What does a paralegal do?

  • Last updated 26-Jul-2016 10:03:35
  • By Billy Sexton, Editor, AllAboutLaw.co.uk

An increasing number of law graduates are becoming paralegals as the legal job market becomes slightly saturated. Even the ideal law student can find themselves left out in the cold after narrowly missing out on a training contract place – the competition really is that fierce.

As a result, grads are now undertaking paralegal roles and studying for the LPC on a part-time basis. Whilst this has implications for the paralegal job market insofar that the role could become viewed as a temporary stepping stone rather than a legitimate career option for the aspiring lawyer. This would undermine the work of the Institute of Paralegals, but the fact of the matter is that around 60% of young lawyers are undertaking paralegal work immediately after studying.

Paralegal work is therefore becoming a more popular route for law graduates, but what exactly do paralegals do? We know that trainee solicitors get to do pro bono work and undertake client secondments, but what about paralegals? What does their work involve on a daily basis?

Paralegal work

Paralegals can undertake a range of duties, due to the role being fairly unregulated until recent times. The main responsibility for paralegals is to support lawyers, meaning that their work can vary based on the area of law and expertise. For example, a school leaver undertaking a legal apprenticeship could carry out clerical duties such as filing. However, a paralegal who has been at the firm for a number of years could be taking statements from witnesses in a criminal law case.

Work is varied and the chance of boredom is very low. You’ll get to work with a wide range of people. Paralegals can prepare briefing notes, highlight case decisions and prior precedents. Paralegals also prepare case documentation, transcribe depositions and statements and can also attend court proceedings.

Can a paralegal bill clients?

Good question. As the legal industry as a whole looks to re-evaluate the ways it can make profit, there has been an increase in reliance on paralegals. An RBS report on the legal market noted that ‘non-solicitor lawyers’ such as paralegals are, and will increasingly do more of, the work that solicitors formerly undertook.

There are benefits for everybody; for the paralegal, they can undertake work they wouldn’t have done previously that would have only been reserved for a solicitor. For the law firm, they can pay paralegals slightly less than qualified solicitors and still have their firm carry out quality work. For the client, a paralegal may bill slightly less than a qualified solicitors, so a lower cost to clients can be achieved. A reported 30% of firms are planning to grow their non-legal fee-earner population in the near future.

The paralegal role and work undertaken is one that it constantly evolving. From administrative duties to researching case precedents to handling an entire case and billing clients, the work a paralegal undertakes is varied and stimulating. 

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