Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is a Paralegal?

The Law Society of BC’s Paralegal Task Force Interim Report March 2005 defined a paralegal as follows: “A paralegal is a non-lawyer employee who is competent to carry out legal work that, in the paralegal’s absence, would need to be done by the lawyer. A lawyer must be satisfied that the paralegal is competent by determining that one or more of the paralegal’s training, work experience, and education is sufficient for the paralegal to carry out the work delegated.” Paralegals have substantive knowledge of the law. Duties include drafting legal pleadings, performing legal research and writing legal memoranda, analyzing and reviewing documents, interviewing witnesses and clients, and retaining and instructing experts.

As such, paralegals are the pivotal link between the firm and its clients, the opposing counsel, the judiciary and other external organizations.

Canadian Paralegal Institute’s Programs in Civil Litigation is a focused curriculum designed to provide a delicate balance between practical education and legal theory. The Institute’s programs of study that are intended to respond to the ever-changing needs of the legal profession.

Can you tell us a bit about the Canadian Paralegal Institute – why it was created and the philosophy behind it?

Canadian Paralegal Institute was developed to meet the need in the BC legal community for skilled and knowledgeable paralegals who can add significant and real legal value to the practice of law. The courses offered by the Institute provide students with the substantive and procedural skills-based education that sets them apart from their colleagues in this challenging profession.

The Institute’s objective is to provide students with a rigorous academic foundation as well as career-oriented skills. Superior quality instruction based on relevant curricula emphasizes the practical skills most needed by paralegals for success in their careers.

Where is the Canadian Paralegal Institute located?

At present, courses are held at the SFU Harbour Centre Campus in Vancouver. The Institute will be traveling to various locations throughout British Columbia and be offering intensive three to six day courses of study.

How are the standards of Law Courts Center and Canadian Paralegal Institute different from one another?

The philosophy, learning outcomes and methodology for the courses are similar. The students from both the Law Courts Center and the Canadian Paralegal Institute are probably going to sit next to each other in class.

The difference lies in one area. The Institute offers a set program of studies that must be completed while the Center accommodates students who may be interested in taking courses in their specific areas of interest, or in taking occasional courses to satisfy their needs for professional development.

Regardless of whether the student is registered with the Center or the Institute, in order to pass a course, they must earn a minimum GPA of 2.67 (70%). Those studying through the Center have the option of auditing a course.

To graduate from any of the programs of the Institute, a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.33 (76%) must be achieved.

Those studying through the Institute will establish a schedule of courses with their academic advisor who will be available to them for consultation throughout their course of studies.

For students to get the most out of each course, we encourage them to actively participate and contribute to class discussions.

What sets the Paralegal Certificate Programs offered through Canadian Paralegal Institute apart from other schools of paralegal study in BC?

There are three qualities that make for an effective paralegal school: relevance, currency and excellence in teaching. The curricula have to be relevant, the materials must be current and the instruction must provide many opportunities for the adult learner to connect the classroom to their work.

The Paralegal Certificate Programs offered through the Institute are designed to provide students with the skills they need to hit the ground running. Through consultation with the legal profession, it is evident that there is a strong desire to have paralegals who are skilled and conversant with the Rules of Court, able to competently draft documents and are knowledgeable about litigation practice and procedures.

When faced with those situational problems that often present themselves in everyday practice, Institute graduates can draw on the wealth of experience shared in the classroom to skillfully resolve it. The paralegal certificate programs offered by Institute are designed with a practical orientation. The assignments are applicable in real life work situations, challenging the student to apply knowledge as it pertains to different fact situations. The Institute prepares students to think on their feet and apply their knowledge and practical skills that lead to success in their careers.

In the last seven years, we have published over 30 desk reference manuals. They constitute a body of knowledge, much of which comes from years of practice. These manuals have acquired a reputation of not only being well-written, but being the first to address any changes in the Rules of Court. While many of the titles can be found in firms in British Columbia, some titles can be found all across Canada.

Who will be teaching the courses?

The Institute retains a very select group of instructors who are the experts in the area of study. If the subject area is on procedures, you will likely have a senior paralegal as an instructor. If the subject area is on the substantive part of the law, then you may have a lawyer as an instructor. As our instructors work in the legal profession on a daily basis, they are knowledgeable in all aspects of the profession and can provide up-to-date information on recent developments and current practice in the legal community. As well, the Institute has an internal set of instructor protocols, which includes mandatory training in their subject area, adult learning and teaching techniques on a bi-annual basis.