Paralegal job description

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Rachel Smith is a conveyancing paralegal in Glasgow. A paralegal is a non-lawyer (ie not a solicitor, barrister or legal executive) undertaking legal work, usually in a specialist area. They may work within the legal profession or in the commercial world.

What does your job as a paralegal involve?

I act on behalf of clients who wish to purchase and sell property. This involves working directly with clients, both in person and over the telephone.

What is involved when people are buying and selling property?

The work involved in dealing with purchase is different to the work for property sales. For a purchase, I submit an offer to buy property on behalf of my client. If the offer is accepted, the seller's solicitors respond. Formal letters go back and forth until both seller and purchaser agree on the terms of the contract, and I can prepare the legal documentation.

For sales, a client will contact me when they are putting their property on the market. When I receive an offer from a prospective purchaser, I go through the terms of the offer with my client and complete tasks such as contacting the mortgage lender and ordering the legal searches for the property.

Do you have a typical day?

Some days, I am busy meeting clients to go through the stages of transactions. Other days are spent at my desk, examining title deeds, checking copies of survey reports and mortgage offers, issuing formal letters to form the contract and preparing legal documents for the client to sign.

What was your route into this job as a paralegal?

Most paralegals learn on the job, but when I left school I looked into a number of courses. A course in legal services really appealed to me. When I graduated, I got a job as a conveyancing paralegal. I find the work interesting and I feel it will provide me with good career opportunities.

What training have you received?

I've received training on how to operate the case management system, as each firm uses a different system. I am also studying part time for a paralegal certificate, which covers every stage of conveyancing, including how to deal with any problems that may occur in a transaction.

What hours do you work?

I work from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

What do you like best about your job?

Buying and selling property can be stressful for clients. I get a great sense of achievement through helping them and putting them at ease when transactions go through smoothly.

Are there any disadvantages?

The job does involve a number of deadlines at every stage of a transaction, which can be a real challenge!

What are the skills needed?

You have to be organised and able to prioritise your workload to meet deadlines. You must be able to communicate well with clients and be patient, as buying and selling a house can be a stressful and time consuming process.

What are your long-term career goals?

I may consider studying part time to become a solicitor.

Rachel's route to her paralegal job

  • HND in Legal Services.
  • Degree in Legal Studies.

Rachel's paralegal job tips

  • Work experience in a law firm provides a valuable insight.
  • Try sitting in a court room and observe a case so you know what is involved.

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Salary of a paralegal

  • Starting salaries are in the range of £16,000 to £20,000.
  • A paralegal working for a large law firm can earn up to £40,000.

How to become a paralegal

  • No qualifications are required to become a paralegal, although entrants are expected to have a good knowledge of the legal system and legal concepts, especially as some undertake the same work as a solicitor or barrister. Senior or specialist posts are more likely to require relevant legal qualifications, such as HNDs and degrees.
  • The Institute of Paralegals offers its members the opportunity to work towards professional recognition by becoming Certified Paralegals. They have to meet certain work experience and qualification requirements.
  • A BTEC in Legal Practice at Levels 2 and 3 will soon be available at local colleges of further education.
  • Courses in law-related subjects relevant to paralegals are available from a range of training providers, including City & Guilds/ILEX Level 2 and 3 Certificates in Vocational Paralegal Studies.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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