Paralegals in BC fill an important gap in the marketplace for legal service providers, just as they do across Canada. Access to legal services is a fundamental question of justice, and as lawyers are stretched thin throughout the province the BC government has recently acknowledged the necessity for the role of paralegals.
Right now it’s up to lawyers to designate their own paralegals. Designated paralegals can provide all legal services that a lawyer can, however work must always be under the supervision of a lawyer. For a lawyer to designate you as a paralegal, they must ensure and guarantee that you’re competent to provide legal services; they’re ultimately liable if you make a mistake. One of the most strategic ways you can demonstrate your competence is by having a relevant education.<!- mfunc feat_school ->
Furthermore, the professional situation of paralegals in BC is currently in flux. In 2020 the Licensed Paralegal Task Force made a report to the Law Society of British Columbia Benchers recommending that a licensing process be established for paralegals, and this report was approved by the Benchers. The Law Society of British Columbia will be the licensing body for paralegals once a process has been established.
Right now there’s an ongoing collaboration between the Law Society of British Columbia, lawyers, designated paralegals, and the BC Paralegal Association to identify the areas of law in which paralegals can fill the biggest gap (family law has already been discussed as one possible specific focus), to identify where a licensing process can be most effective, and to identify the factors involved in the licensing process. As indicated in the 2020 Licensed Paralegal Task Force report, education is one of the factors being considered as a way to ensure paralegals deliver services in an ethical and competent manner.
Earning a relevant education to become a paralegal in BC has always been important, and it’s all-the-more-so now. Schools throughout the province offer options for undergraduate education in the form of paralegal diplomas and certificates. Advanced studies at the graduate level include a Master of Laws (LLM) degree.
Simon Fraser University
- Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) or Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Business, Philosophy and the Law; 120 credits offered from the Burnaby campus
- Minor in Legal Studies – 30 credits offered from the Burnaby campus
Vancouver Community College
- Diploma in Paralegal Studies – 84.3 credits offered from the Vancouver campus with some online class format; part-time program taking three-to-four years to complete
University of the Fraser Valley
- Paralegal Certificate – 24 credits offered from the Abbotsford campus with some online components; part-time program taking one-to-three years to complete
Sprott Shaw College
- Paralegal Program – 1420-hour program completed online over 72 full-time weeks
- Paralegal Certificate – 15-credits offered part-time over three years with options for online, hybrid, and campus-based study at locations in North Vancouver and Sechelt
- Legal Office Assistant Certificate – One-year 14-course program completed through a combination of online and on-campus classes in Victoria with full and part-time options
College of New Caledonia
- Diploma in Criminology – 60 credits offered from the Prince George campus; two-year program with full and part-time options
- Legal Administrative Assistant Certificate – Eight-course program that can be completed in 18 weeks with full and part-time options; offered from the Kelowna campus and online
University of British Columbia
- Master of Laws (LLM) in Taxation – On-campus in Vancouver; 30 credits completed over one year or longer with a part-time option
- Master of Laws (LLM) with thesis – On-campus in Vancouver; 30 credits
- Master of Laws (LLM) in Common Law – On-campus in Vancouver; 30 credits completed in a year-long program or over two years as a part-time program