There are a great many different careers in the legal sector, but not everyone is familiar with them. Many are now seeing the benefit in taking a route as a paralegal either as a long-term option or as a path towards other roles within the law. Paralegals are an essential part of any law firm, so here, we take a look at what they do and why they are so important.

 

What is a paralegal?

A paralegal is not qualified to give legal advice themselves, but what they can do is support other legal professionals. This might be done in a law firm, but could also be part of private, public and not-for-profit organisations. They can be found within legal departments, government agencies and charities. They are often seen as lawyers’ assistants and their work can be equivalent to that of a newly qualified solicitor. 

Many of those who wish to go on to be a solicitor often start work as a paralegal thanks to the vast experience of the law that they can obtain. This can be across criminal law, family law, property, wills, personal injury or even employment law. 

There are specialist paralegal qualifications available if you wish to become a paralegal, however, many have a Bachelor of Laws or a BA or BSc in law. Whilst a law degree is not essential, it is expected that you will have a good standard of education and an understanding of the law.

Many paralegals choose to specialise in a particular area of law and build up experience in this area with a view to becoming a senior paralegal or solicitor. Their time spent at particular law firms will help them to win highly competitive training contracts and give them an edge over fresher faces.

 

Their diverse range of work stands them in good stead for any path within the legal sector as they will be well versed in every aspect of the job.

 

What are the duties of a paralegal?

The duties of a paralegal are varied, but they include preparing legal documents, conducting research, completing those all-important administrative tasks, providing quotes and interviewing clients and witnesses. They will also be required to supply legal information for people and attend court.

How a paralegals day will look depends very much on where they work. It is possible for no two days to be the same, and responsibilities may change depending on the cases that are being handles at the time.

Very often, a paralegal will be asked to help prepare cases by working with other legal professionals and supplying that vital close support for the lawyers in the firm. This will help solicitors to plan how they intend to handle their cases and to decide whether to file lawsuits. If they do, the paralegals will help to prepare all of the documents and arguments for the court.

Unlike a solicitor, a paralegal is unlikely to stay with one particular case from the start to the end. Instead, they will be drafted in and out to perform certain tasks before being moved on to other cases where their experience is needed.

Many more experienced paralegals now take on a lot of the work that solicitors used to undertake, including the billing of clients. This frees them up to focus on other tasks whilst paralegals offer their varied and exciting work.

Paralegals work extremely hard, and most law firms could not survive without them. They pick up some invaluable experience which means that the role is the perfect stepping-stone into becoming a solicitor, and clients can benefit from some great knowledge and efficient processes.

Their diverse range of work stands them in good stead for any path within the legal sector as they will be well versed in every aspect of the job.

 

Author Kerry Smith is the Found and Director of Family Law Specialists, K J Smith Solicitors. K J Smith Solicitors are experienced family solicitors in the Thames Valley area specialising in family mediation, estate planning and divorce and separation.

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