How to Become a Paralegal in Alberta – AB
According to OCCinfo, a project of the Government of Alberta, the province is home to over 7,700 working paralegals. Law firms in the Edmonton-Calgary corridor provide many employment opportunities for paralegals, with public administration offering another steady source of jobs.
At this time, paralegals in Alberta are not regulated, meaning that they do not need to pass an examination or meet minimum training/educational standards to be able to work lawfully as paralegals. Thus aspiring paralegals may begin their careers through on-the-job training or by seeking post-secondary education.
However, paralegals are required to work under the supervision of a lawyer and avoid activities that might be regarded as unauthorized practice of law. For example, paralegals are not permitted to represent people in court. Paralegals may conduct legal research, submit registration documents to the appropriate agencies, and assist with certain types of legal matters, including trial cases, under the supervision of a lawyer.
Although it is possible to find employment that provides on-the-job training, most paralegals obtain post-secondary education in the legal field. Education allows aspiring paralegals to obtain the skills and knowledge they need to perform their job duties competently, and allows job candidates to distinguish themselves from competing candidates. Additionally, increasing numbers of employers are seeking entry-level paralegals that have completed an educational program. Aspiring paralegals can choose from three types of programs: paralegal certificates, paralegal diplomas and paralegal degrees.
Alberta Job Statistics
- 2011 average salary for paralegals in Alberta: $50,211 $55,494
- 2011, Alberta Human Services reports unemployment rate for professional legal occupations is 0.9%
- 2012, Alberta Human Services reports unemployment rate for professional legal occupations is 0.6%
- Alberta overall unemployment rate was 5.5% in 2011
Paralegal certificates are short, self-contained programs that offer students the chance to develop knowledge and skills, but do not lead to a diploma or degree. Certificates can be useful for students who already have a degree or for those who are employed in the legal field and wish to enhance their on-the-job training.
Paralegal diplomas are offered by several programs in Alberta. Most can be completed in one to two years by students who have completed high school and meet other eligibility requirements. Paralegal diploma coursework focuses almost exclusively on legal classes and does not include many general education classes. Many programs offer classes that are available part-time, in the evenings or on weekends to accommodate working students.
Paralegal degrees generally take four years to complete because they combine general education coursework with coursework in legal studies. Graduates earn bachelor’s degrees.
The Alberta Association of Professional Paralegals (AAPP) was formed in 1981 and currently boasts more than 300 members. The AAPP works to promote the growth of the paralegal profession and the increased utilization of paralegals within the legal field, including self-regulation and accreditation within Alberta. It also strives to build professional unity between paralegals and to offer continuing education opportunities. Benefits of joining the AAPP include: networking, job listings, seminars, conventions, and access to information about issues affecting paralegals.
Private law firms employ many paralegals and so can be good places to inquire about education and training for paralegals in your region. The largest law firms in Alberta are located in the Edmonton-Calgary region, and include firms like:
- Borden Ladner Gervais LLP
- Blake, Cassels Graydon LLP
- Bennett Jones LLP
- Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP
- Burnet, Duckworth Palmer LLP
- Macleod Dixon LLP
- Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP
- Field LLP
- Miller Thomson LLP
- Parlee McLaws LLP
- McLennan Ross LLP
- Davis LLP
- McCarthy Tetrault LLP
- Brownlee LLP
- Osler, Hoskin Harcourt LLP