The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives give us the lowdown on all things Paralegal .
Paralegals are essential to the success of the legal sector. In the past, some have looked down on paralegals, considering them inferior to those with a solicitor or barrister qualification. Old prejudices are slowly breaking down as legislation and the changing face of the legal industry has thrust the “humble” paralegal into the spotlight.
So what is a paralegal?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines a paralegal as “a person with some legal training whose job is to help lawyers.” The difficulty in defining the paralegal profession lies with the differing levels of experience that exist between paralegals, and their different titles in law firms.
Let’s consider the extremes of the paralegal role. On one hand, you may have the school leaver who at 16 now works in a law firm’s typing pool. On the other hand, you have the legal secretary who has worked for a firm for almost 40 years.
Both are very different people, but nevertheless they are still defined as paralegals. Many people might also be paralegals and not realise it, with titles such as adviser, caseworker, housing officer, legal assistant, trademark manager and others being commonly used.
How many people go into the paralegal field?
You’ll hear contrasting figures about the number of paralegals, usually anywhere between 60,000 and 300,000 paralegals. At present CILEx represents the largest number of them in England and Wales. Not only do we help protect our members but we also help them gain access to the best training.
With the increase in Alternative Business Structures, paralegals are also entering a brave new world. Many will find that they are supporting lawyers with work they have never come across before. Some will be encouraged to seize opportunities that will enable them to climb the career ladder into lawyer positions.
The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) believes that paralegals should be looked after and nurtured along the career path they set themselves. Whether they are new to the sector or well into their career, they all deserve access to the training they desire to make the most of their career path.
Working with groups like City and Guilds, and other centres across the country, we allow paralegals the chance to be the best they can be. There are also opportunities to take that learning further, should they wish, to become a Chartered Legal Executive.
As a paralegal you are vitally important to your law firm and you therefore deserve the same chance to better yourself as everyone else.