“Freewheeling” is how LexisNexis Canada’s The Lawyer’s Daily describes paralegals in Alberta. Alberta has been like the Wild West for paralegals since 2012 when proposed regulations of the profession were last discussed and rejected.
In Alberta anyone can call themselves a paralegal; there’s no government regulation on that professional title. As the president of the Alberta Association of Professional Paralegals (AAPA) explains, “in Alberta right now anybody can hang out a shingle and say they are a paralegal”.
But just because there currently aren’t any government regulations defining paralegal licensing or certification requirements doesn’t mean just anyone can be successful professionally in this field. There are several factors that play important roles in staying ahead of the competition, especially education, experience, reputation, and professional networking. And in this province the AAPA is the common denominator among all these factors.
Although membership in the AAPA is voluntary, being a member will give you access to annual networking events, professional development opportunities, and an insight into career opportunities. In recognition of how important education is to being competent as a paralegal, the AAPA requires prospective paralegal members to have a certificate or diploma in paralegal studies, or a combination of qualifying employment experience and post-secondary education, which can include a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a fields related to law.
In addition to qualifying you for AAPA-membership as a paralegal, relevant paralegal education can also count towards fulfilling the paralegal education requirements for other provinces, making you more professionally mobile. You can learn important skills on topics ranging from résumé development and freelancing as a paralegal to strategies for criminal defense, family law, immigration law, corporate law, and more as part of your education program.
We’ve analyzed the relevant paralegal education opportunities throughout Alberta to develop the following list:
- Legal Office Assistant Certificate – This 45-credit undergraduate program is offered from the school’s Edmonton campus.
- Paralegal Studies Diploma – This 60-credit undergraduate program is offered from the school’s Edmonton campus.
- Legal Assistant Diploma – This 760-hour undergraduate program is offered in Alberta from the school’s Calgary and Edmonton campuses, in addition to being offered online.
Red Deer College
- Legal Assistant Diploma – This 21-course two-year undergraduate program is offered from the school’s main campus in Red Deer.
Southern Alberta Institute of Technology
- Legal Assistant Diploma – This full-time two-year undergraduate program is offered from the school’s Calgary campus. Because of its popularity prospective students may need to sign up on a wait list.
Bow Valley College
- Legal Assistant Diploma – This four-term undergraduate program is offered in combination with online and on-campus classes from the school’s Calgary campus.
- Paralegal Diploma – This 49-week undergraduate program is offered from two campus locations each in Calgary and Edmonton.
- Paralegal Program – This 49-week undergraduate program is offered from the school’s campuses in Lethbridge and Calgary.
University of Calgary
- Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Law and Society – This four-year program is offered from the school’s Calgary campus and includes an option to study abroad.
University of Alberta
- Master of Laws (LLM) – This one-year graduate degree program is offered from the school’s Edmonton campus.