Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Paralegal Definition:

A person who is not a lawyer or is not acting in that capacity but who provides a limited number of legal services under the supervision of a lawyer.

Related Terms: Lawyer, Attorney, Notary

Each country differs in the authority it gives paralegals in exercising what traditionally would be lawyers' work. But in the United States, Justice Paul Snyder of the United States Bankruptcy Court wrote, in the 2000 case of In Re Columbia Plastics, adopting language initially put forward by the American Bar Association:

"(T)he legal assistant or paralegal is defined as a person, qualified through education, training, or work experience, who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, governmental agency, or other entity in a capacity or function which involves the performance, under the ultimate direction and supervision of an attorney, of specifically-delegated substantive legal work, which work, for the most part, requires a sufficient knowledge of legal concepts that, absent such assistant, the attorney would perform the task."

In the Canadian jurisdiction of British Columbia, the BC Paralegal Association suggests this definition:

"(P)aralegals have legal training and knowledge of the substantive and procedural aspects of law and are capable of independent legal work, performed subject to the general supervision of a lawyer."

Another, similar definition:

"A paralegal is a person who is qualified by virtue of education, training and experience to provide services normally performed by a lawyer, provided those services are delivered under the supervision of a lawyer."1


  • In re Columbia Plastics Inc., 251 BR 580
  • NOTE 1: Law Society of British Columbia, Delivery of Legal Services Task Force Final Report, October 1, 2010

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