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Career profile: Paralegal

Career profile: ParalegalLaw generates a lot of administration, and someone has to do it – that’s where the ‘paralegals’ step in.

A what?

Paralegal is a generic term for people who work in the area of law, but are not qualified solicitors or barristers.

On the job

Paralegals are sometimes known as legal assistants, and can be found in a huge range of areas from government agencies to firms of solicitors, and from trade unions to finance. They often don’t use the job title ‘paralegal’ - they might for instance be health and safety officers or company secretaries - but what binds them all is the fact that they will work with the law.

The majority of the legal profession are not made up of barristers and solicitors, but paralegals. They provide a very important service, and their work is sometimes very similar to the solicitors who employ them.

Duties will include proofreading legal documents, preparing litigation bundles, taking witness statements, conducting research and providing legal administration. Some even have the right to conduct cases in the Small Claims Court and in tribunals on behalf of their solicitor employers.

What does the training involve?

At the moment there are no formal training processes or qualifications that you have to do to become a paralegal. Most paralegals usually gain experience of the law through the work they do, rather than from a specific course.

There are, however, courses run by further education colleges that will make it easier to get into the profession, such as the Higher Certificate in Paralegal Studies, a BTEC in Law and Legal Work. It is also possible to become a Certified Paralegal by achieving a TPA Certified Paralegal professional qualification.

Otherwise, a law degree is a very good route to this job. Many solicitor graduates who haven’t been able to obtain a training contract become paralegals, and find it a very rewarding career.

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