Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


  • What is a Paralegal?
  • Can you tell us a bit about the Canadian Paralegal Institute – why it was created and the philosophy behind it?
  • Where is the Canadian Paralegal Institute located?
  • How are the standards of Law Courts Centre and Canadian Paralegal Institute different from one another?
  • What sets the Paralegal Certificate Programs offered through Canadian Paralegal Institute apart from other schools of paralegal study in BC?
  • Who will be teaching the courses?
  • What are the admission requirements to enter Canadian Paralegal Institute?
  • Does Canadian Paralegal Institute require all students enrolled in their Paralegal Certificate Programs to be employed in the legal field throughout the course of their studies?
  • Are students required to take all of the prerequisite courses for a program or may a student challenge them?
  • I understand that Canadian Paralegal Institute is offering two Paralegal Certificate Programs: the Paralegal Certificate Program in Civil Litigation and the Advanced Paralegal Certificate Program. What is the difference between these two programs?
  • Do the programs offered through Canadian Paralegal Institute include instruction on both substantive and procedural law?
  • Is either of the two Paralegal Certificate Programs offered on a part-time basis or during the evening?
  • Are the Paralegal Certificate Programs offered through distance education (online) or must students attend on campus?
  • Can students begin taking courses at anytime throughout the year or are there scheduled “intakes” for students?
  • Are graduates of the Canadian Paralegal Institute Paralegal Certificate Programs certified through the Law Society of BC or some other body?
  • Who recognizes your program?
  • What sort of career opportunities will be available to graduates of the advanced and civil litigation Paralegal Certificate Programs offered through Canadian Paralegal Institute?
  • Why should a law firm invest in a formal program of studies for their employees?
  • Why should a secretary invest in formal training?
  • There are many paralegals in British Columbia who have been practicing for years but have never completed formal studies. What would those individuals have to gain from training with Canadian Paralegal Institute?


     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 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.


     What are the admission requirements to enter the Canadian Paralegal Institute?

    At present, to be eligible for admission into the programs offered by Institute, students must be sponsored by a law firm. Applications from individuals will be considered.


     Does Canadian Paralegal Institute require all students enrolled in their Paralegal Certificate Programs to be employed in the legal field throughout the course of their studies?

    The programs offered by the Institute are designed to address the needs and interests of those who are actively working in the legal profession, making it necessary for students to maintain such employment while enrolled in the program.


     Are students required to take all of the prerequisite courses for a program or may a student challenge them?

    Yes, certain courses may be challenged, however, in some instances, students are required to take the prerequisite courses regardless of their background because those courses contain elements we feel are necessary building blocks to a successful practice.


     I understand that Canadian Paralegal Institute is offering two Paralegal Certificate Programs: the Paralegal Certificate Program in Civil Litigation and the Advanced Paralegal Certificate Program. What is the difference between these two programs?

    It is not so much that the two programs are different from one another but that the Advanced Paralegal Certificate Program is an extension of the Civil Litigation Paralegal Certificate Program.

    The Civil Litigation Paralegal Certificate Program is an introductory program comprised primarily of 101 level courses with a distinct personal injury component. After receiving your Civil Litigation Certificate, students may choose to continue their legal studies in all major legal practice areas offered in the Advanced Paralegal Certificate Program.


     Do the programs offered through Canadian Paralegal Institute include instruction on both substantive and procedural law?

    Yes. The primary focus of most courses will be procedural, however, substantive law topics will be included to provide students with the foundation and background they need to fully understand the judicial system. Canadian Paralegal Institute students will learn not only what to do but also why they are doing it.


     Is either of the two Paralegal Certificate Programs offered on a part-time basis or during the evening?

    Canadian Paralegal Institute courses are offered during the week and on weekends to accommodate the fact that students work full time in the legal profession.


     Are the Paralegal Certificate Programs offered through distance education (online) or must students attend on campus?

    At present, Canadian Paralegal Institute courses are offered in downtown Vancouver at the SFU Harbour Centre campus. While some courses have been identified as suitable for distance education, these courses will take time to develop. The Institute will be offering courses called Integrated Studies which are mini-programs offered on a concentrated basis in various locations throughout the province. These will be week long programs of selected courses offered through Integrated Studies to law firms in major centres throughout the province.


     Can students begin taking courses at anytime throughout the year or are there scheduled “intakes” for students?

    Canadian Paralegal Institute offers students continuous intake. Most courses will be offered twice per year, giving students options and flexibility. The Paralegal Certificate Programs are designed to provide some latitude in the order in which the courses must be taken. The flexibility exists because the students are also working, however each student’s schedule must be approved by their academic advisor. The completion of the program will provide the student with the skills, aptitude and attitude to perform their tasks as a professional paralegal.


     Are graduates of the Paralegal Certificate Programs certified through the Law Society of BC or some other body?

    At the present time, there are no certified paralegals in the Province of British Columbia. While a student may earn a certificate, that does not confer certification as there is no professional certification process available to paralegals in BC.


     Who recognizes your program?

    Over the last several years, big and small firms alike have shown tremendous support for the courses offered by Law Courts Center, sending many of their staff members to multiple courses. We have many who travel to Vancouver. One in particular, traveled from Campbell River for six consecutive Saturdays to be with us!

    Over the last year in particular, we have had a positive response from law firms, legal organizations, the judiciary and the Ministry of Attorney General.

    In June 2007, we also tendered an application with ICBC asking them to review and recognize both Certificate Programs and allow the graduates to receive a billing number.

    The support we have received from the entire profession has led us to this next stage, the development of the Institute.


     What sort of career opportunities will be available to graduates of the advanced and civil litigation Paralegal Certificate Programs offered through Canadian Paralegal Institute?

    From the consultations that we had with managing partners and human resources managers, the message is pretty simple: they intend to recognize successful graduates by providing them with career opportunities in their firm, and that is why the firms are investing in the training of their staff.


     Why should a law firm invest in a formal program of studies for their employees?

    Training from within allows you to invest in your existing staff and creates trust and loyalty between employer and employees. It is a superior investment than hiring someone from outside the firm.

    Furthermore, it addresses the current shortage of qualified support staff by educating and developing those people you work with on a daily basis.


     Why should a secretary invest in formal training?

    Investing in one’s own formal training reflects a desire to develop yourself professionally. It is also an indication of one’s dedication to the profession and the law firm.

    The profession of law is constantly changing and formal training allows students to keep up-to-date, thereby remaining marketable.


     There are many paralegals in British Columbia who have been practicing for years but have never completed formal studies. What would those individuals have to gain from training with Canadian Paralegal Institute?

    Many students have found that despite years of practice, academic training in paralegal studies helps provide a more thorough understanding of the practice of law. Furthermore, formal training provides students with an enhanced sense of professionalism, self-confidence and collegiality. Formal training also makes graduates more appealing to potential employers


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