According to Human Resources and Work Development Canada, British Columbia is home to a greater than average number of paralegals, with nearly 5,000 paralegals working in British Columbia as of the 2006 census. The majority of paralegals work in the Mainland/Southwest region of BC, which encompasses Vancouver.
Currently, paralegals in British Columbia are not regulated. This means that they are not required to complete a specified educational program nor are they expected to write an exam to become licensed. Aspiring paralegals may pursue entry into the profession through on-the-job training or through paralegal education.
In British Columbia, paralegals may not work independently and must work under the supervision of a lawyer. Paralegals may not practice law, and as such may not represent people in court nor assist them with traffic violations or name changes. However, they may attend certain disputes, such as between a landlord and tenant, as well as attending some categories of tribunals and administrative hearings.
Paralegals in British Columbia sometimes opt to become notaries public or trademark agents in addition to being paralegals. These related professions have their own regulations, but can complement the work of a paralegal.
In British Columbia, the trend is towards education even though on-the-job training is permitted. Employers are increasingly seeking entry-level paralegals that can come into a job with knowledge and skills. Three types of paralegal education programs are available to aspiring paralegals in British Columbia: paralegal certificates; paralegal diplomas and paralegal degrees.
|British Columbia Statistics|
Paralegal certificates are designed for working professionals who wish to increase their legal knowledge and skills. Certificate classes may be offered part-time, in the evenings and on weekends. They may also be available in person or online.
Paralegal diplomas can be earned in two years. Generally, applicants to a diploma program must have previously completed some post-secondary coursework or have relevant work experience. Paralegal diploma coursework focuses almost exclusively on legal classes without general education coursework. Students in a paralegal diploma program may take the same classes as students in a degree program. However, because they are not completing general education coursework, they will not receive a degree.
Paralegal degrees can be completed in four years. They blend coursework in legal studies with general education coursework like English, mathematics, history and the like. Graduates earn bachelor’s degrees.
The British Columbia Paralegal Association (BCPA) was formed in 1979 to support the growth and development of the paralegal profession and the individual paralegal. It continues this mission today, providing educational opportunities for its members, advising paralegal education programs about coursework and offering social opportunities to its members. Members may also benefit from job surveys, scholarships, and other resources.
In addition, the BCPA works regionally to be the voice of paralegals throughout British Columbia on matters pertaining to the profession and to keep its membership advised of relevant issues. The BCPA hopes to advance the profession by developing voluntary certification or title protection within British Columbia. It has begun this process by requiring that voting members meet educational or work experience requirements. Voting members of the BCPA may list this membership on their resumes to help demonstrate their commitment to the profession and their peers recognition of their qualifications.
Private law firms are top employers of paralegals. They can also be good resources when making inquiries about educational and training expectations in your region. Large law firms typically hire large numbers of paralegals. British Columbia’s largest law firms include:
- Borden Ladner Gervais LLP
- Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP
- Lawson Lundell LLP
- David LLP
- Bull, Housser & Tupper LLP
- McCarthy Tetrault LLP
- Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP
- McMillan LLP
- Alexander Holbrun Beaudin & Lang LLP
- Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy LLP
Important Contacts for Paralegals
- British Columbia Paralegal Association
- British Columbia Work Futures – Paralegal Information
- BC Notaries
- Law Society of British Columbia