Paralegal Job Description
Do you want to kickstart a career in the legal profession without spending years at university? Want to get your foot in the door at a law firm but don’t have any legal qualifications? A Paralegal career could be exactly what you are looking for. In this Paralegal job description article, we will be doing a deep dive into the role, covering responsibilities, salaries and more.
A Paralegal is a type of legal professional who, unlike a Solicitor, Legal Executive or Conveyancer, is not formally qualified. Although traditionally Paralegals fill administrative and support roles within law firms and in-house legal teams, an increasing number of these professionals are taking on complex fee earning responsibilities not dissimilar to those of a trainee Solicitor.
Paralegals assist Solicitors, Barristers, Legal Executives and other Lawyers with an array of legal work.
With some Paralegals in purely support positions and others handling caseloads of their own, the responsibilities of the role can vary widely, ranging from administration and filing to taking witness statements and attending court. Although the Paralegal role is evolving to encompass fee earning legal work, it is important to note that these professionals are not qualified to practice every aspect of law themselves.
Let’s take a closer look at typical Paralegal duties and responsibilities.
Paralegals in more traditional roles take on certain administrative and support tasks so that the Solicitors, Legal Executives and other Lawyers that they work with can focus on more complex fee earning and business development work.
Typical responsibilities of this type of Paralegal include:
• Drafting, preparing and proofreading legal documents
• Carrying out legal research
• Performing general administrative duties, such as filing
• Letter writing
• Billing clients
• Scheduling meetings, organising diaries and responding to telephone queries
• Writing reports
Meanwhile, some Senior Paralegals and those with fee earning duties will take on more complex work and may even run a caseload of their own clients and files.
More advanced Paralegal responsibilities include:
• Taking witness statements
• Meeting with experts and claimants
• Handling a caseload of clients
• Helping Solicitors to prepare for court
• Attending court
• Presenting applications to judges
According to Gemma Williams, a Paralegal with experience in both law firms and in-house teams, you are more likely to find an advanced Paralegal position in-house.
“It seems to me that in-house Paralegals often take on a similar role to a trainee Solicitor,” Gemma says, “whereas law firm Paralegals continue the work traditionally associated with the role. Working in-house, my value lies in how integrated I am with the company. My understanding of the business and of the industry allows me to take on greater responsibilities."
What can a Paralegal not do?
There are a select number of legal tasks that Paralegals are not permitted to perform. These tasks, reserved for qualified Solicitors and Lawyers, are known as ‘reserved activities’ and include:
• Representing clients in most courts
• Conducting litigation
• The conveyancing process
• Signing Grant of Probate documents on behalf of clients
Paralegals can participate in these activities, but they must be assisting an appropriately qualified legal professional.
Where do Paralegals work?
The role and responsibilities of a Paralegal are also dependent on the type of business or organisation they work for. Paralegals can work in law firms, Barristers’ chambers, public sector bodies, not-for-profit organisations and the in-house legal departments of commercial businesses.
Due to the broad and varied nature of the Paralegal profession, these individuals can specialise in any number of legal practice areas. Some popular practice areas for Paralegals include:
• Residential property and conveyancing
• Private client
• Commercial property
• Commercial contracts
• Personal injury
This list is by no means exhaustive. For the latest Paralegal jobs in all practice areas, click here.
What qualifications do you need to be a Paralegal?
There are no required qualifications for becoming a Paralegal, and as such employers are at liberty to set their own entry requirements. Paralegals with the following education and qualifications may have a competitive advantage:
• Good standard of general education, including strong GCSE and A-level grades
• Degree in law or a related field
• CILEx (Chartered Institute of Legal Executives) qualification
• HNC/HND or foundation degree in law, legal studies or paralegal practice
• Paralegal apprenticeship, certificate, diploma or higher diploma
What experience do you need to become a Paralegal?
With the competitive nature of the legal sector, if you are keen to find work as a Paralegal it is important that you demonstrate your commitment to work in law. Useful experience will include:
• Experience in an office environment
• Work experience through shadowing
• Internship at a law firm
• Advanced apprenticeship in legal services
• Attending firms’ open days / ‘insight’ events
• Court marshalling or attending court hearings as a member of the public
• Volunteering for local charities or Citizens Advice Centres
Which skills do you need to become a Paralegal?
Due to the broad and diverse nature of the role, Paralegals require a variety of skills including:
• Excellent communication skills, both written and verbal
• Strong attention to detail
• The ability to work well under pressure and stick to tight deadlines
• Ability to multitask as you may be managing multiple cases / tasks at once
• Good administration skills – typing, filing, letter writing etc
• Strong interest in law with a desire to develop your understanding of the legal system
• The ability to work well independently, as part of a team and with other departments
• Commercial and business acumen
• Strong customer service skills, patience and consideration for dealing with clients and witnesses
• Knowledge/experience of legal database certifications
According to our most recent Audience Insight Report, a Paralegal salary is £28,011 per year on average. However, this figure varies depending on factors such as location, practice area and type of employer.
How much does a Paralegal earn in-house?
With average salaries of £34,393, in-house employment can be far more lucrative for Paralegals than law firm roles. By comparison, most law firms offer a Paralegal salary of around £23,000 - £26,000 per year.
Paralegals working in US law firms are offered an exceptionally high average salary of £40,000 per year, while Magic & Circle firms pay their Paralegals £32,500 on average.
Paralegal salaries by location
The table below shows an average Paralegal salary in different UK regions.
Region Average Salary Scotland £35,000 London £31,008 North East £25,714 South East (excluding London) £25,249 North West £23,939 South West £23,749 Midlands £23,378 Wales £22,499
Paralegal salaries by practice area
The practice area in which a Paralegal works can also have an impact on their pay. The table below shows the average Paralegal salary for some of the most popular practice areas.
Practice Area Average Salary Commercial £30,217 Commercial property £25,333 Corporate £40,000 Criminal £24,444 Family £22,916 Immigration £29,687 Intellectual property £37,222 Litigation £23,275 Personal injury £25,999 Private client £24,999 Residential property and conveyancing £23,939
Becoming a Paralegal is a great way to get your foot in the door of the legal profession without being a fully qualified Solicitor. Although the status of a Paralegal is not the same as a qualified legal professional, the role is an essential one and will see you dealing intimately with important work in environments that are often fast-paced and exciting.
If you have reached the end of our Paralegal job description and decided that this is the career path for you, our popular article on becoming a Paralegal with no experience can help you to figure out your next steps.
Alternatively, if you have decided that you instead want to pursue a career as a qualified legal professional, why not check out our guide on how to become a Solicitor?
Ready to apply? Browse the latest Paralegal jobs on TotallyLegal today.
Would you like to take part in an interview about your experience as a Paralegal? If so, we would love to hear from you. Get in touch to find out more.