From Student to Paralegal Sole Proprietor

128px-vertical-Historic_Courtroom

Contributor Brett Lockwood offers advice from his experience transitioning from student to Licensed Paralegal and practice owner:

Opening a paralegal firm is a massive – yet rewarding – undertaking. It takes a certain type of individual to muster enough courage and energy for this leap of faith. From my first day of college, I knew that I was born to be a leader and take on this challenge.

Paralegal education is designed to educate and inform students about the law within the scope of practice, which is to say, what paralegals can do in the field. College courses are geared to teach students about opening up their own firm, rather than work for somebody else.

The majority of graduates do not open their own firm, however. This begs the question whether the education process is correctly focused.

For me, it was fortunate that the system is geared this way, although I have heard from others that learning how to open a business is a “waste of time”: if the majority of students end up working for somebody else, what benefit is there to gearing the classes towards sole proprietorships?

I say, to each his own. I had a background in Small Claims Court and knew that would be the focus of my practice.

I attended Seneca College of Applied Arts and earned my paralegal diploma in 2012. While the course load in the accelerated program was somewhat heavy, I was confident that I could hold down a full-time job on the side. Long hours turned into long days. Long days turned into long weeks. The lack of sleep got to me a few times, but I had support from family and friends, and knew the reward at the end was my own paralegal firm.

Although I successfully juggled school, work and family, I do not recommend this for other paralegal students. Trust me. Take the time to go over course material, do extra legwork in terms of research, and ask a lot of questions. The professors are very experienced and are a great source to bounce ideas off of. The extra work you do will pay off in spades later.

The paralegal licensing exam, which is rumoured to be changing over the coming years, tests candidates’ knowledge of ethics, practice management and rules of conduct. These have come into play since I opened my own firm. Take the exam seriously. It is your entrance to the wonderful world of paralegals.

One lesson I’ve learned since writing the paralegal licensing exam is that I must maintain confidence in myself, as well as in the “system.” Rules and bylaws are there for a reason.

My office is in Richmond Hill, but I will (and do!) travel to all courts. I’ve found that paralegals in my area are extremely helpful. Rebecca Ostrowski has been a source of continued support and Muhammad Abid Nisar is always lending me a hand when I need it.

The journey to becoming a successful paralegal is definitely interesting. Not knowing where your next client is coming from is a challenge that WILL make you lose sleep. Having been in practice for some time now, let me tell you this feeling will never quite go away. Knowing your capabilities and having confidence in yourself will go a long way towards peace of mind.

Prospective clients know that success comes with experience and knowledge. Have confidence in yourself and your clients will, too. Small Claims Court is an exceptional part of the justice system. It makes it affordable for the “small guy” to stand up to the big ones. Small Claims Court is truly special. I am able to have my voice heard, legal opinions argued, and best of all, receive timely results.

I chose to practice in Small Claims Court due to my interests, studies, and personal preference. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    To contact Brett Lockwood, visit Lockwood Paralegal www.lockwoodparalegal.ca or call at 905-597-4788.

6 comments

  1. Lance Leonida · ·

    This article is very inspiring for I was planning of opening my own firm on my last semester as a paralegal. I graduated last June 2012 and got my license last September this year. I know I need more experience but hopefully I’ll get there. Do you guys think I should do some volunteering first or worked as a legal assistant even If I already acquired my license? The reason I wasn’t able to do it during this past year is I was taking renovation program for our small family business but now it’s over. I just need some mentoring advise. I’ve started attending employment workshops around October and is doing some networking here and there. I would greatly appreciate any comments and advice. Thanks in advance

  2. It’s taken me over six years to gather the courage to embark on my own practice. Perhaps someday down the line, when our field has grown enough to support this, recent grads will have an easier time becoming paralegals. For now, it’s a tough, yet very rewarding road. Thank you for sharing!

  3. I definitely shared the experience described in this great article. The key words are “hard work”. Be prepared for great success if you keep true to these words, and on the flip side, be prepared for miserable failures if you don’t. It was a story of hurry-up and wait for me. I graduated in December 2012, waited for the exam in Feb. 2013, waited for the results, waited to be licensed, waited for my P number, then off I went. I officially opened my own practice on April 1, 2013 and the phone never stopped ringing (www.PlatinumOneParalegal.com). Lots on bumps on the roads, but certainly a rewarding experience so far. Best of luck every one.

  4. Brett I definately know how you feel, I was licensed in the fall of 2012 and I now own, operate and manage my own paralegal practice. Keep up the hard work it goes a long way! This coming from a small town firm! Breaking barriers is apart of the profession, good luck!

  5. Dureza Recaido · ·

    Yes, awesome article and thanks for sharing. Yes, it’s been sleepless nights indeed, just got licensed last month, nobody said it’s easy but I am a firm believer of hard work do pays off. Thanks again!!!!

  6. Awesome article! I was struggling with this feeling that I may be making a wrong decision for wanting to start my own firm as soon as I am licensed. In fact, I was feeling guilty for choosing this path whilst my colleagues (classmates) have found work as legal assistants. I graduated in Feb 2013 and my licensing exam isn’t till August. While I wait, I have been volunteering with couple of different lawyers. Networking, getting to know procedural in small claims, POA matters and LTB matters. I keep thinking I might miss out if I don’t join the rest of them but at the same time my whole reason for taking paralegal program was to start on my own. I know its a big step forward to start on my own but I I know I’d rather do this then to work for $40 k or less for a lawyer as a legal assistant(already done it for 2 years prior to school). I feel so much better reading your article now. Thanks for sharing.

%d bloggers like this: