The role of a paralegal can take on a number of characteristics and duties so arriving on a clear and concise definition is not always an easy task!
At Yegal Paralegal we have been working with paralegals for the past six years. In our experience a paralegal is someone who performs legal duties but is not qualified as a lawyer.
Typically, Yegal Paralegals are law students approaching their final years of law school or even graduates. We’ve helped more than 500 Australian law students find paid legal jobs since our inception in 2016.
Are there different types of paralegals?
Paralegals tend to work as part of a wider legal team, under supervision of one or more experienced lawyers. This helps the paralegal to learn new skills which is important for them in the formative stages of their career. Legal teams that hire paralegals tend to be one of two different types:
- Law firm (private practice paralegal)
- In House (corporate paralegal)
This is an important distinction that is not often touched on during university study.
For someone unfamiliar the best way to understand the distinction is by way of an example. Think about a large telecommunication business like Optus. Optus have teams of in-house lawyers and paralegals who work on various legal projects INSIDE THE BUSINESS often alongside other Optus employees who might not be lawyers. The types of duties in house lawyers tend to work on include commercial contracts. For example, if Optus wants to run advertising campaigns on the side of a bus they might contract with a media or public relations company to organise the campaigns. An in-house lawyer or paralegal would co-ordinate the contract for service in this instance.
Separate from this, if Optus becomes involved in litigation or is a victim of cyber crime (as was the case recently) they might engage an external law firm to defend their interests or to provide advice. This is where the private practice paralegal becomes important.
Private practice paralegals work alongside lawyers inside the law firm. There tends to be a hierarchy in law firms based on experience. Firms tend to value the relationships they have with their clients and a relationship with a company like Optus (which has significant demands in terms of legal work) is highly valued and is always managed by law firm Partners.
Law firms pride themselves on acting in the best interest of their clients. Law firms are their own business and the work OUTSIDE THE BUSINESS of their clients. If you want to get a job as a paralegal then it is important to understand the different types of paralegal and how they work in different sectors within the legal industry. The table below explains.
|Paralegal working in a LAW FIRM||Paralegal working IN-HOUSE|
Examples of Paralegal Jobs
To give you more of an understanding about what paralegals do, below is a list of roles that Yegal Paralegals have worked on in recent times:
Law Firm Paralegals
- Around 2/3rds of all our law firm paralegals work on E-Discovery projects. If you want to work in a law firm but don’t have paralegal experience, learning about E-Discovery is very important. Unfortunately, we find that E-Discovery is not often taught during law school studies and for that reason we launched a FREE E-Discovery training module that you can check out over at Yegal Academy.
- A growing area of paralegal practice inside law firms is cyber law. Privacy breaches and data hacks are a growing problem for individuals and corporations around the world. Law firms tend to provide legal teams to act as ‘first responders’ when a data breach occurs. Consider this recent example from one of our international law firm clients:
- Law firm client is a large retail chain;
- Client has been subject of a data hack and customer credit card data has been accessed;
- One of the jobs for the law firm was to create a ‘matrix document’ listing out all the names of customers whose data had been accessed. The firm used a team of Yegal paralegals to assist with this project;
In House Paralegals
- Our Yegal Paralegal recently assisted a large financial services company with the launch of a new product. The company was working with a prominent supermarket chain on the launch of a pet insurance product. Yegal paralegals assisted the client in reviewing the marketing material to ensure compliance with financial services regulations relating to misleading and deceptive conduct.
- A number of Yegal Paralegals have assisted corporate legal teams with establishing Modern Slavery statements in response to the recent statutory review of the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth).
- A Paralegal was engaged to join the legal team for a international company specialising in money transfers. The company was acquiring a number of ATM’s from another financial institution and needed assistance drawing up the contracts for the sale of the assets.
- We have matched a number of paralegals to in-house projects with insurance firms working on claims teams. These roles would previously be filled by law firm secondees and are great for law students who want to secure law firm work long term but lack corporate or paid paralegal experience. It’s worth noting that around 40% of all litigation disputes in Australia involve a question of insurance so learning about insurance principles is very helpful for any paralegal / aspiring lawyer!
If you need a paralegal for your legal team you can complete a job request form by clicking here.
If you are a paralegal or a law student hoping to become one, you can apply to Yegal by clicking here.