Where do paralegals fit in within the legal system?
Most of the time paralegals have to work independently, performing such tasks as interviewing witnesses, researching the law or preparing documents. They are integral to the work of law firms, so they must be able to work without supervision and undertake responsibility for very important aspects of cases.
Who do paralegals work with?
Paralegals allow lawyers and law firms to work more efficiently by providing them with support and carrying out an array of tasks. These are incredibly important roles within a legal practice, which free up lawyers to complete more complex tasks.
Some typical instructions given by solicitors or legal executives to paralegals include:
- Undertaking witness interviews
- Conducting research into specific legal questions
- Completing legal documents
- Dealing with the land registry
- Providing case summaries so that barristers can be instructed properly.
In recent years, paralegal firms have started to appear, who are able to handle certain cases on their own, especially when the cases are similar in nature or follow a set process (e.g. debt recovery cases). So for the more entrepreneurial aspiring paralegals out there, there’s certainly plenty of scope for you to have your very own firm!
In most cases, you will either be working in a law firm, for the public sector or in a paralegal firm. The work is just as varied as the different areas of law you can go into, so whether you are interested in family law, employment or corporate law there will be something for you.
Is being a paralegal the right path for me?
As you will be dealing with a lot of confidential and sensitive information, discretion is clearly a prerequisite. You will need to be a team player with excellent communication skills, as you will frequently be liaising with clients, the courts, and other paralegals and lawyers.
If you are looking to get into law, but you are looking for an alternative route which doesn’t involve years of training to become a lawyer, then this is a great option. Paralegals can focus on anything, from human rights law, to debt collection or criminal law.
There’s lots of capacity for career progression and you might eventually end up owning your own firm. Although pay can be low to begin with, experienced paralegals can earn good sums of money, especially in larger firms.
As you can see, paralegals are kind of a big deal. Whatever your area of interest, there are a whole host of opportunities available in this field, either as a full-time graduate job or some work experience to start things off.
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