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