Paralegals have become an established part of the Scottish legal framework and as a result of experience, training and formal qualification the "unqualified assistant" has undergone a metamorphosis resulting in the creation of the modern day paralegal.
What is a Paralegal ?
The Oxford Dictionary defines a paralegal as a person trained in subsidiary legal matters. As a recognised fee earner, they assist and support solicitors and those employed within a legal environment. Working under supervision, but responsible for their own workload, many paralegals specialise in a specific area of law e.g. trust and executry, debt recovery, conveyancing, litigation, family law, intellectual property, company law and accident claims although this list is by no means exhaustive. Paralegals are not only found in private practice but also in legal departments of local authorities, insurance companies, banks, the oil and gas industry, the Scottish Legal Aid Board, the Registers of Scotland and a wide range of other organisations.
There has been an enormous increase in paralegal numbers and it is estimated that there are around 10,000 paralegals in Scotland. Traditionally they came up 'through the ranks' often gaining a qualification by studying part time. Today they still progress through the ranks but they come from a variety of other backgrounds too. This includes law and business degree students, those who study courses specifically aimed at the profession from the outset or enter the legal arena from another walk of life.