Looking to get your foot in the legal door while studying for a legal position? Want to be involved with the law world but don't want to be a lawyer?
Welcome to the world of paralegals; a place perfect for anyone who loves the law.
So, what will I actually be doing?
Paralegals are involved in a huge amount of legal work, and are sourced in both public and private sectors as well as law firms. Paralegals can specialise in one specific branch of the law, i.e. criminal, corporate, immigration, banking etc.
The main role of a paralegal is to support lawyers in their work. As a result, they are involved in a lot of different aspects of the legal profession. Here's a closer look at their responsibilities:
- Taking statements from witnesses.
- Interviewing clients and passing on relevant information.
- Researching cases and any pertinent legal information needed.
- Presenting applications to judges.
- Helping lawyers prepare for court cases, including opening and closing arguments and aiding in court pleadings or motions.
In addition to being involved in exciting legal practices, paralegals have a fair amount of more down to earth tasks to get through. We're talking things like…
- Filing case files and handling client caseloads.
- Drafting documents and letters, such as mortgages, sale agreements and trust agreements.
Administrative duties such as taking phone calls, answering correspondence and filing.
Find paralegal jobs now
The finer details...
Paralegals spend most of their days in an office environment, but they may also be required to go to court or attend other meetings.
A full-time position usually works around a Monday to Friday structure. There might be opportunity for part-time or temporary work, but most are full-time.
Despite most positions giving the guise of normal working hours, there will probably be many times where extra work is required to prepare for a case or to hit a deadline. In addition to this, some firms require paralegals to work on a shift basis. So be prepared for long hours and some weekend work.
Money, money, money
The salary for paralegals probably isn't as much as you'd think. The average salary is £18,000, but in reality it can range from a starter salary of £13,000 to £30,000 for someone with a lot of experience.
See what people are earning in this job
The good points…
- It is an excellent way of being involved in the legal system without all the study needed to become a lawyer.
- The work is varied, so each day is a fresh challenge. Chance of boredom is low.
- You get to help a wide range of people.
The bad points…
- If you have a lot of cases at once, stress becomes a factor.
- There is a stark difference in the work you do. You could be interviewing witnesses in the morning, and then answering phones and filing in the afternoon.
- The random and sometimes long work hours could take their toll.
Is there study involved?
Although specific qualifications beyond a general good standard of education aren't required, you do need a good understanding of the law and the legal system. In addition to this, some employers might look for BTEC qualifications relating to law.
There are a number of specific qualifications and educational institutions for paralegals, which vary according to country.
Need additional qualifications? Find a course at our Learning Zone
OK, I'm interested… But is it really the job for me?
Paralegals work in a highly professional field, so you need to be highly professional too. A smart appearance and confident manner is essential. If you need to go to court unexpectedly, you can't mosey on in with a crumpled shirt and baked bean stains on your jacket.
The requirement to read, digest and process vast amounts of information into data that can be used in a legal case means that you need phenomenal organisational skills as well as the ability to communicate the details. Quick typing skills are also useful in order to keep up with all the notes and research.
Like most legal positions, a paralegal needs to be able to work well under pressure, without sacrificing a high attention to detail.
You will also be handling confidential and sensitive information, so patience, sensitivity and tact are important qualities. Clients and witnesses need to be able to trust you and if you don't play well with others, you will soon become a spare wheel.