By Gladys Mae
Gladys serves as the General Manager and Head of Student Services at the International Career Institute.
When you think about a job in the law profession, working from home isn’t a phrase that comes to mind. Yet, as it turns out, becoming a paralegal is an excellent work-from-home option. In fact, the paralegal profession weathered the global economic storm, emerging as an excellent occupation choice for those wanting or needing more flexibility.
Working in the legal profession isn’t just about scouring documents and contacts, getting up in a court of law and arguing on behalf of a client. There are actually dozens of opportunities within the legal and justice arena. For those just starting out in their legal profession, or even those returning to work after a break, a paralegal can be the perfect job.
A paralegal is on hand for lawyers or a team of lawyers, to help assist in the preparation or settling of legal documentation. While it is more administrative than legal, there is still a lot of on-the-job insight into the legal profession and those who become a paralegal still need pretty extensive knowledge of the legal system.
Don’t believe for a second, though, that paralegals are secretaries. In fact, there is a whole other job opportunity for legal assistants and secretaries. Paralegals on the other hand, tend to do the nitty gritty work.
Specific jobs that a paralegal may do largely depends on what type of firm you choose to work for. For example, a paralegal in a litigation firm may be preparing briefs for court, collating material to help senior counsel or organising witness briefs. Those who decide to work in a local solicitor’s practice though may be more heavily involved in the actual legal process, including attending property settlements or exchange of contracts. Other jobs a paralegal may complete include drafting letters of service, legal research or organising the evidence.
Of course, it’s up to you what kind of law firm you wish to work in and whether you decide to work in a big commercial practice or a smaller one-man-band. You can also choose what area you wish to work in, for example, taxation law or family law.
As a paralegal, you’ll be fortunate to gain exposure to a wide variety of legal matters and you’ll be able to work from those with more experience than you. Remember, a paralegal is not a licensed law professional, so you can’t do much without the supervision of a qualified lawyer.
COVID19 has shown us just how much work can be done remotely. While many businesses have had to adapt their practices so that employees can work from home, many jobs are now equipped to be done out of the office. When it comes to paralegal work, a lot can be done from home, as long as you have access to the databases and files required.
There are many technical skills, for example, that paralegals need that can be done remotely. This includes managing documents, creating presentations, handling the billing through relevant software, online research and drafting documents. None of this actually needs to be done in an office.
While a paralegal is not a licensed legal professional, there are still qualifications required to work in the area of law. There are also certain skills you’ll need to learn.
Courses that cover paralegal services will include subjects such as how to carry out a search of the public record, how to handle dispatching confidential information such as processing court documents, legal terminology, producing business documents, drafting and lodging court documents, handling court filing fees, and more.
You’ll need to be highly organised, an excellent communicator both verbally and written, and know your way around research documents.
At the moment, in Australia there is a growing need for paralegals. Demands on lawyers continue to grow and they need all the help they can get in order to handle everything thrown their way. In return, paralegals can be compensated with anything from $45,000 right through to $75,000 depending on your level of expertise, what kind of law firm you end up working for and of course, your individual employer.
If you choose to start a career as a paralegal, it’s not the final place you may end up. As you progress up the paralegal ladder, senior paralegals may be called upon to supervise junior paralegals. Both will continue to be under the supervision of a qualified lawyer, however the more senior you are, the less official supervision you’ll require. Some paralegals may also advance through to a management position within the law firm or legal department. As a further step, many paralegals go on to complete a law degree and become fully-fledged lawyers themselves.
Studying to become a paralegal through institutes such as ICI means you’ll be able to fast-track your career, learning the inside secrets in months rather than the traditional years of study. On top of this, the ICI paralegal course was created in conjunction with the paralegal industry so the courses are exactly what you need to know to succeed.
Being a paralegal is a rewarding profession. It’s fast-paced and can be action packed. It’s also exceptionally interesting and regardless of where you end up, you’ll continue to learn day in and day out all about the legal profession. Best of all, it’s a hybrid-style job that can be done remotely, in the office or a combination of the two. What are you waiting for?