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Clerk Vs. Paralegal - What To Do?

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Hi all, I'm attempting to help a good friend of mine make a life choice. He is currently deciding whether to pursue the paralegal program or the clerk program. I have a few questions, please:

 

1. Would being a paralegal prevent one from obtaining a clerk position? My thinking is that my friend could obtain the paralegal license and also have the potential to pursue clerk work if necessary. There are paralegals who double as clerks at my firm, for example, but I was hoping to gain insight from others; 

 

2. How difficult is the paralegal exam?; and

 

3. Is there any sense in preparing prior to taking the course? This is my friend's first exposure to law in general. I was thinking it might be wise to provide him with textbooks and just basic insight and knowledge about the various subjects? Or should he go into the course with a completely fresh mind??

 

Thanks! 

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Hi all, I'm attempting to help a good friend of mine make a life choice. He is currently deciding whether to pursue the paralegal program or the clerk program. I have a few questions, please:

 

1. Would being a paralegal prevent one from obtaining a clerk position? My thinking is that my friend could obtain the paralegal license and also have the potential to pursue clerk work if necessary. There are paralegals who double as clerks at my firm, for example, but I was hoping to gain insight from others; 

 

2. How difficult is the paralegal exam?; and

 

3. Is there any sense in preparing prior to taking the course? This is my friend's first exposure to law in general. I was thinking it might be wise to provide him with textbooks and just basic insight and knowledge about the various subjects? Or should he go into the course with a completely fresh mind??

 

Thanks! 

 

 

1. Being a paralegal would not prevent your friend from being a law clerk. They would need a license to be a paralegal in Ontario, but if they complete the paralegal diploma and then didn't write the licensing exam, they could still work as a law clerk. Most postings for law clerk/legal assistant positions state either law clerk/paralegal diploma as their educational qualifications. As for holding a license and pursuing a law clerk job, it should not hinder your friend. They may get asked why, but other than that it wouldn't hurt them. Unless of course they have no experience working in a specific area of law. For example if they applied to a real estate firm for a clerical position with a paralegal diploma and license. Paralegals aren't usually exposed to real estate in their education.   

 

That being said, there is a difference in the substantive law learned in both programs. Paralegal programs are mostly focused on legal fields within the scope of the paralegal practice (Provincial offences, summary criminal, small claims, boards and tribunals like the LTB etc.) whereas the law clerk program is focused on things like real estate, corporate, family, criminal, civ pro, estates, debtor/creditor etc...)  

 

2. I can't answer the exam question because I wrote it back in 2009 and it was ethics based. It asked a lot of questions about trust accounts and such. I know that they overhauled it recently to include substantive law, and have made it more difficult. Maybe someone on the forum that has recently written it could comment on its difficulty. 

 

3. Both programs give you a foundational intro course in Canadian law so there is no need to do prior reading.

 

Hope that helps!

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I am also seeking a career change, and it just doesn't look like I will ever be able to afford law school so I am also thinking about law clerk vs. paralegal. I am interested in working in the IP/Tech sector since that is my background. In a jobs search and search of law firms, I am simply not finding anyone that has a paralegal education background; I am just seeing law clerks. Just wondering if in this particular area, if there is any benefit in paralegal over law clerk?

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I am also seeking a career change, and it just doesn't look like I will ever be able to afford law school so I am also thinking about law clerk vs. paralegal. I am interested in working in the IP/Tech sector since that is my background. In a jobs search and search of law firms, I am simply not finding anyone that has a paralegal education background; I am just seeing law clerks. Just wondering if in this particular area, if there is any benefit in paralegal over law clerk?

IP/Tech in law is a specialized area. Paralegals would not get any exposure to it in their education. If you were talking accident benefit claims or WSIB claims for example, then those specialized areas within the scope of a paralegal's practice could go either way because you can work in those areas as a paralegal or law clerk. The only difference would probably be the fact that you would be representing the client vs. behind the scenes doing legal office tasks.  

Law clerks too would not get any exposure to IP in their education, but would have more exposure to the legal tasks that those specializations may entail. You having an IP/tech background may help you get an interview for a law clerk position at a firm that does IP since you would at least be familiar with the technical terms that your principles would be talking about. That being said, in the law clerk field, I found that it is more about your basic foundational knowledge of tasks, legal or otherwise (drafting pleadings, letter transcription, filling out court forms, using specific software like PC law, Teraview, Divorcemate things you would learn about in school) rather than your knowledge of terms in niche fields. You learn a ton on the job, so its about taking the skills you learned in school and then tailoring them to the specific field you are employed in.  

 

Like I mentioned in the previous post, paralegals practice a very specific scope of law. Law clerks and legal assistants help lawyers do their jobs so for example in a firm that practices civil litigation, the law clerk will have to know how the rules of civil procedure work, and how to draft pleadings. They will also do a lot of the administrative tasks. Most clerks I know have learned all the facets of the legal area they are working in after being at their firm for a while.

 

For anyone else that may have questions, feel free to PM.  I worked as a law clerk for a short time, then got my P1 license and worked as a paralegal before deciding to go to law school. I'm a current 2L.

Edited by P1ylion2

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1. I'm a P1 and I take on both the role of paralegal and law clerk at my job (you could even say I sometimes do the work of a junior lawyer, but my paycheque disagrees). I schedule appointments; serve and file court documents; draft motion and application materials, facta, pleadings, briefs and other court documents of varying complexity; argue at hearings; prepare clients for hearings; draft contracts; do dishes; purchase office supplies; do bookkeeping - we've had plenty of paralegals at my firm who only do clerical work. I am one of the few who has ever set foot in a courtroom.

 

2. I wrote the first substantive exam. I'll say this: the exam is fair. I read through the materials once, tabbed the book by chapter, and skipped reading the subjects that I knew in and out from doing the moots. That was enough for me. The questions asked are questions that either a competent paralegal should know, or that a competent paralegal should know how to research. I spotted a few questions which might cause someone to look in the wrong part of the materials if they had wantonly skimmed through the question.

 

3. I did, but that's because I'm a hopeless nerd and I was reading cases and statutes in my spare time before I even clued in I had an interest in law. It wouldn't have made a difference anyway. Most of what I know, I learned outside of my classes - moots, field placement, job, etc. - but don't take this as saying that my classes taught me nothing, because that isn't true. Working under a lawyer, I have access to a whole world of law that paralegals on their own just don't have, that I have come to love. I want to have my own firm one day, but the second I go out on my own as a paralegal, I have to leave it all behind. So I applied to law school. My best advice for your friend is, rather than getting a head start on studying, to take a moment and really decide if he wants it. The work is grueling, tedious and demoralizing at times, just like everything worth doing, and he should know before he goes into it whether he likes the prospect of working in law enough to pay that price. I had an intelligent, competent, capable classmate who, although he would have been an amazing paralegal, went nowhere with his diploma because he wasn't sure he wanted it when he signed up for the program.

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I am also seeking a career change, and it just doesn't look like I will ever be able to afford law school so I am also thinking about law clerk vs. paralegal. I am interested in working in the IP/Tech sector since that is my background. In a jobs search and search of law firms, I am simply not finding anyone that has a paralegal education background; I am just seeing law clerks. Just wondering if in this particular area, if there is any benefit in paralegal over law clerk?

I am law school. Once you've been accepted, many banks will give you a $150k line of credit. If money is the issue, and not marks, then you shouldn't count out law school.

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I am law school. Once you've been accepted, many banks will give you a $150k line of credit. If money is the issue, and not marks, then you shouldn't count out law school.

 

$150,000 of debt is not everyone's idea of affordable. Just sayin'.

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$150,000 of debt is not everyone's idea of affordable. Just sayin'.

If you work hard, law school will pay for itself within a few years of graduation. 

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If you work hard, law school will pay for itself within a few years of graduation.

People interested in the public service, NGOs, and small town law need not apply huh? Thanks for the info brah.

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People interested in the public service, NGOs, and small town law need not apply huh? Thanks for the info brah.

My point is that a legal education is an investment that can quickly start paying dividends. Someone shouldn't limit themselves because they think they can't afford it, as the banks will usually provide a large line of credit. In the post that I responded to, the person said they wanted to work in the IP/tech sector, not for the public service or an NGO, so the information I provided was relevant. No need to be snarky. 

Edited by JohnP
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