NALP is the leading self-regulatory body of paralegals in England and Wales. Provided a paralegal meets the strict criteria set by NALP, such as three years’ work experience and professional indemnity insurance, a person who holds a NALP Paralegal License can offer legal services directly to their own clients. Licensed Paralegals can even set up High Street practices offering their legal services to the public.
If working in a law firm, Junior paralegal duties can involve:
Keeping client files organised and carrying out office administration including billing.
Organising diaries and scheduling meetings.
Compiling material to be used in litigation – filing appeals, briefs and other documents with the court and other parties.
Transcribing legal opinion.
Arranging meetings with witnesses, clients, and other lawyers.
Making sure clients are in the loop regards proceedings and responding to enquiries.
Preparing reports for lawyers to review including collecting out-of-court testimonies from parties and witnesses for use in court.
Duties for more experienced and higher qualified paralegals working in a law firm can involve, but are not limited to:
Providing financial quotes to clients.
Discovering the facts, legal implications and precedents of the case through research and interviewing clients and witnesses.
Drafting legal documents, for example, contracts and pleadings.
Note-taking at court and otherwise assisting with a trial, for example by preparing exhibits, and reading court transcripts.
Writing articles for readers within and outside of the organisation.
Representing clients in certain courts and tribunals.
Passing on legal information to clients.
Handling a caseload of clients.
Paralegals can also provide legal advice services directly to clients.
There are relatively few areas in which a paralegal cannot do what a solicitor does. However, there are certain tasks that are referred to as ‘Reserved Activities’ which can only be carried out by solicitors or barristers. These are: conducting litigation, rights of audience (representing clients) in the main courts, certain aspects of conveyancing and obtaining a Grant of Representation (a document that proves the legal authority of whoever is entrusted to deal with the estate of the deceased).
Otherwise, provided they are representing their solicitor or qualified litigator employer, paralegals can have rights of audience on the following:
Most interim application hearings and hearings in Chambers.
In most family case applications in the High Court and the County Court.
They have absolute rights of audience in the Small Claims Court and in most tribunals, and they can conduct general legal business.
In some cases a Judge will grant a request for a Paralegal to represent a litigant in court, but only if they are sure they are qualified to do so. Having a recognised qualification and being a member of a respected membership body can assist with this, particularly if one is a Licenced Paralegal. The key is to put yourself in a position to get the best paralegal jobs in a large market.
In-house legal teams working within companies.
Crown Prosecution Service
A central and local government such as Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner and the Ministry of Justice
Non-commercial organisations and public bodies, for example, Citizens Advice, BBC, police, NHS and Commission for Racial Equality
Plus more and more Paralegals are setting up their own business to offer legal advice direct to clients.
Paralegals have traditionally worked in practice areas associated with High Street law firms such as family law, divorce, housing, immigration, wills and probate, crime, employment and conveyancing. However, paralegals can also be found in law firm business that covers wealth creation/commercial/wealth management, risk management and compliance, and, occasionally, political, constitutional and administrative matters.
Examples of the private sector in which paralegals work in in-house legal teams include:
Financial Services: insurance, banking, credit control and building societies
Entertainment and the media
Sound knowledge of the law and the legal system. Good legal research skills and the ambition to want to develop skills, experience, knowledge and effectiveness.
Being highly organised/having project management skills including time management, planning and setting priorities.
Being comfortable handling large and multiple workloads.
Sound office administrative skills for tasks such as filing, typing and letter writing.
Behaving professionally and getting the most out of people. Emotional intelligence; teamwork skills particularly when working with other departments and personality types. Diplomacy, assertion, discretion and being respectful of client confidentiality.
A methodical approach, with an eye for details and ability to carefully analyse files and data.
IT and cybersecurity skills; ability to work with document management systems
Aptitude for business and understanding the client./li>
Ability to network
Flexibility and resilience