Paralegals and Solicitors, what is the difference?

Got a legal issue – call a solicitor, yes? Not necessarily. It may be that a paralegal is what you need. So, what is a paralegal? What’s the difference between a paralegal and a solicitor, and when might it make sense to use one?

A Paralegal is legally trained and educated to perform legal tasks and offer legal assistance but is not a qualified solicitor. However, a Paralegal can do virtually everything that a solicitor can do except activities that are referred to as: ‘Reserved Activities’ (which we’ll cover later).

There is no statutory regulation for paralegals in the same way as there is for solicitors, so it’s important to ask for evidence of the paralegal’s qualifications and experience, and check they are a member of a professional body such as the National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP).

So when might you use the services of a paralegal?

The above is not a definitive list of circumstances as there is a broad spectrum of legal areas in which Paralegals operate, however it covers some of the most common situations.

As all of the above can also be handled by a solicitor – why would you choose to use a paralegal?

 

As you can see there are good reasons to consider using a paralegal rather than a solicitor, but, as mentioned before, a paralegal can’t help in every situation. There are some activities that Paralegals cannot undertake. These are known as ‘Reserved Activities’:

What other low-cost and free options are available to you if you need legal help? You can make use of a number of free services like Citizens Advice, Law Centres and Pro-Bono Units:

If you do need the help of a paralegal where do you look? There is a Paralegal Register: 

Paralegals can perform many of the tasks where you’d naturally think of using a solicitor – but they are considerably cheaper. And you can still bring in a solicitor later if you need to. So next time you need some legal advice, as long as it doesn’t come under on the ‘Reserved Activities’ – call a NALP registered paralegal for help in the first instance.