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Paralegal jobs and Careers

Once mainly confined to American parlance, the term paralegal is now used to define a new and growing role in the UK's legal profession. Occasionally also known as legal assistants, paralegals are fee-earning staff who are not legal executives and who are not admitted to the roll.

With a high level of legal training, paralegals assist lawyers and solicitors in delivering legal services. They may work in any sphere where law is practised, including law firms, businesses and government departments. They may not, however, represent a client, give legal advice, sign legal documents filed in court or establish legal fees.

The growth of this role reflects the deregulation of the legal profession in the UK, where there are now eight categories of licensed regulated lawyer, where there used to be two. Market pressures are making legal advice more available at a lower cost to more people than ever before and this expansion is where paralegals come in.

What Does a Paralegal Do?

Working under the guidance of a legal professional, paralegals are responsible for:

Type of Person

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Training

Specialist training is required in order to become a paralegal. Even though a law degree is a higher level of qualification, even law graduates need to undertake additional paralegal training in order to work in this role, due to the practicalities involved.

Typically, paralegals have completed a 2-year associate's degree, a 4-year Bachelor's degree or a paralegal certificate. Those who don't possess these are upgrading their professional qualifications by sitting for paralegal certificates accredited by the new professional associations. Certification certainly gives candidates the edge for the better jobs.

Gaining hands-on experience is usually the best start to this career, although work in solicitors' offices is frequently the hardest to come by. Gaining a role in business or a government department may be easier, or even by acquiring voluntary experience in the charitable sector.

Who Employs Paralegals?

Paralegals are employed anywhere that legal work is conducted (other than barristers' chambers, where barristers' clerks are employed instead). This includes the legal profession, large businesses, governmental departments, charities and not-for-profit organisations.

The variety of the work is provided by the nature of the employer's work and the type of cases that come across the secretary's desk. A Paralegal may be employed in the following kinds of offices.

Prospects

This career zone is expanding rapidly and the salaries are extremely attractive. The paralegal training is relatively light when compared to that of a fully qualified solicitor. As legal provision explodes in a widening marketplace, the paralegal profession offers more career progression than ever before, with the profession gaining greater respect year on year. This means the well qualified paralegal can easily find paralegal vacancies with their choice of geographical area to work in and type of employer to work with.

Paralegal Job Sites

There are no dedicated websites for paralegal jobs, but vacancies can be found on legal websites and general employment sites.

General employment agencies have sections with paralegal jobs advertised. These include:

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