The Paralegal Role in 2013; more than a legal secretary

What with changes in the legal profession in the 21st Century, being a paralegal is both an exciting, rewarding and very varied field. Recent changes have seen great expansion and growth in the paralegal sector. The current opportunities available to paralegals (such as training contracts for LPC graduates) create a varied, challenging and exciting profession to go into.

The scope and variety of a paralegal’s job description can be demanding, and the duties and tasks are very varied. An example of such duties is compensation claims. Following the banking scandals of recent years, and the rise of the ‘compensation culture’ that some commentators have seen occur, compensation claims are regularly made by law firms on behalf of clients.

Quite often, paralegals will do all of the administrative tasks and get the claim properly started, as well as overseeing its progress, and making sure that everything has been done properly. In such a case, a paralegal would often be expected to assist with the initial paperwork, file the claim correctly, liaise with the various parties, follow up with the claim as it is handled by the legal system, and well as performing any routine administrative or organisational duties as required for the case.

Although not considering and offering advice on the compensation claim itself, paralegals will handle the case day to day, and ensure that what is decided by fee earner and client actually happens. Keeping the relevant records, paperwork and correspondence of the claim documented and filed may not be the glamorous side of the law- but it is an important aspect of the profession, as it allows the fee earners to make rapid and accurate assessments of the case if the information is all to hand and clearly organised. A properly organised, documented and filed claim can also avoid delays and confusion.

Admittedly routine, such claims are but part of the variety of work that can cross a paralegal’s desk on a given day. Indeed, paralegals might often have several such claims ongoing at any one time, amidst all their other tasks in supporting fee earners. The ability to multi task and prioritise is key to being an efficient paralegal. A good memory also helps; being able to advise and brief your fee earner in the essential details or current progress of a case is invaluable.

Current changes to the paralegal role means that increasingly paralegals are been given more responsibility and authority. More routine matters such as compensation claims are ending up on their desks as opposed to that of fee earners, after the analysis and legal decision has been made. In order that fee earners can move on to other cases, paralegals can often see the whole compensation claim case through in its entirety, and be mostly responsible for it.

More responsibility and increasingly more challenging work. What was formerly dismissed as a glorified secretarial role is now anything but, and is a very well respected role in any law firm, as well as giving a rewarding, structured and challenging career.

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