There are over two dozen accredited paralegal programs in Ontario. Last year, the Law Society of Upper Canada issued 994 new paralegal licenses. There is a clear demand for paralegal education in the province; so why are there so few Canadian paralegal textbooks on the market?
If you search for paralegal textbooks on a site like Amazon, you’ll find plenty of results. However, most of them are written for and by American paralegals. These books are at least inadequate for Ontario paralegal students – in many cases, the information they contain is simply incorrect or irrelevant when it comes to Ontario.
It’s not just that Canadian law is different from American law. It’s that paralegals in Ontario play a different role from most of their American colleagues.
In most parts of Canada and the United States, a paralegal is someone who works under the supervision of a lawyer. While a paralegal’s duties vary across different workplaces, they generally do work similar to that of a law clerk or a legal assistant. Many paralegals have an education in the law, but as of mid-2017, Ontario is the only jurisdiction in North America where paralegals are licensed and regulated by the law society.
The fact that paralegals in Ontario are licensed means paralegal students are held to fairly strict educational standards. All paralegal applicants must complete an accredited paralegal program, and all programs must meet the Law Society’s criteria. The mandatory subject areas include criminal law, administrative law, alternative dispute resolution, and ethics.
Because of this, it’s important that these programs use material from a Canadian textbook publisher writing with Ontario paralegals in mind. However, few publishers offer textbooks specific to Ontario paralegal programs.
Since Ontario is the only province to regulate paralegals, a textbook written for paralegals in Ontario is not entirely relevant to paralegals in other provinces. Additionally, the paralegal scope of practice includes areas of law that vary between provinces (such as provincial offences and Ontario tribunals.) This limits the potential audience for the book.
Another reason for the lack of material is that the licensed paralegal profession is still very new. The Law Society only started regulating paralegals in 2017. Many large, international publishers are still waiting to see how the profession changes over time. In the meantime, Canadian textbook publishers have stepped in meet the demand.