Canadian Paralegal Barb Ashford is often asked what she does for a living. She says that when she tells people she’s a paralegal, their eyes glaze over and they say, “A what?”
Ashford, owner of Ashford Paralegal Services located in Brighton, Ontario, Canada, says:
There are several misconceptions out there about us. For example, paralegals are not lawyers who jump out of planes. Those are paratroopers. Paralegals, not unlike paratroopers, will defend you. We are sometimes referred to as ‘little lawyers’. That too, is a misnomer. (I am not a lawyer nor am I little.)
So what do paralegals do? Ashford explains:
First off, we are licenced and regulated by the Law Society of Upper Canada — yes, the same institution that watches over lawyers. To apply to become a paralegal in Ontario, one must have successfully graduated from a two-year paralegal course at an accredited college. The graduate must also complete a 120-hour field placement in a law or paralegal practice. Next you have to pay to write and pass the LSUC law exam, and pay the Errors and Omissions insurance, and the annual Law Society licencing dues.
Canadian paralegals have a limited scope of practice, says Ashford, and can only provide certain services to clients, such as:
- All provincial offences under the Highway Traffic Act (such as speeding tickets, accidents, etc.)
- Landlord and Tenant tribunals, Liquor Licence Act offenses, and many other provincial statutes.
- Small claims cases up to $25,000, summary offence criminal matters (such as assault, shoplifting, etc.) and bylaw infractions.
Ashford also explains that “Paralegals are not permitted to practice Family Law (child custody, separations or divorces, etc.), handle wills and estates, small claims cases over $25,000, real estate law, or serious criminal offences.”
Another good analogy offered by Ashford: “We are ‘people people’ – advocates for those who need representation and a voice in court. If you retain a paralegal, in many cases, you will not have to attend court or testify. Let’s face it, going to court is scary as the justice system is complicated and even intimidating. So, if you find yourself in a bit of unexpected trouble, a paralegal may be just the ticket.”
According to her website, Ashford is a Barb Ashford is a retired Toronto Police officer and a recent graduate of the Paralegal Program at Sir Sanford Fleming College in Peterborough and is licensed with the Law Society of Upper Canada. She brings 26 years of policing experience to her clients and specializes in handling traffic tickets..
While I’m not an expert on the issue of Canada’s licensing of paralegals, I don’t see any reference in the article by Ashford that they work under the supervision of attorneys. If I’m wrong, please correct me.
And I’m wondering, “What is your opinion about the licensing of Canadian paralegals and the range of services they are allowed to offer directly to the public?”