Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are some of the requirements to be a lawyer?
Lawyers must meet high standards of appropriate education, training and qualification. They also must maintain standards of conduct (including compliance with the ethical requirements of the Code of Conduct) or face disciplinary proceedings.
Lawyers must carry insurance coverage to protect clients from negligent acts and must pay into an assurance fund which compensates clients of lawyers who misappropriate their clients’ funds.
2. Who regulates the practice of paralegals in Alberta?
There is no governing body in charge of paralegals, legal agents and legal assistants in Alberta. When problems arise, you have no recourse for review, complaint or discipline of a paralegal, legal agent or legal assistant’s conduct.
3. Are paralegals required to have any formal training?
Paralegals do not have a governing body, like the Law Society is for Alberta lawyers, so there are no minimum or consistent standards of education, training or competence for paralegals, legal agents or legal assistants.
4. Are paralegals accountable for the services they provide?
Paralegals, legal agents and legal assistants are not accountable for their services, as there is no governing or regulatory body to set or maintain standards of service. In addition, paralegals do not require insurance.
5. Are paralegals required to comply with a code of conduct or a set of ethical standards?
The conduct and ethics of paralegals, legal agents and legal assistants are not regulated by any professional body.
6. Are my dealings with a paralegal protected by confidentiality or privilege?
Your private conversations with a paralegal, legal agent or legal assistant are not confidential or protected by privilege. They can be called as a witness against you.
7. Can I expect the fees of a paralegal to be less than the fees of a lawyer?
While a paralegal, legal agent or legal assistant may charge less than a lawyer on an hourly basis, they often charge more than lawyers for an equivalent service. You have no avenue for complaint if you feel you have been overcharged.
8. How long are paralegals required to retain my file?
Paralegals, legal agents and legal assistants are not required to preserve your files, let alone keep them confidential. The paralegal may dispose of your client files in a manner that compromises the privacy of your confidential information.
9. How can I tell if my lawyer is authorized to practice law?
You can check your lawyer’s status with our Lawyer Directory service.
10. As a lawyer, what can I do to protect myself if I am conducting a financial transaction with an individual represented by a paralegal?
Payments made on behalf of a client to a third party who is being represented by a non-lawyer should be made payable to the third party. Payments should not be made to a paralegal, legal agent, legal assistant or any other type of non-lawyer advocate.
11. As a lawyer, how do I deal with a party being represented by an unauthorized practitioner?
A lawyer dealing with an unauthorized agent should view all transactions as being conducted with an unrepresented individual. The lawyer should inform the client in writing that they have no recourse in the event of misappropriation of funds or negligence by the other party. Lawyers dealing with unauthorized agents should be extremely careful that they are in no way acting for the unrepresented individual, and thus being placed in a potential conflict of interest situation.