For some Legal Secretaries and PAs, acquiring Paralegal skills is a natural progression in their careers. Many ILSPA Members gain experience naturally through work at their firms or have taken specific courses of study to further their skills. Legal Secretaries have a great opportunity to advance their careers in this respect and can be fee earners in their own right.
In case you were wondering, a Paralegal is a person who performs legal work which requires a knowledge of law and legal procedures. The work that Paralegals undertake is quite often virtually indistinguishable from that undertaken by the Solicitors and Barristers who employ them. Paralegals can work in law firms or within Financial Services, Insurance, Banking, Building Societies, the Retail Sector, Credit Control, Export, Entertainment, the Media, Government Departments, Local Authorities, Court and Tribunal Staff, Welfare, the Probation Services, Social Services, the Police, and the like.
Within legal firms, Solicitors rely on their support staff, such as Legal Secretaries and Paralegals. These staff are an integral part of a team of legal professionals and help the organisation operate effectively. Paralegals’ duties can involve working closely with Solicitors and Barristers and may take them from office to courtroom, from clients to conferences and from the law library to the negotiating table.
The job title Paralegal is now used almost exclusively to describe fee earners or part fee earners in the legal profession who are not Legal Executives, Solicitors or Barristers. Whereas there are some 100,000 plus practising Solicitors, there are estimated to be over 200,000 unadmitted staff who carry out direct ‘fee earning’ work. Some of these are Legal Executives. The rest are, by definition, Paralegals.
If you are interested in becoming a Paralegal, the National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP) can provide you with guidance and training. Their courses start at Level 3, and the Level 4 Diploma in Paralegal Studies is an excellent stepping stone for Legal Secretaries Diploma graduates.
NALP is recognised by Ofqual as a qualifications-awarding body. They have been operating for 27 years and have developed their own nationally recognised Paralegal qualifications.
Take a look at NALP’s website here: http://www.nationalparalegals.co.uk/nalp.