The term ‘paralegal’ is a bandied about no-end, but it’s a very general professional title which doesn't really give much away or define the various types of paralegal work that are out there.
Paralegals are extremely valuable members of any legal team, and it is safe to say that firms would not function without them. The quantity of work would just be too vast. Paralegal work is a great way to get extended, paid legal experience - especially if you’re finding it hard to get a training contract or pupillage.
Paralegal work can be roughly divided into 3 branches:
Fee-earning paralegal work
This is the most common type of paralegal work, and the type that is most similar to the work of a solicitor. You’d doing support work involving tasks that clients can be billed for e.g. working on case files doing administrative tasks, taking notes at court or during a conference call, and conducting due diligence.
Working alongside a professional support lawyer
You’d be working alongside a PSL (who supports the division by being a central resource for research) by researching and writing; producing articles for professional journals and bulletins to keep lawyers up-to-date with legal developments and news.
In-house legal team
You’d be working in a company that wasn’t a law firm within an in-house legal team, for example, the legal department of an investment bank. You’d specialise in the type of law that was relevant to that company’s business, so this type of paralegal work varies the most between posts.
So yeah, in conclusion there is a whole lot more range in paralegal work than most people know! Being a paralegal can be a career in itself, or being one for a short period of time can act as a very good stepping stone on the way to becoming a solicitor.