax or email.
       
    • What is the annual fee for a licensed paralegal?
      Annual fees are set by Convocation in the annual Law Society budget. Please refer to Paying Your Fees for details.
    • 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.
  • Governance and Conduct
    • How does the governance structure work?

      The Law Society of Ontario is governed by a board of directors, who are known as benchers. Benchers gather most months in a meeting called Convocation. Every four years, Ontario’s licensed paralegals elect five paralegal benchers to Convocation. The five elected paralegals are also members of the Law Society's Paralegal Standing Committee, which is responsible for developing policy related to paralegal regulation for Convocation’s approval. A paralegal bencher is the chair of the 13-member Paralegal Standing Committee. The remaining eight members of the Committee comprise five lawyer benchers and three non-lawyer benchers.
       

    • Are paralegals required to abide by a code of conduct, as lawyers are?
      Yes, paralegals are required to abide by the Paralegal Rules of Conduct. The rules are structured around obligations to various parties, including general duties, as well as duties to clients, tribunals, other licensees and the Law Society. Paralegals should also refer to the Paralegal Professional Conduct Guidelines for assistance in interpreting the Paralegal Rules of Conduct.
    • What are the bookkeeping requirements for a paralegal?
      All paralegal and lawyer licensees are required to keep proper books and records and comply with trust account requirements. For paralegals, these requirements will be effective as soon as an applicant becomes licensed.   Resources to assist paralegals in understanding and complying with their bookkeeping obligations are available in the Practice Management Topics page of the Law Society website.
    • 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.
  • Contact Us
    If you have additional questions about paralegal regulation that aren't answered here, please contact the Law Society at 416-947-3315 or 1-800-668-7380, or send an email to lawsociety@lso.ca