October 23, 2012 | Ontario
Paralegals are currently in demand, thanks in large part to their contributions to law firms as well as their knowledge of the litigation process and legal matters. As integral parts of the industry, paralegals aid lawyers by supplying insight while at the same time acting as a valuable resource for those who need more affordable, basic legal guidance.
Decide on Your Career Path
The first step toward becoming a paralegal is deciding if the career is a viable option. Professional paralegals will be called upon to fulfill a variety of different tasks, including assisting lawyers, preparing documents and potentially even representing clients in a small claims setting. This career path can be both lucrative and personally rewarding, but individuals must be able to commit themselves to their education, and they should also have a passion for the industry and helping others.
Hone Your Skills
Once students have decided to pursue a career as a paralegal, they need to begin formal studies. Taking courses at a local college is a must, with many programs delving into topics such as advocacy, research and the legal process. Students will also become familiar with different elements of litigation, such as small claims court, employment law and contracts.
In addition to the material matters involved in a legal career, aspiring professionals must also build up practical skills. Being a competent writer and a thorough researcher is a necessity, and professional qualities such as office skills or applicable experience are a plus.
The final aspect of the paralegal process is sitting the paralegal licensing exam. Lasting approximately three and a half hours, this examination tests competency with regard to ethics, professional responsibility and practice management.
There are only an average of three testing dates throughout the year, so aspiring paralegals should begin their studies and preparations well in advance to make the most of their assessment. Students learn on their own with materials provided by the Law Society of Upper Canada.
The exam itself is an open-book test, with students permitted to mark their official study materials and bring them into the testing area. However, a strong knowledge base is necessary to succeed even with the presence of these aids.