4 Key Differences Between Paralegals and Law Clerks

July 29th, 2020 / By triOS College

Paralegal v/s Law Clerk 4 Key Differences


We know, it’s a question that you think about constantly, every day of your life: what’s the difference between a paralegal and a law clerk

While their duties overlap in some key areas, there are some distinct differences between paralegals and law clerks.


Paralegal v/s Law Clerk 4 Key Differences


1) Job Duties

In addition to completing administrative tasks such as data entry, answering telephone calls, and sorting and filing documents, paralegals help lawyers prepare cases and get them ready for court.

Law clerks have their fair share of admin work as well, but they also support judges or lawyers by conducting research and investigating all possible alternatives in lawsuits. 

Some of the resources both paralegals and law clerks rely upon:

  • Trade Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Previous cases
  • Journals
  • Legal books


Paralegal v/s Law Clerk 4 Key Differences


2) Where They Work

Paralegals either work with lawyers at firms or operate their own practices. Although law clerks can’t operate their own practices, they enjoy a bit more flexibility. They’re often hired in: 

  • Government offices
  • Municipal, provincial, or federal courts
  • Real estate companies
  • Law offices
  • Legal departments of companies

3) Level of Education

You would think this would be different, but it’s actually about the same. Paralegals and law clerks both require the same level of education. However, what they learn is quite different.

In Ontario, law clerks can work in most areas of the law whereas paralegals can only work within their limited scope of practice as regulated by the Law Society of Ontario. This is an important distinction because paralegals can work independently of lawyers, whereas law clerks do not. A lot of paralegals have their own practices.


Paralegal v/s Law Clerk 4 Key Differences


4) What They Do.

In Ontario, paralegals have the authority to provide legal advice within their scope of practice and are licensed by the Law Society of Ontario or some similar governing body. Examples of their scope include representing clients in small claims court, representing individuals charged with offences like traffic tickets, and representing landlords and tenants in their disputes.

 Law clerks cannot dispense with any legal advice without the authority of the principal.


We hope that clears up the confusion a bit for you. If you’d like more info, here are some resources for your in-depth research and discovery session. Both law clerking and paralegal are excellent ways to get hands-on experience and perfect springboards for a career in Law.

As a quick recap, this is what was covered:

  • Paralegals assist lawyers in preparing cases and complete administrative tasks
  • Law clerks support judges or lawyers by performing research
  • Paralegals work in law firms
  • Law clerks have a lot more options available to them
  • Paralegals require more education in the legal industry than law clerks in Ontario
  • Paralegals can provide legal advice and law clerks cannot unless given permission by the principal in Ontario

So, which program would you choose? Please let us know and thank you for taking the time to read!

Click here for information on triOS College Paralegal and Law Clerk programs.