A career in law can be hugely rewarding for the right kind of person. If you have an interest in the legal system, like a challenge and thrive in a lively work environment, then a career as a Paralegal could be the perfect role for you.
What is a Paralegal?
In Australia, people that practice law are either Solicitors or Barristers. Solicitors hold a qualification in law (such as a Bachelor of Law) and must complete a few years of supervised training before they can provide legal advice and begin conducting legal proceedings. A Barrister is a Solicitor with the relevant experience who has also passed the Bar Readers Course. Barristers spend most of their time in court, whereas Solicitors mainly work out of court.
Paralegals are trained in the law, but they don’t provide legal advice or represent clients in court. Instead, they assist Solicitors and Barristers and work under their supervision.
As those who work in the legal sector tend to specialise in a particular area (such as personal injury, family law, conveyancing, criminal or corporate law, to name a few), it’s worth doing your research before you apply for a job as a Paralegal. If there’s a particular area of the law that you’re interested in, find a suitable employer who specialises in that area. Just because Paralegals don’t provide legal advice themselves, doesn’t mean you can’t learn a lot from working for the right kind of professionals.
What does a Paralegal do?
So, how exactly does a Paralegal assist Solicitors and Barristers?
Here are some of the tasks and responsibilities a Paralegal may perform:
- Drafting legal documents such as contracts, subpoenas and briefs.
- Research and fact gathering, which could also involve interviewing clients and witnesses.
- Liaising with clients, experts and court personnel.
- Organising files, paperwork and evidence.
- Filing documents with federal and state courts.
- General administrative support.
- Arranging mediation and psychological evaluations in family law cases.
Where do Paralegals work?
Most of what a Paralegal does will be done in an office environment, such as a firm or chambers. However, you may occasionally be needed in court to assist the Solicitor or Attorney you work for.
Being a Paralegal means that you’ll be interacting not just with your employer as you work to support them in their cases, but many other people, too. These could be clients, witnesses or other Solicitors and Attorneys.
Working in law can be demanding. It’s the kind of career path that’s suited to those who are not afraid to get out of their comfort zone, who enjoy working in fast-paced environments and can work well under pressure. As a Paralegal your days will be jam-packed. You may be expected to work overtime to meet strict deadlines, so keep this in mind.
The top skills you need to become a Paralegal
Being a Paralegal means that you need to have a range of skills and be prepared to work in a high-pressure environment.
These are some of the skills you’ll need to be a successful Paralegal:
- Organisational skills – some cases will be more complex than others, and you’ll need to ensure that all documents and files are managed properly.
- Communication skills – Paralegals have to liaise with many different people and make sure that they’re passing on the right information at all times. You’ll be dealing with clients, witnesses, specialists, court officials, and Attorneys and Solicitors, not to mention your own employer.
- Research skills – being a Paralegal means that you’ll need to do a lot of research to support your employer.
- Writing skills – there’s a lot of writing involved with being a Paralegal, including drafting documents and corresponding with others. Your writing skills will need to be on point.
- Time-management skills – you’ll be working to strict deadlines, and your days will be busy. This means you’ll need to be able to multi-task and manage your time effectively.
What kind of qualification do I need to become a Paralegal?
You don’t actually need a formal qualification to work as a Paralegal. However, having some prior training will certainly help you get ahead when applying for jobs.
By studying the BSB31015 Certificate III in Business Administration (Legal) online with OC, you’re equipping yourself the skills and knowledge that employers will be looking for. And as this is an online course, it means you’ll be able to study whenever and wherever you want.
During this course, you’ll learn job-ready skills such as how to organise schedules, create business documents and maintain legal documents. You’ll also learn about the proper processes required for handling court documentation.
Start making things happen. Take the first step towards a career in law and enrol with OC today.