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Paralegal vs Lawyer: What's the Difference?

Lawyers and paralegals work in the same profession but their duties, responsibilities and their capacity to function in the legal system, are different. A lawyer has studied law and has the authority to practice it as a solicitor and counsel, whereas paralegals have specialized in a course which is much shorter in duration compared to a law degree. Sometimes lawyers can be too busy to offer time and advice to everyone and prove to be expensive for those going through the process of a divorce. Hence it is sometimes more viable to file for divorce without a lawyer and simply avail the services of an experienced paralegal.
What is a paralegal?

A paralegal is a person qualified through education and/or training and has intermediate knowledge of the law and court procedures to carry out subsidiary legal work. Paralegals usually assist lawyers s in their cases by preparing for meetings, trials and hearings. They can work for or be retained by a lawyer and can provide certain legal services but cannot represent a client in court or offer legal advice. They can investigate the details of a case and do the research or collect documents, draft pleadings, write legal reports and even assist lawyers during trials. Paralegals however, can work independently as well and assist self-represented clients directly by doing similar work to what they would normally do to assist a lawyer in a case.
Paralegal vs lawyer

    A lawyer is someone who has studied law and has the authority and qualification to practice it whereas a paralegal can work for an attorney but cannot practice law. Paralegals can research cases, file documents and help prepare legal reports for the lawyer they work for.
    The basic functions and duties of lawyers are consistent and more or less the same across the world but there is no consistency for paralegals in job responsibilities.
    The education for both is different. Paralegals need to undergo specialized courses but do not need to get a law degree. Lawyers, on the other hand have to graduate from a law school and clear the Bar exam.

Divorce paralegal or lawyer?

Those in the process of getting divorced sometimes cannot decide whether to hire a lawyer or a paralegal. Certain divorce cases may be complicated wherein a person would require legal advice and subsequently a lawyer to represent their case in court. However, if the case is fairly uncomplicated, and most or all issues related to the children and assets have been agreed upon mutually, then hiring a paralegal may be a viable and practical option.

Advantages of a paralegal

  • Paralegals are far more affordable and offer a variety of services at a lower cost compared to lawyers.
  • Paralegals can devote more time to you and give you a more personalized experience.
  • In some cases, paralegals have more experience in court filing and procedures than lawyers because even though lawyers have a broader knowledge base on legal matters, they are not usually the ones filing the documents in court. Paralegals, on the other hand, are more involved in filing the documents, and therefore, have a finer understanding of how the court works.
  • If you are planning to get divorced without a lawyer but intimidated by the idea of handling the paperwork and legal proceedings completely on your own then a paralegal would be able to offer you the right support and guidance.
  • Paralegals have a more flexible schedule in comparison to lawyers and can devote more time to you.

Every divorce is unique and sometimes circumstances or a paucity of funds may not permit you to hire the services of a lawyer. However, being unfamiliar with the legal system while trying to file the paperwork on your own can be quite overwhelming. In such cases, paralegals can offer you the right amount of support by preparing the divorce papers for you, help you to file the correct papers pertaining to custody and child support and commission and file the documents for you. They cannot give you legal advice or argue your case in court but if your believe that your divorce will be a simple and uncontested one, and you would prefer getting divorced without a lawyer then a paralegal may be a viable choice for you.

If you’re looking for a divorce paralegal in Alberta to help you file for divorce, get in touch with us.

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