What’s the difference between Lawyers and Paralegals?

Jan 14, 2021

Who can provide legal advice in Ontario?

Every lawyer or paralegal who provides legal advice to clients in Ontario must be licenced by the Law Society of Ontario (LSO). It is a regulated profession, and a person who wishes to be a lawyer or paralegal must meet certain qualifications and hold a valid license.


In Ontario, a lawyer must complete a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.), a Juris Doctor (J.D.), or some equivalent of those courses. Upon graduation from one of those programs, they must pass the Barrister Licensing Examination and the Solicitor Licensing Examination.

Lawyers are eligible to represent Canadians in all aspects of law including:

  • Family law (marriages, divorces, child custody disputes)
  • Estate law (wills, power of attorney, asset liquidation)
  • Real Estate law (purchase and sale of private and commercial properties)
  • Criminal law (all types of offences in all categories of severity)
  • Civil law (litigation, property damage, etc.)


In 2008, Paralegals were regulated and recognised as legal professionals in Ontario. This enables them to represent clients in a range of legal issues, independent from a lawyer. To become a paralegal, a person must complete a paralegal certificate, diploma or degree at an accredited educational institution. Once a student has successfully completed their program, they must pass the Paralegal Licensing Examination.

Paralegals can represent clients in a select range of legal cases, including:

  • Small Claims Court (cases worth up to $35,000)
  • Provincial Offences (including, but not limited to Highway Traffic Act)
  • Tribunals and Boards (Landlord and Tenant Board, Workplace Insurance and Safety Board etc.)
  • Criminal Summary Convictions (shoplifting, trespassing, fines up to $5,000 and/or 2 years jail time)
  • Licensing cases (Liquor License Act, vehicle insurance charges, Dog Owner’s Liability Act)

So In the End

The difference between lawyers and paralegals in Ontario is defined by the different types of legal issues each can assist clients with.

If you are charged for a traffic violation, have a dispute with your landlord or tenant, or would like to recover monies from a person who owes you up to $35,000.00, you will surely want representation to assist you. You will want to consider that the lawyers can be costly and the benefit of winning your case may be outweighed by serious financial burden. Since the licensing of paralegals in 2008, an affordable and competent alternative to a lawyer is available to those wanting representation within a certain scope.

Paralegals receive focused education and training in specific areas of law within their scope, such as Small Claims Court, Landlord and Tenant Board, WSIB, Human Rights, and Provincial Offences. The limited scope of practice encourages paralegals to specialise within these areas, which leads to more in depth knowledge and experience within those fields.

At Dean Cservenyi LLP, we have licensed practitioners specialising in the main areas of law within the paralegal scope of practice. Call us today so we can review your legal issues and advise on the appropriate path for its resolution.