Although its the time of year when most students are preparing for and sitting exams, for those finishing courses its the time to think ahead to jobs too. With the economic climate causing problems for graduates, many are reconsidering their career options. There are more paralegals in the legal sector than solicitors and barristers put together, and it is a popular career path for graduates to pursue. Paralegals are vital to the workings of the legal sector, and there are new schemes being introduced, which make it easier to embark upon this career path.
The National Association of Licensed Paralegals, for example, has a wide variety of courses aimed at assisting graduates in changing their career path ranging from development of key skills to diplomas in paralegal studies. Also available are short courses in various areas of law providing a more in depth course on an area, which may be of specific interest.
The range of paralegal courses that are on offer nationwide allows graduates to study on a course, which suits them, and develops skills on knowledge in the required areas. Having completed a degree many would be concerned about the potential course of changing career paths or undertaking further studying. One of the bonuses about taking a paralegal course vs solicitor training is that the costs of the courses are relatively low, and there are payment plans assisting those who do not wish to take out loans to complete further education. Opportunities are also available to develop negotiation and analysis skills with courses enhancing personal development.
Experience within another field is also relevant, providing the skills that are shown can be adapted to a legal career. As such, those wishing to change career paths should not be discouraged by their experience lying elsewhere.
Researching the role and the qualifications and training required for it is key. Decide whats right for you, then plan how you will achieve your goals and get the right career path for you.
The legal profession is developing rapidly, and with those wishing to enter the profession facing increasing fees and debt in an economic climate, which creates uncertainty as to availability of jobs after studying, there are other options available.
Recently, there has been the introduction of paralegal apprenticeships with the aim of making a legal profession easier to access at a lower cost. The apprenticeships can be undertaken from the age of sixteen, allowing students to achieve a recognised qualification and develop the necessary skills to be an effective paralegal. As a vocational course it is based on the skill set required, therefore modules such as organisation skills, communication skills and legal practice skills are studied.
The apprenticeship schemes have a variety of benefits, not only assisting people in a lower costing education to enter their desired career path but it also allows firms to train apprentices on the job via a government funded scheme.
There are approximately twice the amount of paralegals to solicitors within the United Kingdom, consequently they are vital to the functioning of the legal sector. Having apprenticeships opens up entry into the career to a wider variety of people, perhaps those who would struggle to fund university or those who have completed a degree in another field and wish to embark upon a paralegal career.
Previously, the legal profession was very distinctly divided into two routes, either the barrister or the solicitor. The increased importance of paralegals has meant that a third branch has appeared, while blurring has also occurred regarding the roles each play. With paralegals having the capability to perform the majority of tasks a solicitor can, and a solicitor being able to become a solicitor advocate, distinctions between various roles are becoming less defined and the evolution of the legal sector will continue due to the apprenticeship schemes now being offered.
A paralegal is a general term, which can be used for someone carrying out a variety of tasks. Being able to conduct the majority of the duties that a solicitor can, clients of the firm need to have faith that the person who is working on their case is fully capable and would complete the work to the same standard as a solicitor. Becoming a licensed paralegal allows an establishment of credibility with clients, as they work up to a standard set by the National Association of Licensed Paralegals.
In order to become licenced, paralegals need to fulfil a set of criteria, which includes development of qualifications and experience over the course of ten hours per annum. The licence needs to be reviewed yearly and each year there needs to be evidence of ten hours of Continuous Professional Development. This ensures that those who wish to be licensed are meeting the standard set by the National Association of Licensed Paralegals on a yearly basis.
There are a vast amount of things, which count towards these ten hours of career development, for example, attending workshops, which are relevant either in law or professional enhancement, in house training for job-related tasks, studying for a course or qualification such as an NVQ or writing articles for a law publication. The aim is to set a benchmark for paralegals to work towards which recognises the progression of their knowledge, qualifications and competence as a key member of a legal team.
Licensing proves that paralegals are keen to develop their skills and show they are working towards a high standard, recognised by others within the legal profession. Developing their career and extending their knowledge means that clients can have confidence in the standard of their work and rely upon them to develop their case to a high standard.
The Jackson Reform is a set of propositions made by Lord Justice Jackson to decrease civil litigation costs and to eliminate after the fact costs. No success fees and no ATE (After the event) insurance will be given by the losing defendants, uncertainty fees (Contingency fees in law terms) will be permitted in litigation before the courts, 10% of the general damages will rise and success fees will be capped at 25% of the damages in personal injury cases. The intentions of Rupert Jackson are clearly to promote access and justice to the court system, for the majority who requires this, but the question is whether this reform really can provide access to the justice system as Mr Jacksons intentions truly are.
This process began in 2008 when Lord Jackson introduced his reform. The process of conducting new reforms began after Master of the Rolls, Lord Clarke of Stone-cum-Ebony asked Lord Jackson to begin a review into the costs of civil litigation. Lord Jackson commenced his work in January 2008 and was finished with the preliminary report on 8th may 2009, the final report contain 557 pages. In 2010 after some changes to the report the final example was presented by Mr Jackson and in November the same year the Ministry of Justice published their consultation paper. On February 2011 the Ministry of Justices consultation period ended, a month after in March of 2011 Justice Secretary Ken Clarke confirmed in a statement that legislation was introduced to give effect to Jackson’s key reforms.
Not too long ago the government and the judiciary informed that they will implement the Jackson reforms in April 2013. There are several different approaches to the Jackson reform, some say it will be good for the law system and the common man who seeks legal advice, and others argue that it will obstruct the legal traditions that have been for a long time in the UK.
Allan Barnard is a Senior Claims Adviser at Compensation Claims Company – PerfectClaims.co, who are a leading Claims Management Company based in Manchester, UK.
Paralegals come from a wide range of backgrounds but the type of firm you wish to work in will dictate what you need in order to have a successful application. Having a law degree does not mean that you can walk straight into a job as a paralegal, there are other recognised qualifications which can assist in obtaining a paralegal job however there is no formal requirement to have a degree.
Analytical skills and legal knowledge are key to a paralegal role, consequently if you have not undertaken a law degree, nor another relevant qualification, then experience is need in a legal environment. There are various ways this can be acquired; asking the current company you are working for if you can aid with paralegal work, volunteer at your local Citizens Advice Bureau or helping at a Free Representation Unit. This will allow you to develop essential skills needed to become a paralegal and show that you are interested in the legal sector.
Candidates applying for paralegal positions also need to be well versed in ICT software. Research, investigations, email correspondence and drafting are all central to paralegal work, as such a basic knowledge of researching methods as well as common ICT software, for example document and email programmes, are required.
If your sights are set on a magic circle firm, there are more stringent criteria that need to be met. Some require a law degree, others wish for you to have completed further legal qualifications such as the LPC.
Ultimately, to become a paralegal you do not need to have set qualifications, however a keenness and experience of some kind are required. As long as you can demonstrate your capabilities and the qualities that are vital to paralegal work, you stand a good chance of being successful. The legal sector is a competitive place, with thousands of graduates looking for jobs. As a result, even with the relevant skills or legal knowledge perseverance will no doubt be necessary.
Paralegals do not necessarily need to have a law degree; there are other qualifications such as courses in paralegal studies that provide a sound base of legal knowledge and analytical skills. To be a successful paralegal there are a variety of skills you need to possess, and continuously develop to prove you can seamlessly fit in to the duties which the firm you work for require to be undertaken.
One of the key skills is the ability to communicate with others. Interviewing clients and conversing with other members of the legal profession are daily occurrences for a paralegal and as such inter-personal skills need to be of a very high standard. The ability to effectively interview a client, and gain all the relevant information to progress ensures time is not wasted in having to follow up enquires that should have been made but were not.
Solicitors heavily rely upon paralegals to conduct research, investigations and complete case preparations. In order to successfully carry out this task, paralegals must have a basis of legal knowledge and good analytical skills. Digging into witness statements, proving events occurred and formulating arguments upon facts of a case are routed in analytical abilities.
The role of a paralegal is not just one of legal capabilities but also of administrative ones, therefore organisation is another skill, which must be possessed. Paralegals may need to answer correspondence, chase up information from experts or perhaps make inquires regarding a case. In order to ensure that this is all done within the appropriate time frames, paralegals need to be able to manage their time, as well as spend their time efficiently.
Paralegals are fee earners, they have their own clients and files, meaning that they need to carry integrity and are being relied upon by the firm they are working for to conduct themselves in a way that is appropriate. Candidates need to be responsible, and someone that the firm is proud to have represent their legal team.
In conclusion, the skills set needed to fulfil the duties of a paralegal are various. Individuals need to be diverse, with the capability to organise and communicate effectively while also maintaining the upmost integrity in their work. The wide skill set needed is one of the reasons that people who perform this job are invaluable to legal teams.
A paralegal has various duties, all of which are essential to the workings of a law firm. They have the ability to conduct the majority of work that a solicitor can and as a result can be heavily relied upon in terms of research, investigation and administrative tasks. The way in which a paralegal is utilised depends upon the needs of the firm, but their breadth of skills means they are able to seamlessly fit into whichever tasks need performing.
Paralegals allow the freeing up of solicitor’s time resulting in them being able to focus more on clients. The training of a paralegal enables them to conduct tasks such as drafting, research, investigation and case preparation; all of which are time consuming and ease the burden on the solicitor. This is probably the most valuable duty that a paralegal will perform and stresses their importance.
A lot of cases are settled before they reach court, therefore research, investigation and drafting are very important in the progression of a case. Given that the main role of a paralegal are these duties, this results in them being key to whether a case is settled before reaching court.
Paralegals also aid firms financially. They have their own clients and cases, consequently they are fee earners, separating them from other administrative staff members. The ability to be fee earners helps firms in terms of their income and cliental, again showing the significance of a paralegal.
Ultimately, paralegals posses a wide variety of skills enabling them to assist in such an array of tasks that they are vital to law firms. Their key role is to aid solicitors in the development of cases, and given that a lot of cases are settled before they get to court, the quality of this work is very important. The easing of the solicitor’s burden and the potential to make money for the firm makes them very important to the legal sector.
Paralegals are individuals trained within the legal field and are vital to the workings of firms. Those who complete a law degree may choose to pursue this career path but having a law degree does not necessarily mean possessing the relevant skills or experience to walk into this role, and equally this career path can be followed by achieving various other relevant qualifications.
Solicitors undertake a lot of work and paralegals ease the burden, making their key role one of support and thus rendering them vital members of any legal team. In theory, they can carry out a lot of the work a solicitor can; however they are not fully qualified solicitors and as such there are certain duties they cannot conduct. Paralegals are fee earners, unlike administrative staff, meaning that they provide an income for the firm within which they are working, due to them having their own clients and files. The job of a paralegal involves various tasks, all aimed at assisting solicitors.
Perhaps the most important role is carrying out legal research and the main bulk of this is looking at articles or statutes relevant to their case, background checks on witnesses and looking at court decisions for similar cases. Within this investigation may occur regarding the legitimacy of the claims made by witnesses or the client. This research will be fundamental in the process of formulating arguments for their given claim. Case preparation is another essential aspect of their job, involving the preparation of legal arguments, opening and closing statements as well as court pleadings. Not all the work conducted is law related and there are administrative duties performed too, including preparing trial bundles, answering phone calls or responding to correspondence.
The job encompasses a wide range of duties, all of which are crucial to formulating and preparing a case, therefore considerably assisting solicitors.
The UK PPI crisis recently made history after it has reached it’s 500,000th claim last week. Prior to such, it also made history having at least 2.2 million claims and having the banks top up their PPI claim compensation package from £3.2 billion to £13 billion in just six months. Consumer group Which? called PPI the “biggest financial scandal in the United Kingdom”.
The Financial Services Authority and the Financial Ombudsman continue to work together to finally let the PPI crisis die down, with the FSA focusing on resolving the bank incentives system that is seen as the root cause of mis sold PPI and the FOS trying to focus on processing all claims, having a 7/10 rating of deciding in favor of customers.
Anyone can make a claim for mis sold PPI, as it only involves minutes to fill out forms and a few days to wait for the correspondence from the FOS, who had increased their manpower recently to address all the issues faster. The FOS even proposed to have customers a no-claim PPI payout, which means that customers will be compensated if regulators see that the customers are victims by themselves.
However, the claims process is easier, but patience will still be needed for the long lines. You will need to wait for a few days before you will be asked to return to settle your dispute. Of course, you might have a hectic schedule, which makes it a problem for most consumers.
Millions of UK citizens continue to file their claims and having at least one or two PPI refunds with an average worth of £2750 each is quite easy. But if you’re tackling multiple claims, you might need the help of claims management companies such as for help.
Bankruptcy is very helpful because it can have some financial burdens taken away from you and allows you to at least have “breathing room”. However, as much as it sounds very helpful, it is important that it is considered a “last resort” for financial problems due to the following.
1. Six Year Distance
You can only file for bankruptcy every six years. If you’re having trouble with your finances because of overspending and other bad financial practices instead of personal disability, loss of consortium or company loss, then you don’t have to consider bankruptcy. Deviate from the legal route and have a financial debt consolidator help you out.
2. Not All Debts Can Be Removed
Not all debts can be removed as it is all dependent upon the discussion of your legal representative and the lenders. Lenders can still have you pay a certain amount to clear the transaction for you. Most debts that can be removed are high-risk loans, which are unsecured. If you have collateral for some of your financing, you might want to have these collateral pay on your behalf instead.
3. Processing Costs
As with all legal processes, you will need to spend money for the discussion of your bankruptcy. This can be quite expensive, yet it is indeed very helpful to clean up your credit and financial records to a more beneficial state.
4. Lost Properties
You will need to give up some of your properties to resolve your debts, depending on the securities and negotiations that pushes through with your lenders. Debt consolidation companies could also suggest having all your debt repayments focused on one debt with a good collateral to lower your interest rates, which would be very helpful. But you will have to give up some of your personal property.