Paralegals play an integral role in the legal profession, and they can offer significant assistance in the delivery of legal services.
They work in various types of organisations including law firms, government agencies and corporate legal departments. The use of paralegals in the profession can allow legal services to be delivered more efficiently and more cost effectively.
Although paralegals are not solicitors or barristers, they often perform tasks that are of a legal nature. However, this does not mean that only people who are undertaking a law degree or are currently working in a legal environment can obtain a role as a paralegal. With the right training, skills and knowledge, opportunities for paralegal roles are available to people from a wide range of disciplines including business and management.
While paralegals still perform administrative task and are not qualified to provide legal advice, under the supervision of lawyers, paralegals are often delegated tasks to assist with the progress of a matter. Paralegals gain knowledge of the legal system and develop their professional skills through education, training and experience. They are therefore providing a professional service and are expected to perform those tasks competently and promptly.
Depending on the law firm or organisation, paralegals can also be specialised in an area of law. Some of these areas are litigation, conveyancing, criminal law, intellectual property, corporate law and family law.
The day to day work of a paralegal can vary depending on the place of employment, area of specialisation and experience. Some may spend a large amount of their hours in court or preparing for court, and some may be the go to person for up to date information on legislations and the operations of legal instruments. There is no one standard definition of the role of a paralegal, but some of the tasks that a paralegal would be expected to do include analysing and summarising documents, filing at court, legal research and drafting correspondence, all of which are essential to delivery of legal services.
With the changing legal environment and increasing access to education and training, the role of a paralegal is constantly evolving as well, whether it be in the tasks and duties that they perform, the expectations that lawyers and clients have of them, or the skills that they can bring to the organisation. Nonetheless, the significance of their role to the delivery of legal service and the value that they can add to the practice, department or company is recognised.