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Choosing the Right Legal Professional

The Law Society regulates the lawyers and paralegals of Ontario in the public interest by ensuring that they meet appropriate standards of learning, professional competence and professionalism.

Lawyers are licensed to provide legal advice with respect to all Ontario laws. Paralegals are licensed to provide legal advice on specific Ontario laws. In some situations, either a lawyer or a paralegal is licensed to help you. In other situations, only a lawyer is licensed to help you. In all situations, you may choose to represent yourself. The information below will help you understand your options. 

Lawyers

Lawyers' professional qualifications include: 

  • An undergraduate Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.), a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree or the equivalent
  • Successful completion of the Law Society's Lawyer Licensing Process including Licensing Examinations,  and Articling Program, including completion of an on-line professional responsibility and practice course. 

When do you need a lawyer?

Lawyers are licensed to provide a full range of legal services that include: 

  • Family matters, such as divorce, separation and child custody
  • Criminal matters in all levels of court
  • Civil litigation matters in all levels of court
  • Wills, powers of attorney and estate matters
  • Real estate matters, including buying and selling personal or commercial property
  • Administrative law matters, including appearances before tribunals.

Paralegals

Paralegals' qualifications include: 

  • Completion of a legal services program accredited by the Law Society.  
  • Successful completion of the Law Society's Paralegal Licensing Process, including Licensing Examinations.  

While lawyers can represent you in all legal matters, paralegals are licensed to provide certain specified legal services

You may choose to have a paralegal represent you in:

  • Small claims court
  • ​Prosecution of provincial offences, including traffic tickets, under the Provincial Offences Act
  • Tribunals, such as the Landlord and Tenant Board or the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. 
  • Certain summary conviction criminal charges under the Criminal Code proceeding in the Ontario Court of Justice.

Exemptions from regulation

Under legislation and by-laws, persons in certain circumstances are permitted to provide legal services without a licence from the Law Society. Since the Law Society does not regulate these individuals they are not subject to our rules, by-laws or disciplinary procedures. Please see Exemptions, for more information.

Illegal practitioners

People who provide legal services without being licensed by the Law Society, or without falling into one of the exempted categories, are acting illegally.  The Law Society prosecutes illegal practitioners.

  • What are the general guidelines for choosing a legal professional?
    Call a few different professionals and ask them if they will take your case.
    • Ask them how much they charge, either per hour, or per case.
    • Book a time to meet with them.
    • Ask them about their experiences with your type of case.
    • Ask them to estimate how much their services will cost for handling your case.  
    • Ask whether you will be billed on a monthly basis or at the end of your case.
    • Ask if you will have to pay for anything else above and beyond their fees.  
    The Law Society does not set client fees. Lawyers and paralegals set their own fees at their own discretion, based on the services they provide, so costs will vary from practitioner to practitioner. If you have further questions, please call the Law Society Client Service Centre.
  • What professional responsibilities do lawyers and paralegal have?
    Law Society by-lawsRules of Professional ConductParalegal Rules of Conduct -- all based on the Law Society Act and made by Law Society board members, also known as benchers -- set out the professional and ethical obligations of lawyers and paralegals and the manner in which they are regulated by the Law Society. Lawyers and paralegals who fail to meet these standards are subject to the Law Society complaints and regulatory processes.
     
  • What things can a lawyer or paralegal do?  
    • Represent clients at court or at a tribunal. A lawyer or paralegal can represent someone at, or give legal advice about, a court or tribunal proceeding.  A lawyer or paralegal can help with forms or documents (e.g., statements of claim, or statements of defence) that are related to a court and tribunal proceeding.
    • Provide services or advice requiring the use of legal principles or legal judgement.  A lawyer or paralegal can give advice about legal rights or responsibilities.  For example, a lawyer or paralegal can give legal advice about a traffic offence or small claims court. This applies even if there is no law suit or other proceeding. 
    • Only a lawyer can prepare or help prepare legal documents such as wills, powers of attorney, custody or settlement agreements that pertain to family or matrimonial law.
    For more information see main areas of law/legal services