What is a Paralegal
A Paralegal is a person qualified through education and training to perform substantive legal work that requires knowledge of the law and procedures and who is not a qualified solicitor or barrister. Paralegals may work for, or be retained by solicitors within the legal profession or they may work within a legal environment within commerce, industry or the public sector. Paralegals may also work for themselves as either freelancers, offering their services to a variety of employers or as Professional Paralegal Practitioners, with a NALP Licence to Practise (subject to the NALP eligibility requirements).
Paralegals are important members of the legal team
The work that Paralegals undertake is quite often virtually indistinguishable from that undertaken by the Solicitors who employ them. Now, thanks to the PPR, Professional Paralegals form the Fourth Arm of the Legal Sector.
The term 'Paralegal' is generic
The term, or title, 'Paralegal' has caught on within the legal profession and is now used almost exclusively to describe any individual who is offering legal services or completing legal tasks who are not qualified, Solicitors, Barristers or Chartered Legal Executives.
Paralegals must strive for professional excellence
It is essential that Paralegals strive for personal and professional excellence. They should possess integrity, professional skills and dedication to the improvement and expansion of the Paralegal role in the delivery of legal services.
The importance of this can be seen from the relevant statistics. Whereas there are some 135,000 (plus) practising solicitors there are estimated to be over 200,000 unqualified individuals who carry out direct 'fee earning' work. Out of this some are chartered legal executives. The rest are, by definition, 'Paralegals' - the largest sector of the legal profession.
Working in other sectors
Many organisations within commerce and industry need and benefit from employees who have a broad knowledge of law and procedure together with an expertise applicable to their particular sector.
Paralegals can, therefore, be seen working in areas such as Financial Services, Insurance, Banking, Building Societies, the Retail Sector, Credit Control, Export, Entertainment and the Media, etc.
In the Public Sector are Government Departments, Local Authorities, Court and Tribunal Staff, Welfare, the Probation Services, Social Services, the Police and the like. In these areas a Paralegal qualification can be invaluable.