Many won­der what it means to be a Para­le­gal. Some have pre­sump­tions to think we are qual­i­fied legal rep­re­sen­ta­tives much like a Solic­i­tor, Licensed Con­veyancer or Legal Exec­u­tive (fee earn­ers), while some believe that we are Legal Assis­tants or Trainee Solicitors.

If I was to describe a Para­le­gal in the most con­densed man­ner, it would be a mid­dle ground between a Legal Assis­tant and a Trainee Solic­i­tor; not qual­i­fied but trained with­in the legal practice.

What role do they perform?

A Para­le­gal will, more often than not, be assist­ing the fee earn­ers in the firm with every­day legal work that does not require the imme­di­ate super­vi­sion of a Solic­i­tor. How­ev­er, they will also have their own work load. This may involve draft­ing let­ters and direct con­tact with clients, oth­er Solic­i­tors and mort­gage lenders but also some legal doc­u­ments such as the Con­tract of Sale and Trans­fer Deed.

Admin­is­tra­tive work is also com­mon, such as receiv­ing new instruc­tions on a case, either from the clients them­selves or a third par­ty such as an Estate agent.

As Para­le­gals become more expe­ri­enced and knowl­edge­able with­in the spe­cif­ic area of legal prac­tice, they will start to under­take more work under the super­vi­sion of a qual­i­fied Solic­i­tor. It is also worth bear­ing in mind that Para­le­gals can con­tin­ue to work under that title as a career and, if so, will often be car­ry­ing out the same type and amount of work as a qual­i­fied Solic­i­tor save as to cer­tain tasks which are exclu­sive to qual­i­fied Solicitors.

The pur­suit and pop­u­lar­i­ty of being a Paralegal

In order to work as a Para­le­gal, there is no require­ment on the indi­vid­ual to have a law degree or any type of legal back­ground. How­ev­er, as I will empha­sise below, intense com­pe­ti­tion in the legal pro­fes­sion has result­ed in most Para­le­gals hav­ing law degrees.

In turn, this career route opens up the doors for indi­vid­u­als who have pur­sued a degree in law but who have not been able to obtain a train­ing con­tract imme­di­ate­ly. Although it will delay the day until you qual­i­fy as a Solic­i­tor, it will cer­tain­ly keep you run­ning towards that goal, and give you an excel­lent ground­ing in the day to day work of a law firm.

Sebas­t­ian Wahlstom is a Para­le­gal with­in our Res­i­den­tial Con­veyanc­ing Department