Paralegals work for lawyers, notaries, or generally for any type of legal professional, whom they assist in their daily work by conducting searches, preparing legal documents, updating files, or writing minutes. They can work in banking for a firm of lawyers specializing in finance, or in the legal department of a business bank.
Paralegals are more in demand than legal secretaries in light of the ever-increasing complexity of the administrative tasks they are required to perform.
The duties of paralegals depend on the size of the organization they work for and their specialization. For example, tasks can be the following:
- Incorporate subsidiaries, update statuses, books of meeting minutes and registers
- Write annual reports and other documents related to mergers and ceasing of operations
- Move capital between subsidiaries (share issues and buybacks) and record movements in the registers
- Prepare subsidiary resolutions, banking resolutions (opening accounts)
- Renew authorizations
- Write collateral reports or any other documentation pertaining to the putting together of financial records
- Prepare and attend meetings, write minutes
- Ensure legal monitoring and consider any amendments to the law
- Set up and track the legal schedule
To practise as a paralegal, you should have a college diploma in paralegal studies (DEC in Quebec). Some legal secretaries may be promoted to paralegals after several years of experience. Conversely, sometimes people with a bachelor’s degree start out as paralegals before taking the Bar exam to become lawyers.
- Very good legal knowledge
- Ability to interpret case law and laws
- Knowledge of document management software
- Proficiency in using Office software (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook)
- Web browsing proficiency (legal sites, government databanks, etc.)
- Accuracy and thoroughness
- Initiative and availability
- Ability to withstand stress
- Excellent writing skills
- Analytical skills and ability to see the big picture
- Very good time management and organizational skills
It is possible to spend one’s entire career as a paralegal, because of the wide task diversity and variety. Over time, paralegals get to work on bigger, more complex cases with greater responsibilities. One potential career move is to turn towards management and head up a team of paralegals. Becoming a lawyer is also feasible, but you will need to go back to school for a bachelor’s degree and certification from the professional association of the province in which you plan to work.