According to Manitoba Job Futures, law firms, government agencies and other places of business in Manitoba employ more than 1,000 professional paralegals. Seventy-nine percent of Manitoba’s paralegals work in or near Winnepeg.
The paralegal profession in Manitoba is not regulated. This means that paralegals are not required to become certified, pass an examination or meet minimum training/educational standards before entering the workforce.
However, paralegals are not permitted to practice law and must work under the supervision of a lawyer. Paralegals may perform work that otherwise would be performed by a lawyer, as long as they are directed to do so by a lawyer. Such duties include interviewing clients, researching legal matters, drafting documents and correspondence, and preparing legal documents.
While some paralegals to find employment that offers on-the-job training, most aspiring paralegals pursue post-secondary education. Education helps prepare paralegals for employment and also allows aspiring paralegals to demonstrate their commitment to the profession. This can give them an edge in a competitive job market. Three types of paralegal training programs are currently available: paralegal certificates, paralegal diplomas and paralegal degrees.
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Paralegal certificates offer specialized training in paralegal studies but do not lead to a diploma or degree. Many certificate programs have flexible class times or are available online, which can increase access for working and nontraditional students. Certificate programs may be available to high school graduates or may require a diploma or degree in an unrelated field as a prerequisite.
Paralegal diplomas are available through career or vocational schools, colleges and universities. They can often be completed in two years as they have few general education class requirements. Instead, most of the coursework is focused specifically on paralegal studies. Many programs accommodate working students by offering classes in the evening or on weekends.
Paralegal degrees combine general education coursework with coursework in paralegal studies. General education coursework may help students develop skills in other useful areas like writing, computers and history. Specialized paralegal coursework prepares them to enter the legal field. Graduates earn bachelor’s degrees.
Manitoba does not have a regional professional paralegal association. Paralegals may choose to join one of the national professional paralegal associations: the Canadian Association of Paralegals (CAP) or the Paralegal Society of Canada (PSC). Both organizations have members throughout the country.
CAP has been in existence since 1980 and during that time has worked to develop the paralegal profession and increase the utilization of paralegals. CAP encourages paralegals to continually educate themselves and build their skill base. CAP offers networking opportunities, conferences, seminars and discussion groups. It also strives to create and maintain working relationships with bar associations and others in the legal profession.
PSC was formed in 1992 and since that time has worked both to promote the paralegal profession while raising ethical standards. PSC also addresses consumer rights and monitor paralegals’ professional behavior. PSC represents paralegals in discussions around regulation and scope of practice as well.
Many paralegals work in private law firms. The Canadian Association of Paralegals recommends contacting firms in your area to learn more about training and educational requirements for entry-level paralegals. Large law firms in Manitoba include:
- Aikins, MacAulay & Thorvaldson LLP
- Thompson Dorfman Sweatman LLP
- Taylor McCaffrey LLP
- Pitblado LLP
- Fillmore Riley LLP
Important Contacts for Paralegals