What Can Paralegals Do in Alberta?

By Brittany Koenig, Paralegal Navigator, Calgary

In Alberta, the term paralegal is used generally to describe a senior legal assistant who has proven, through education and experience, to be skilled and knowledgeable in the law and legal system. However, there is no definition of what a paralegal is in Alberta legislation because in Alberta, paralegals are totally unregulated.

Paralegals most often work in law firms under the supervision of a lawyer but can also be found in a variety of other settings including government agencies, the courts, corporate legal departments, or independent boutique paralegal offices. There are many tasks that a paralegal can help you with at Coach My Case and there are some things that a legal coach (lawyer) is better suited for.

What can Alberta paralegals do?

In family law firms in Alberta, paralegals can be integral members of the team who work under the direct supervision of lawyers. Paralegals can perform any of the following tasks under lawyer supervision.

1. Drafting, formatting, or editing legal documents including, but not limited to:

  • desk divorce packages
  • court documents
  • land title documents
  • offers of settlement
  • agreements
  • equalization spreadsheets for the purposes of family property division
  • budgets for the purposes of financial disclosure in family law matters

2. Organizing and preparing court documents for filing, such as:

  • pleadings
  • applications
  • appeals
  • affidavits
  • responses to undertakings
  • financial disclosure / disclosure statements
  • legal briefs
  • affidavit of records

3. Calculating child support payments pursuant to the Federal Child Support Guidelines (“FCSGs”)

4. Calculate spousal support payments pursuant to the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines

5. Conduct legal research based on specified parameters

6. Liaise with clients to provide legal information about the law and legal system -

7. Administer oaths

8. Take and receive affidavits, affirmations, or declarations

9. Attest oaths, affirmations, or attestations.

What Alberta paralegals cannot do?

Paralegals cannot do the following:

1. Give legal advice – legal advice is advice that applies the law to your specific matter and suggests a course of action best suited to the facts of your case. Only Lawyers can provide legal advice in Alberta.

2. Communicate as your legal representative– only lawyers can do so with limited exceptions.

3. Notarize legal documents – all practicing lawyers can notarize documents, as well as various government officials and representatives. Paralegals, however, are not authorized to do so.

Regulating paralegals in Alberta

Paralegals in Alberta are not regulated, which means that there is no overarching regulatory body responsible for setting practice standards or rules that set the education or experience necessary to be a practicing paralegal. Regulated professions also have a governing body where members of the public can file complaints and professionals can be disciplined should they fail to comply with set standards or rules.

Paralegal offices in Alberta are operating outside of the law. They are not permitted to operate, and they do not have insurance to cover you if they make mistakes on your file. If you choose to hire a paralegal who is not working in a law firm in Alberta, there are few avenues where you can file a complaint or recover any losses as a result of the services provided by a paralegal. If someone suffers a loss because of the services provided by a paralegal, the only real avenue to recover that loss is through the courts. You may also report the paralegal to the Law Society of Alberta, and they will take steps to shut the illegal office down.

This is why it is important to only engage with paralegals in Alberta who are directly supervised by and work for a lawyer. At Coach My Case, all of our paralegals are vetted and trained to meet our minimum practice standards. They are also supervised by lawyers who review client matters and provide them direction.

When should I hire a lawyer or legal coach?

It is recommended that you obtain legal advice early on in any legal conflict to ensure that you are informed and aware of the potential risks and obligations specific to your case. Working with a legal coach means that you remain self-represented with the added benefit of having a qualified lawyer available in the background who can give you advice and guidance as you navigate your legal issue. For a list of available coaching services, I encourage you to read our blog on legal coaching.

When formalizing written family law agreements, it's advisable to obtain independent legal advice for certain (often more complex) legal issues – such as spousal support and family property.

In terms of spousal support or support for adult interdependent partners, obtaining independent legal advice is not strictly mandatory for formalized agreements. However, it remains a factor that courts consider when evaluating the agreement's procedural and substantive fairness. This could potentially influence whether your agreement is upheld or set aside if it ever comes before a court. As such, we recommend that you speak with a legal coach to get legal advice in these instances as well.

When parties are formulating a formal written agreement or consent order pertaining to the distribution of family property, independent legal advice is mandatory, as provided in the Alberta Family Property Act. Each party must obtain independent legal advice from a lawyer for the agreement to be valid and enforceable.

After each party receives independent legal advice about their family property agreements, their respective lawyers would then be able to execute a Certificate of Independent Legal Advice, which is a formal document attached to the written agreement or consent order. That Certificate of Independent Legal Advice is evidence that you met with a lawyer, they have explained your rights and obligations pursuant to that agreement, and that you understand and are fully aware of what you are entering into. The need for that advice to be independent from the other party is to ensure that both parties are entering into an agreement freely and voluntarily and that they are not being held under duress or being forced into an agreement that would not be in their best interests.

Coach My Case offers flexible service options allowing clients the ability to save money and control their case while receiving legal support from either a paralegal, legal coach, or even both. An added benefit is that the paralegals at Coach My Case are supervised by an experienced family lawyer. Clients can personalize their services to best suit their needs as they navigate their family law matter while still having the security of working with a law firm. Book your free 20-minute consult with us today.