A Paralegal is a person qualified through education and training to perform fundamental legal work that requires understanding of the law and procedures but who is not a qualified solicitor, barrister or chartered legal executive.
A Paralegal can work in private law firms or in the public sector and would essentially perform tasks to support an attorney. Paralegals assist attorneys by preparing for hearings, trials, and meetings and by maintaining communication with clients. These legal professionals can provide numerous legal services, although tasks that are considered practicing law, such as representing a client in court, are prohibited.
What would you be responsible for….
The Paralegal’s job is typically to carry out a course of action suggested by a lawyer: whether that be interviewing a witness; legal research; incorporating a company; or completing and filing legal documentation.
A Paralegal’s job is very varied but here are a few examples of the type of work you could be responsible for:
- Giving immigration law advice to clients when working for a paralegal law firm
- Advising on consumer law protection as part of a local authority trading standards department
- Helping members of the public on a wide variety of issues (e.g. employment/housing) as a Citizens Advice volunteer adviser
- Incorporating companies and doing other company secretarial work for a solicitors’ firm, accountancy firm or company formation practice
- Working on probate and family law (divorce etc.) cases in a solicitors’ firm
- Involvement in purchasing land and selling finished properties for a property development company
- Registering and defending trademarks.
As you can see, this list is extensive but by no means exclusive. The truth is, a paralegal’s role is likely to differ from firm to firm, based on what is required of them. So, if you’re flexible and you like juggling a diverse range of jobs, it might be a good idea to think about becoming a Paralegal.
What the standard requirements are….
Paralegals must have some formal education or qualification to find employment. Many colleges and universities feature four-year paralegal programmes while there are some that will offer a two-year course. While some organisations will hire candidates with a two-year degree or certificate, employers are increasingly requiring Paralegals to possess a four-year degree and recommend that all aspiring Paralegals work toward a bachelor’s degree. Bachelor’s degree programmes in paralegal studies and legal studies are both common. A popular route to go down is also to complete the LPC course. Graduating with a Law Degree (the academic side of learning the Law) does not necessarily mean a person is qualified to do paralegal work. Further training is required to gain knowledge of the practical and procedural side of the profession.
Paralegal programmes typically require students to complete an internship in a legal setting. An internship provides hands-on experience and, in some cases, may lead to an employment offer after graduation. Paralegals may find employment at a range of organisations, including banks, insurance companies, private law firms, professional trade organisations, real estate firms, legal departments of corporations as well as the public sector.
For law graduates who have not been able to achieve an LPC, or obtain a training contract, an alternative career as a Licensed Paralegal can provide many opportunities, including the possibility of working for yourself as a paralegal practitioner.
Essential skills needed…
- Incredibile time management
- Juggling activities and roles
- Psychological skills as you will deal with many personalities
- Excellent judgment to make dozens of critical decisions
- Ability to work under strict confidentiality requirements
Common areas of legal practice in Cayman…
- Corporate & Commercial
- Investment Funds
- Banking & Finance
- Private Equity
- Hedge Funds
- Mergers & Acquisitions
- Family Law
What if I am just starting…
As mentioned earlier, Paralegal’s must have some formal education or qualification to find employment. If you are interested in a career as a Paralegal it is so important to carve out a plan for your education and training; do the necessary research to find out what options are available to you locally and internationally and it may require a few years hard work but in the end it will be worth it!