New Paralegal – Honours Bachelor offered at Durham College (DC)

Beginning this fall, Durham College (DC) is offering a new way for students to prepare for a career in the growing paralegal profession.

To complement the two-year Paralegal – Diploma and one-year Graduate Certificate programs, DC is introducing the four-year Paralegal – Honours Bachelor program. Beginning in September, students who are passionate about the law can set their sights on the province’s second paralegal degree.

The paralegal profession has only been licensed in Ontario since 2009, and its parameters continue to expand. Paralegals can now represent people in civil litigation involving claims up to $35,000. Where once they were limited to representing people facing up to six months of jail time, they can now represent those facing up to two years for certain offences.

As paralegals take on more responsibility in the legal system, they need education that will fully prepare them for the courtroom, according to Dalton Burger, degree program coordinator.

“The sector is growing and the education has to keep up with it,” said Burger. “I’ve been teaching 15 years now. This degree is based on all the conversations the students and I have had, and what they’d like to see.”

Although a diploma will qualify students for the Law Society of Ontario’s (LSO) paralegal licensing exam, Burger believes the degree program will grow in popularity as the profession continues to expand. He pointed to degree courses on important subjects like constitutional law, Indigenous law and critical race theory as bonuses that, though not required by the LSO, give a budding paralegal an advantage in the job market.

Regardless of which credential they want, students have an invaluable learning opportunity at their fingertips. DC has partnered with the Durham Community Legal Clinic to create the Access to Justice Hub, where students can put their knowledge to work by representing real people in real court cases.

“It’s a free legal clinic, and the only one in Ontario where paralegal students gain experience working with marginalized people in their community,” explained Laurie Marshall, faculty member. “The Legal Clinic gains extra manpower having students there, and DC students have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for field placement. They gain an incredible amount of practical experience and knowledge.”

Working at the Hub was an indispensable opportunity for Siham Mao, a student in the graduate certificate program.

“My field placement experience at the Hub was incredibly rewarding. I admire and respect the Hub’s commitment in providing accessible legal aid for our community members facing barriers to justice,” said Mao. “I would highly recommend it for any students or volunteers looking to be a part of a team striving to bridge the justice gap in our community.”

The opportunity to apply what she had learned in class to the real situations she’ll encounter in her career was the highlight for Siobhan Rocks, another student.

“My work placement at the HUB gave me a fantastic opportunity to see how the skills and knowledge that I have acquired in college can be applied in the workplace,” she said.

Kristina Millson had a similarly valuable experience as she prepares for a career as a paralegal.

“I gained practical experience drafting court documents, speaking to clients, and going to the Court House to file documents and speak with the Court Clerks,” she said. “My experience at the HUB has made me even more excited to pursue this profession.”

With new program options like the Paralegal degree and unique hands-on learning opportunities like the Hub, DC continues to lead the way in preparing students to excel in their careers.