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.