In Ontario, Canada, paralegals are licensed and regulated the same way that lawyers are in the United States. A paralegal license allows the paralegal to provide legal advice and services to members of the public in certain types of matters and appear before certain lower level courts and administrative tribunals. Ontario paralegals can operate independently, without the supervision of a lawyer, and some even carry professional malpractice insurance.
In the interview below, Elisheva Eisenberg, a licensed paralegal in Toronto, Ontario, shares his experiences as paralegal business owner. He operates Shevas Legal Services and has been a paralegal for one year. Eisenberg is licensed by the Law Society of Upper Canada and is a member of the Paralegal Society of Ontario, a member of ARCH Disability Law Centre and a member of Stanford Who's Who.
For more paralegal "day-in-the-life" interviews, see these paralegal stories or, for lawyer practice insights, review these lawyer stories.
What is your educational background?
I earned a diploma in paralegal communications from Everest College-Toronto Central Campus in June, 2010.
What does your paralegal business specialize in? How many paralegals work in your firm?
I am the owner and sole paralegal in my firm. I represent clients in ADR, small claims, landlord tenant, disability, human rights, labour relations and parking ticket disputes. I am a living ambassador for people with discriminated rights and specifically for people with disabilities.
What are your daily responsibilities as an independent, freelance paralegal?
My primary responsibilities are managing and growing my company. On a daily basis, I perform marketing, networking and business management in addition to paralegal work such as completing forms and paperwork, going to court, meeting clients and customer service.
What skills and abilities are necessary to succeed as freelance paralegal or paralegal business owner?
To operate as a freelance paralegal, you must be punctual, organized, motivated and possess great people skills. You must also have excellent command of the English language as well as excellent grammar and spelling skills. In addition, you must be able to operate legal and office technology such as computers programs, printers and fax, copy and scanning machines.
What do you like best about your job as a freelance paralegal?
I feel good when I help others. I particularly enjoy helping people in situations similar to my own over my lifetime.
What challenges do you face on a daily basis in operating your paralegal business?
My primary challenge as a freelance paralegal is not having enough time to get work done and family members not understanding that I'm at work when I'm at home working.
What hurdles have you overcome in establishing your independent paralegal business?
Understanding that I have the power to do things!
Are employment opportunities for independent or freelance paralegals growing?
Getting a job here in Ontario as a paralegal can be very difficult. The profession [independent paralegals] is growing by leaps and bounds but because it is still new not many people realize what paralegals can do. Many paralegals have come together to try to educate the public about the roles and abilities of independent paralegals.
Can you provide any tips for others who would like to launch their own paralegal business?
Start your practice and get out there!
Is there any particular training, work experience or certification that would give aspiring freelance paralegals an edge?
The more education you have, the more clients are attracted to you.
What are some of your favorite resources as an independent paralegal practitioner?
Ontario Civil Practice, Barron's Canadian Law Dictionary and legal seminars. Networking as much as possible and creating an informative website that talks to your client base is important to growing your paralegal business.
Do you have any tips you can share regarding establishing and building a paralegal business or operating as a freelance paralegal?
Don't go after the money, make your clients feel important for who they are. I don't talk from my mouth, I talk from my heart and what comes from the heart goes to the heart.
Can you share a fun fact about yourself?
My life's mission is to take every weakness and convert it to a strength. An example would be my epilepsy. I don't say I'm "disabled" but instead I tell people what the condition is and how they can help rather than hiding it.