Paralegal and Related Occupations - What They Do
Paralegals prepare legal documents and conduct research to assist lawyers or other professionals. Independent paralegals provide legal services to the public as allowed by government legislation, or provide paralegal services on contract to law firms or other establishments. Notaries public administer oaths, take affidavits, sign legal documents and perform other activities according to the scope of their practice. Trademark agents advise clients on intellectual property matters. Paralegals are employed by law firms, by record search companies and in legal departments throughout the public and private sectors. Independent paralegals are usually self-employed. Notaries public are employed by government and in the public and private sectors or they may be self-employed. Trademark agents are employed by law firms and legal departments throughout the public and private sectors, trademark development and search firms or they may be self-employed.
This group performs some or all of the following duties:
- Assist lawyers by interviewing clients, witnesses and other related parties, assembling documentary evidence, preparing trial briefs, and arranging for trials
- Assist lawyers in preparation for mediation and judicial dispute resolutions
- Under the supervision of a lawyer, prepare wills, real estate transactions and other legal documents, court reports and affidavits
- Research records, court files and other legal documents
- Draft legal correspondence and perform general office and clerical duties.
- Represent clients in small claims court and in other lower court proceedings, at tribunals and before administrative bodies
- Advise clients and take legal action on landlord and tenant matters, traffic violations, name changes and other issues within their jurisdictions.
- Administer oaths and take affidavits and depositions
- Witness and certify the validity of signatures on documents
- May draft contracts, prepare promissory notes and draw up wills, mortgages and other legal documents
- May arrange probates and administer the estates of deceased persons.
- Advise clients on intellectual property matters and represent clients before the Registrar of Trade-Marks on matters including prosecution of applications for registration of trademarks
- Advise on the registrability of trademarks, trademark licensing requirements, transfer of intellectual property and protection of existing trademark rights
- Represent clients at proceedings before the Trade Marks Opposition Board and in related proceedings
- May represent clients internationally in consultation with foreign associates and attorneys.
- commercial law clerk
- real estate law clerk
- notary public
- title searcher
- corporate paralegal
- family law paralegal
- independent paralegal
- legal researcher
- trademark agent
- land titles examiner
This is what you typically need for the job:
- Paralegals in law firms require a bachelor's degree in law or a law college diploma and in-house training from a law firm or other legal establishment.
- Independent paralegals require knowledge of legal principles and procedures usually obtained through industry-sponsored courses and through experience, or through completion of a community college paralegal program.
- Notaries public are appointed after examination and certification of their qualifications by the governing judiciary in their province or territory. All appointments have specific limitations on the activities they can perform and for specific periods of time.
- Notaries public require a provincial licence. In British Columbia, membership in the Society of Notaries Public is also required.
- To be licensed, trademark agents are required to work in the area of trademark law, including the preparation and prosecution of trademark applications for registration, for two years and To successfully complete the examination conducted jointly by the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada and the Registrar of Trade-Marks, Canadian Intellectual Property Office or Either one of the above and to be a lawyer entitled to practise in Canada.
- Trademark agents require registration with the federal Trade-Mark Office.
- Read reminders and notes from clients, co-workers, workers from legal offices and government officials.. For example, legal assistants read messages in which clients confirm attendance for meetings and court dates. Law clerks read lawyers' notes about required changes to documents such as letters and statements of claim. (1)
- Read letters, e-mail messages and memos about a range of matters. For example, paralegals read letters about work completed by service providers such as notary publics and investigators. Commercial law clerks read detailed memos about changes required to contracts. Conveyance clerks read Letters of Condition to learn about conditions of sales and to ensure that they are lifted before their closing dates. (2)
- Read text in entry forms. For example, paralegals read arguments in statements of claim forms in order to present appropriate evidence and counter arguments. Trademark agents read explanations on prosecution forms to learn the reasons for opposition to trademark registrations and to develop arguments in favour of them. (3)
- Read short reports. For example, litigation legal assistants read clinical reports from health professionals in order to prepare legal briefs for lawyers. They read to learn about diagnoses, treatments, clients' progress and recommendations for future treatments. (3)
- Read trial records and transcripts. For example, criminal law paralegals read affidavits from witnesses, police summaries and trial transcripts to understand the evidence on which legal charges were based and to identify gaps and discrepancies. (3)
- Read procedures and policies. For example, legal assistants read guides such as the Guide to Civil Litigation to follow the steps required for filing certificates of pending litigations. Paralegals read Rules of Civil Procedure to learn about court proceedings, timelines for the submission of statements and to understand procedures for submitting plea amendments, and filing motions and applications for appeals. (3)
- Read articles in newsletters and trade magazines. For example, they read articles in newsletters of professional associations and trade magazines such as Ontario Weekly Reports. They read to keep abreast of emerging trends in case law, rulings and best practices. Trademark agents read articles about trademark infringements and recent court decisions. (3)
- Read legal and trial briefs. For example, paralegals read legal briefs in preparation for court hearings before administrative tribunals, and small claims and other lower courts. They may read legal briefs prepared by junior paralegals before they are presented to supervising attorneys. They proofread the briefs to ensure the information is correct, concise and complete, free of spelling and grammatical errors, and are formatted correctly. (4)
- Read legislation and regulations. For example, conveyance clerks read regulations for the management of trust accounts and transfers of real estate properties. Trademark agents read the Trades-mark Act to ensure they have a clear understanding of procedures. Title searchers read zoning bylaws and covenants such as those for slope stabilization and landscaping to understand their intent, requirements and implications for purchasers. (4)
- Read case law and rulings. For example, paralegals read case law and rulings to determine their relevancy and applicability to their current case files. They read to understand the grounds, case law and Acts upon which decisions were based. (4)
- Locate data in forms. For example, real estate and commercial law clerks locate conditions and terms of sales, closing dates, purchasing prices and other data in sales agreements and offers of purchases. Trademark agents locate transfers of rights, titles and conditions of transfers and usages in assignment of trademark forms. (2)
- Enter data into tables. For example, paralegals enter clients' identification codes and brief statements about legal services into spreadsheets so that they can track billable hours. Paralegals enter titles of documents into tables of contents of case files. (2)
- Enter data into forms. For example, conveyancers complete forms such as land transfers, title search forms and sales agreements. Paralegals complete statement of claim forms for small claims courts. Commercial legal assistants enter clients' names and addresses, disbursement fees, additional costs and tax adjustments into statements of adjustment. (3)
- May interpret graphs. For example, litigation legal assistants may interpret graphs, which display data on recovery rates and times of various injuries. Corporate paralegals may interpret graphs, which display data on revenue, expenses, liabilities and assets. (3)
- Locate data in tables. For example, commercial paralegals locate details about organizations, shareholder structures and finances in spreadsheets. Litigation paralegals locate dates, treatments and names of physicians and other health professionals in tables showing the chronology of illnesses and injuries. Real estate law clerks scan schedules to locate conditions of sales, outstanding tasks and closing dates. (3)
- May interpret and locate data in a variety of drawings and maps. For example, real estate law clerks locate features such as fences, roads, houses and other structures on property surveys. Trademark agents may evaluate distinctiveness of trademarked designs by comparing differences in shapes and sizes on scaled drawings. (3)
- May examine organizational and process flowcharts. For example, corporate legal assistants study organizational flowcharts to understand management structures. Paralegals study process flowcharts of legal proceedings to locate filing instructions for legal documents. (3)
- Write reminders and meeting notes for personal use. For example, paralegals write notes during meetings with clients and lawyers. They summarize key discussion points, note commitments made and flag items requiring further action. (1)
- Write e-mail messages and letters to clients, co-workers, supervising attorneys and others involved with cases. For example, paralegals write e-mail messages to request doctors' professional opinions about medical reports and studies. Commercial law clerks write letters to real estate, accounting and law offices to request additional documents. (2)
- Write lengthy entries in forms. For example, independent paralegals write accounts of accidents and incidents in statements of claim forms for small claims courts. They describe negligent acts, injuries and hardships suffered by claimants. Trademark agents write arguments for the registrability of trademark names and designs in applications for trademark registrations. (3)
- Write reports and summaries. For example, corporate legal clerks prepare reports to summarize the resolution of share transactions. Laws clerks write status reports to describe activities completed, present new information and summarize matters requiring the attention of clients and lawyers. Paralegals in government departments write explanatory summaries to inform the public about laws, regulations and policies. (3)
- May write letters of agreement and contracts. For example, commercial legal assistants write partnership agreements. They describe terms and conditions of partnerships, structures for shares and responsibilities and authority levels for management teams. (4)
- May write legal reports. For example, paralegals write legal briefs, legal arguments, draft pleadings, motions and statements of claims for supervising attorneys. They may present their findings and offer their opinions. Trademark agents write prosecutions and responses to oppositions to trademark registrations and arguments to support clients' positions. (4)
- Calculate expense claim amounts. They calculate reimbursement for travel using per diem amounts for meals and per kilometre rates for the use of personal vehicles. (2)
- Prepare invoices and statements of accounts. For example, legal assistants prepare account statements and invoices of clients. They calculate costs of lawyer and paralegal services using hourly rates and add other expenses such as costs of administration, realtors' commissions, courier services, database searches and photocopies. They also apply sales taxes and surcharges for late payments. (3)
Scheduling, Budgeting & Accounting Math
- May manage trust and bank accounts. For example, law clerks may reconcile records of financial transactions with financial summaries such as bank statements and trust account statements. (3)
- May prepare financial summaries such as statements of income and expenses. For example, estate paralegals calculate the net worth of estates using data such as values of properties and investments. Independent paralegals calculate claim amounts for injuries sustained during car accidents. They forecast expenses using estimates of lost incomes and future medical costs. (3)
Data Analysis Math
- May interpret data on and statistics which describe health problems, injuries and finances. For example, litigation paralegals interpret statistics which describe monthly medical costs and recovery rates from injuries in order to forecast medical costs and loss of income. Wills and estate paralegals interpret statistics about inflation rates and rates of returns in order to better develop trust funds and plan investments for estates. (3)
- Estimate times required to complete job tasks. For example, paralegals estimate times required to complete research, to prepare motions, statements and legal briefs, and to represent clients. Although there are past examples to guide these estimates, they also consider variables such as additional investigations, appeals, motions and court appearances. (2)
- May give directions to workers they supervise. For example, paralegals discuss job task priorities with legal assistants and other office workers and give them instructions for preparing and filing court documents. (2)
- Discuss ongoing work with co-workers, colleagues, service providers and clients. For example, real estate clerks ask colleagues in other organizations for land surveys and other documents. Litigation law clerks discuss findings with private investigators. Paralegals discuss job task assignments and priorities with their supervisors. (2)
- May coach clients and witnesses for appearances and presentations before legal and administrative bodies. For example, paralegals prepare claimants for small claims court. They describe procedures and provide guidance on answering questions. (3)
- Participate in discussions of legal cases. For example, paralegals offer their findings and opinions on evidence, case law and Acts to supervising attorneys. Legal clerks may negotiate settlements with opposing parties in matters before small claims courts. (3)
- May discuss the law and provide advice to clients on legal matters. For example, litigation paralegals explain legal procedures and developments to clients. They explain the procedure for legal actions, discuss strategies, conditions and settlements, and offer opinions. Trademark agents advise clients on procedures for obtaining, maintaining and protecting trademarks. They offer their opinions about the registrability of trademarks to help clients decide to proceed with or oppose trademark applications. (3)
- May present cases before lower courts, selected boards, tribunals and other administrative bodies. For example, paralegals represent clients in small claims and traffic courts. They offer evidence to support and defend their clients' interests and positions. They cite case law, jurisprudence, legislation and relevant rules and regulations to argue the validity of their cases. Trademark agents represent their clients before the Registrar of Trade-marks to defend or prosecute applications for registration of trademarks. (4)
- May interview witnesses to gather information and details about cases. They use a wide range of communication techniques to build rapport and trust quickly with witnesses. They listen carefully to adjust questions to probe for more details without biasing potential testimonies. For example, independent paralegals interview potential witnesses for cases before small claims courts. Paralegals e employed in law firms may conduct initial interviews with witnesses to learn about their knowledge of events and to gather details about cases. (4)
- Are unable to reach clients and lawyers to get critical information, decisions and approvals. For example, law clerks are unable to reach lawyers to verify details of cases with immediate deadlines for legal applications and motions. They seek signatures from those in the office with signing authority or may file for adjournments. (2)
- Are unable to proceed with legal actions because documents contain errors and omissions. For example, real estate law clerks find discrepancies between different surveys of the same property. They discuss errors with realtors and take steps to determine the accuracy of the surveys. (2)
- Find that co-workers are delaying the preparation of reports and filing of legal applications. For example, paralegals may find co-workers are late in filing motions and legal applications because files are not being maintained and updated. They remind co-workers of procedures for managing case files, implement additional control features and increase the monitoring of cases. (3)
- May choose job tasks for junior paralegals and office workers. For example, litigation paralegals assign the preparation of legal briefs to more experienced paralegals and the organizing of case files to less experienced workers. They consider the skills and training required and the individuals' skills, personalities and experience. (2)
- May choose to subcontract work on activities such as typing, data entry, review of financial documents and land title searches. For example, paralegals may select accountants to review financial documents for litigation claims. They consider factors such as accountants' prices and their knowledge of relevant legal matters. (2)
- May choose matters to investigate in preparation for legal proceedings. For example, paralegals investigating the accuracy of police radar equipment may choose to request maintenance checklists, calibration records, user manuals for radar equipment and other police records. They consider cost and the usefulness of the information to these cases. (3)
- Judge the completeness of applications and legal documents before submitting them. For example, real estate law clerks evaluate the completeness of applications for land transfers. They check that supporting documents such as lists of covenants, easements and rights of way have been included in the appendices. (2)
- Evaluate the appropriateness and applicability of case law, legislation, regulations and jurisprudence. For example, litigation paralegals may examine the relevance of case law to disputed partnership agreements. They gather information about cases by reviewing trial transcripts and other relevant documents. They may cite Partnership Acts, laws of equity and case law to support clients' claims against business partners. They also use financial records to demonstrate partnership relationships and determinations from past cases to show precedents for favourable interpretations. (3)
- May assess the credibility of witnesses' accounts. They ask questions in several ways to check for internal consistency and compare answers with evidence. They also use established criteria to assess the character of individuals. (3)
- May assess the merits of claims. For example, trademark agents assess the registrability of designs and names of trademarks using established criteria for originality and uniqueness. They compare proposed designs and names against those registered to identify key components that differentiate them and to determine the likelihood of trademark confusion. (3)
- Evaluate the quality of evidence. For example, litigation paralegals read testimonies, statements, trial transcripts and other documents, examine physical evidence and seek expert opinions in order to identify inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the evidence presented by opposing parties. (3)
Job Task Planning and Organizing
Own Job Planning and Organizing
Paralegals and related workers receive assignments of case files and are responsible for managing associated job tasks. They may schedule time to assist lawyers with court procedures, prepare and ensure timely submission of legal documents and meet and interview clients and others involved in cases. They often need to reschedule job tasks when unexpected assignments arise. (3)
Planning and Organizing for Others
Paralegals and related workers may plan job tasks of junior paralegals and office workers. They plan activities and assign tasks to other office employees to accommodate workloads for different cases and files and to ensure deadlines for submissions are met. They may increase their supervision when working with new workers and on cases with tight deadlines. (3)
Significant Use of Memory
- Remember clients' names and personal information in order to establish rapport.
- Remember commonly used accounting and filing codes to improve efficiency when processing financial data.
- Find information about legal cases and applicable law. They speak to clients and others such as co-workers, colleagues and expert witnesses involved in legal cases. They read trial transcripts, eyewitness statements and reports from police, doctors, and other professionals. They search for relevant legislation and regulations in legal databases and read judicial interpretations and articles in professional newsletters and legal journals. They also examine evidence such as photographs and drawings for clues. (4)
- Use word processing. For example, they use word processing software to carry out writing, editing and text formatting tasks. They use software features to create tables of contents and footnotes, and to import graphs and tables from other software. (2)
- Use databases. For example, paralegals conduct queries and searches of on-line legal libraries. Trademark agents locate trademarks in trademark registries. Real estate law clerks enter data and information into land registry databases. (2)
- Use spreadsheets. For example, self-employed paralegals may create and modify spreadsheets to collect and organize data to manage clients' files, track billable hours and analyze financial data. They create macros, insert functions, merge cells, and import and export data. They also prepare graphs, tables and charts to display data. (3)
- Use communications software. For example, they exchange e-mail and attachments with clients, co-workers and colleagues, and maintain distribution lists. They may use calendar features to track dates for submissions of legal documents, court appearances, meetings and appointments. (3)
- Use the Internet. For example, they search government websites for electronic versions of registered trademarks, trade names and property titles. They manage bookmarks for commonly used sites. They may use their organizations' intranets to access and post policies, procedures and other work-related documents. (3)
Other Essential Skills:
Working with Others
Paralegals and related workers employed by law firms and other organizations generally integrate their tasks with co-workers including other paralegals, administrative staff, supervisors and lawyers to manage case files, prepare and file court documents and draft legal arguments. They often increase their interactions and coordination of tasks when working on complex or multiple files with short deadlines. Integration of tasks and coordination of activities is imperative as the implications can be high if filing deadlines are missed. (3)
Paralegals and related workers need to maintain current knowledge on a wide range of legislation, rules, regulations, standards, practices and procedures. They learn from discussions with co-workers, supervising attorneys and colleagues. They may attend professional conferences, seminars and webinars. Paralegals and related workers registered as members of law and other societies, institutes and associations, may need to demonstrate continuing education and skills development. They submit portfolios, undertake self-assessments, track and report educational and professional development activities. (4)