The U.K. Legal job market, has become much more effective and therefore flooded with applicants. More U.K. Law Graduates are opting to become Paralegals – some preferring Paralegal work to the extra-long hours of solicitors and others in hopes of eventually securing a training contract. But what exactly does a Paralegal do? And what career prospects do Paralegals have?
A great many Law Graduates are using Paralegal work as a stepping stone to becoming Solicitors, Paralegals play an indispensable role in the legal field.
No matter how highly stimulating and varied is the Paralegal Profession; it can prove an excellent alternative to becoming a Solicitor. It doesn’t carry the same prestige as becoming a Solicitor, and there are certain tasks which they are prevent from undertaking mean that it doesn’t enjoy the same status as the job of a Solicitor.
The Law Society there tells us that although Paralegals assist Lawyers in their work. They undertake some of the same work as Lawyers but they are not allowed to give legal advice to consumers of legal services/ members of the public.
Paralegals are law professionals that, although they can be found working in the public and private sector; and not for profit organisations. Often described as Lawyers’ Assistants, their work will usually be similar to that of a trainee or a newly qualified solicitor depending on their level of expertise.
The tasks carried out by Paralegals on a daily basis will vary depending on their area of specialisation, ie. Crime, litigation, or family law; and how much their experience they have. However, Paralegal can generally their daily activities to include preparing legal documents, conducting research and carrying out general office tasks – such as word processing or filing.
More Experienced Paralegals
More experienced Paralegals might interview clients and witnesses in criminal law case, for instance, or provide clients with legal information. Increasingly, experienced paralegals are doing more of the work solicitors used to undertake, including billing clients, But regardless of how much experience you have, you will probably partake in many different experiences and countless different activities, and work with a wide range of people on a daily basis – it’s unlikely that you’ll ever be bored!
How to Become a U.K. Paralegal
To become a Paralegal, there are no specific rules about the qualifications that you need. However, you will be expected to have a good understanding of the legal system and a good standard of education. Additionally, some work experience in a legal setting – such as pro bono work, open days of insight event – will make you more attractive to employers.
Law graduates and those who have completed a GDL or an LPC are often strong candidates for paralegal positions, but you can certainly become a paralegal without a degree. Legal apprenticeships are becoming an increasingly popular – and less expensive – route into the paralegal profession.
A Qualified Paralegal
A Paralegal is a qualified person – through education and training to perform substantive legal work that required knowledge of the law and procedures but who is not a qualified solicitor, barrister or chartered legal executive. A Paralegal may work for, or be retained by, solicitors within the legal profession, as they may work within a legal environment within commerce industry or the public sector. Paralegals can now offer legal services directly to their own clients provided they have a Licence to Practice through N.A.L.P.
Paralegals are the ‘Fourth Arm of the Legal Profession’
Within the legal profession, Lawyers have always relied upon their unadmitted support staff and it would not be possible for these lawyers to do their work as efficiently as expected, without the vital help of their unqualified support staff. Paralegals are important members of the legal team, playing key roles in the legal service. The work that Paralegals undertake is quite often virtually indistinguishable from that undertake by the Solicitors who employ them.
However, in recent years, Paralegals have taken on a new significance with the virtual annihilation of Legal Aid, meaning that Consumers may be unable to afford the fees of Solicitors. Consequently, there is an increasing demand for less costly access to justice, and well trained and qualified Paralegals with experience in filling this gap.
The Term ‘Paralegal’ is generic. A ‘N.A.L.P’ Registered Paralegal’ is not.
The term Paralegal has caught on within the legal profession and is now used almost exclusive to describe fee earners, or part fee earners amongst unadmitted staff in Solicitors Firms who are not chartered legal executives, ‘Paralegal’ and Legal Assistant’, as titles, are synonymous. Unlike the term ‘Chartered Legal Executive’ or NALP Licensed Paralegal’. Which are specific titles, the terms ‘Paralegal’ on its own is, as stated, generic.
Paralegals Must Strive for Professional Excellence
Essential that Paralegals strive for personal and professional excellence; they should process integrity, professional skills and dedication to the improvement and expansion of the Paralegal rolls in the delivery of legal services.
The importance of this can be seen from the relevant statistics. They should possess integrity, professional skills and dedication to the improvement and expansion of the Paralegal role in the delivery of legal services
Can a Law Graduate Perform Paralegal Work?
Graduating with a Law Degree (the academic side of learning the Law), does not necessarily means a person is qualified to do paralegal work. Further training is required to gain knowledge of the practical and procedural side of the profession.
For law graduates who have not been able to afford the LPC, or obtain a training contract, an alternative career as a Licensed Paralegal can provide many opportunities, including the possibility of working for yourself as a paralegal practitioner providing you meet the eligibility requirements to gain a NALP Licence to Practice.
There is a huge amount of UK Paralegals who choose to continue building up experience in a specific area of law and work towards a senior paralegal position (which can pay as much as £50,000 a year!). There are many options to Paralegals (such as working for charities or police forces) and the better work-life balance they generally have, make this an extremely attractive career path.
What Does a Paralegal Do?
Let’s Look at What You’d Be Doing
A Paralegal’s work can range from administrative and legal secretarial tasks to research and provision of legal information to the solicitors. The role’s exact duties would depend on the individual level of responsibility granted to each Paralegal.
Junior paralegal duties would typically involve:
• Preparing Legal documents
• Word processing, filing and other general office tasks
(Duties for more experienced paralegal would typically involve:)
• Providing quotes to clients
• Interviewing clients and witnesses
• Giving clients legal information
• Going to court
• Handling a caseload of clients
What do I need to do to become a Paralegal?
There are no specific rules about what qualifications and training you must have. However, you will be expected to have a good standard of general education, a good understanding of the law and legal systems, and good administration skills, some employers may ask for qualifications such as:
• A paralegal practice award, certificate, diploma or high diploma
• A legal secretary certificate or diploma
• An award in legal studies
• An HNC/HND or foundation degree in law, legal studies or paralegal practice
• A Law Degree
Depending on the job you are applying for, these qualifications may not always be necessary. Relevant work experience in a legal setting would also help you when looking for work.
1. Related Skills
• Attention to Detail
• Interpersonal Skills
• Problem Solving
• Time Management
2. Academic Route
Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship in Legal Services
3. Where to Find Out More
• Chartered Institute of Legal Executives
• Institute of Paralegals
• National Association of Licensed Paralegal
• All About Law
4. Where Could I be Working
Perhaps you could work for various types of employer, such as:
• Law firms, supporting solicitors – you would usually specialize in one area of law
• The public or not-for-profit sector – for example, as an advice worker of caseworker at Citizens Advice, a charity or a trade union
Civil and Criminal Courts
Police forces, and enforcement organizations, such as Trading Standards
Private companies, – advising on business law or managing contracts, or dealing with personal injuries or road traffic accident claims.