Do you have a fascination with the law but lack the time, money, or inclination to devote several years to law school? A career as a paralegal could give you the opportunity to work in the legal field with a lower investment of time and money.
What do paralegals do?
Paralegals do a lot of the day-to-day tasks involved in the legal field, so the solicitors can devote their time to the high-paying tasks that require their level of expertise and education. Paralegal tasks may include:
- Investigating the facts of the case
- Preparing legal briefs
- Conducting research (precedents, rulings, etc.)
- Interviewing clients and witnesses
- Preparing documents for trial
- Going to court
- Preparing quotes for clients
- Providing clients with legal information
- Managing a large portfolio of clients
Many paralegals specialize, becoming experts in a certain area of the law, like family law or criminal law.
Where and when do paralegals work?
- Most paralegals work a regular 40-hour week, but there may occasionally be significant overtime.
- Many paralegals work in law offices.
- Others work in the legal department of large corporations.
- You can also find paralegals working in government jobs, such as in criminal or civil courts or for a police department.
- Public-sector organizations and charities also frequently employ paralegals.
- Paralegals may sometimes need to visit clients and witnesses or travel to law libraries or to the courthouse.
What skills do paralegals need?
- Attention to detail
- An interest in the law
- Excellent people skills
- Organizational skills
- Computer skills
- Ability to safeguard confidential information
What education and training are required?
Since paralegals are part of the unregulated sector of the legal system, there are no formal requirements or qualifications. Most employers provide on-the-job training; they will, however, will expect you to have a good standard of general education as well as some familiarity with the legal system.
Despite the lack of formal requirements, training and certifications are available and will make you more competitive. You can even continue your education while working, as many training options are available through distance learning.
You can also participate in one of two apprenticeship schemes.
- A Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship in Legal Services is appropriate for most college graduates.
- A Higher Apprenticeship in Legal Services is for graduates with A levels or their equivalent, or for people who have already worked in the legal field.
Additionally, you can pursue a number of diplomas and certificates from the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, City & Guilds, the National Association of Licensed Paralegals, and the Insitute of Paralegals:
- Level 2 Certificate and Diploma for Legal Secretaries
- Level 2/3/4 Award, Certificate and Diploma in Legal or Paralegal Studies
- Level 2/3/4 Award, Certificate and Diploma in Paralegal Practice
- Level 3 Certificate and Diploma for Legal Secretaries
What career paths are available?
- Experienced paralegals may specialize in either a particular area of the law or in a particular part of the process, like researching legal precedents and case law.
- Another option is to move into a managerial position, supervising a team of paralegals and/or clerical staff.
What is the job outlook?
Because recent regulatory changes, paralegals can now do more tasks than they could previously. That’s causing the job market to expand more rapidly than the norm, with almost 200,000 additional paralegals expected to be employed by 2022.
So if you like working in an office environment doing important legal work where accuracy and precision are crucial, a career as a paralegal could be just what you’re looking for.