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Paralegals practise legal work but are not qualified as lawyers in the traditional sense. Until recently these roles were relegated and referred to as administrative only. Now, though, the title of paralegal has become both a respected profession and an industry name. Their most important function is to aid solicitors and barristers with all manners of work. In turn, solicitors and barristers are free to focus on their own specific roles and cases.
Paralegals can work in a whole range of sectors that require legal advice and practice. Most work in private law firms, aiding solicitors and barristers with their day to day work. Paralegals can also find work within large companies who have their own legal departments, such as local and central governments, companies involved with commerce and non-profit organisations in need of legal aid and research.
Examples of roles available under the title paralegal are:
Paralegals, until the past few years, have been something of a mystery to the legal world. Being seen as assistants to other employees their contributions and talents were often overlooked. However, due to their increased workload and the amount of responsibilities they are being given, they are now working to higher standards and becoming more competitive. Recently the legal industry has asked for regulation to be put in place to install a grading system for all paralegals so the best can be recognised and duly rewarded.
There are currently very few leading paralegal firms as paralegals are still not officially recognised as their own free-standing body. The Government has shown interest in employing paralegals on a more regular basis particularly within the Office of Immigration and the Ministry of Justice.
Paralegals can work for many types of law practice, although most are employed within private law firms. The better the firm the greater the workload and potential pay will be.
Some paralegals go on to become barristers and solicitors themselves. Having experienced the work, lifestyle and personnel they can become inspired to train in the legal profession directly and become qualified to practice.