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Some reflections on paralegals

15 July 19

A look back, to mark the Society's anniversary; and a practice area highlight for reparation law

by Janet Rieu-Clarke

As part of the Law Society of Scotland’s Platinum Anniversary edition of the Journal, let’s look at the history of the paralegal. 

The term “paralegal” came into use from the 1980s. There have always been individuals who although not qualified solicitors, carried out legal work. They would have had titles such as “legal assistant”, but from the early 1990s “paralegal” came into common usage. 

Unlike some other professions, paralegals are rarely seen or mentioned in fictional or non-fiction legal television programmes, or in legal fiction in print, but there are exceptions, notably Rachel Zane in Suits, Erin Brockovich, a real legal clerk whose participation in a toxic tort case became a major motion picture, Allison DuBois, the lead character in Medium, and we can’t forget the many appearances of paralegals in the novels of John Grisham. 

While we aren’t quite 70 years old like the Society, paralegals have played an important role in the Scottish legal profession for more than 30 years, and no doubt long before that. Here’s to the next 30 and many more.

Janet Rieu-Clarke is the accredited paralegal account manager at the Law Society of Scotland 

Practice area highlight: reparation

There are currently 12 practice areas in which paralegals can become accredited, each with its own set of competencies which accredited paralegals in that area are required to meet. Trainee accredited paralegals are expected to meet these after one year.

Accredited paralegals in reparation law (there are currently 10) should be able to commence cases competently in different courts from initial instruction to completion on behalf of both pursuer and defender. If you are interested in joining them, find out more about the specific requirements by contacting Janet Rieu-Clarke on accreditedparalegals@lawscot.org.uk or from the Society’s website (shortcut: bit.ly/2FKXvNS)

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