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What are the Differences Between a Paralegal And A Law Clerk? Why Choose One Over The Other?

Posted on November 19th, 2015 - Written by: Vanessa Hamkens

Canadian Business College Paralegal Law Clerk

Paralegal or Law Clerk? Which Career Path to Choose and Why

So you’ve identified the legal field as an area of growth and opportunity and have made the decision that you want in…excellent! Step one complete.

If going the way of law school isn’t quite right for you, step two can be considerably more difficult. That is, choosing a profession within the legal industry that aligns with your specific career goals and objectives. Like many Ontario residents who have faced this conundrum, it often boils down to choosing between a career as a Paralegal or a Law Clerk.

As there is often confusion in terms of what Paralegals and Law Clerks can and can’t do, it’s important to understand the roles and responsibilities of each, as well as the academic paths required to get there.


What’s really the difference between Paralegals and Law Clerks?

While the duties and responsibilities of Paralegals and Law Clerks do at times overlap, the roles they play are in fact very different. One key difference is that Paralegals are able to provide legal advice and represent clients before criminal and civil courts and certain tribunals. Law Clerks cannot.

The question you have to ask is what’s driving your decision. If having more responsibility is important to you, choosing a career as a Paralegal is the way to go. On the other hand, if securing a good job opportunity as quickly as possible outweighs the responsibility granted to Paralegals, choosing the path of a Law clerk is recommended as there are a greater number of entry level opportunities available.

While the prospect of securing a job immediately may be tempting for some, it’s important to consider the scope of each field. “Paralegals are able to do the job of a Law Clerk, and could have the title of Law Clerk, but a Law Clerk would have to go back to school to upgrade their degree in order to be at the same level and have the responsibilities as a Paralegal,” states Jeffrey Nicholson, Canadian Business College’s In-House Counsel and Faculty of Law Director. “In some ways, a Paralegal is basically an upgraded version of a Law Clerk.”

While there is more upside in terms of responsibility, both Paralegals and Law Clerks require a solid foundation and breadth of legal knowledge and must have the ability to conduct effective legal research. Paralegals have been known to take additional Law Clerk courses with the objective expanding their knowledge base.


Paralegal and Law Clerk training at Canadian Business College

Canadian Business College’s award-winning Paralegal program includes 46 academic weeks and a 120 hour internship arranged by the college. The program is accredited by The Law Society of Upper Canada  and graduates are eligible to write the LSUC Paralegal Licensing Exam upon completion of their program. For more information on the Paralegal program, please click here.

The Law Clerk program offered at Canadian Business College was developed in partnership with Institute of Law Clerks of Ontario (ILCO). Like the Paralegal program, it’s 46 academic weeks in duration and includes a 120 hour internship arranged by the college. Graduates of are eligible to write the ILCO Estates, Corporate, Real Estate and Litigation exams. For more information on the Law Clerk program, click here.

1 Comment

One response to “What are the Differences Between a Paralegal And A Law Clerk? Why Choose One Over The Other?”

  1. Grace Avarino says:

    I worked as a legal secretary for a large firm for nearly 20 years. I created and edited legal documents (I was mainly a word processing operator). I took some time off for my family and am seeking a full-time job sometime in April. However, I definitely want to gain knowledge. I know that lawyers do a lot of their own work now. When I first started working, the secretaries did mainly the work but that is no longer the case. I would like info, on start dates, fees, the duration of the Law Clerk program, etc. I don’t think I would be the right candidate for the Paralegal program (i.e., representing an individual in court).