RECOVERING debts for major oil and gas companies, dealing with divorce cases, and helping clients to write their will are all in a day’s work for a modern-day paralegal.
Says a spokesperson: “It is estimated there are around 10,000 paralegals in Scotland from a range of backgrounds, including law and business degree students, those choosing the profession from the outset, and some who enter the legal arena from a completely different career path.”
Karen Leslie, 47, worked in the finance sector before joining leading North-east law firm Stronachs LLP 14 years ago as a paralegal specialising in debt recovery.
She said: “In my previous role, I would pass work onto solicitors, so I was curious to see what happened next and that’s what prompted me to take the leap into the legal profession.”
The law firm promotes lifelong learning amongst its staff, therefore, Karen has juggled her work with studying to gain numerous qualifications to increase her expertise for the role, including a HNC in Scottish Legal Services and a Professional Development Award in debt recovery.
She added: “The law never stands still, and there is so much to learn, so it’s important for me to continue my studies to progress my knowledge and skills ensuring we remain fully updated on law changes to provide a first class service to our numerous clients.”
Karen’s work with the dispute resolution department is extremely varied and her client base ranges from farmers in Aberdeenshire to oil companies based across the globe.
“I do a lot of work with clients overseas, and have worked with businesses in Germany, Italy, Turkey and Kuala Lumpur. Each country operates different legal systems which can prove quite a challenge but it’s always interesting to learn how the laws can vary.
“You have to be thick skinned to do the job. Money problems don’t bring out the best in people, and you have to be aware that you will have some tricky clients, but winning a case is hugley satisfying.”
As well as assisting businesses to recover debts, Karen visits companies to offer advice on how they can protect themselves against missing payments.
“Debt recovery is a niche market and it is important you don’t throw good money after bad. A lot of businesses are too busy to look at their credit control procedures so it is important for them to think about what they can do to help themselves.
“I absolutely love what I do, and it is so satisfying when I can successful recover money for a client. It’s also a great feeling when we get a referral through work we’ve done for someone.”
As part of her job, Karen was encouraged to join the Scottish Paralegal Association (SPA), and after sitting on the committee for six years, she went on to become the joint president for a further four years.
Adds the spokesperson: “The SPA is the only association recognised by the Law Society of Scotland as the body representing the interests and promoting the development of paralegals in Scotland.”
As joint president, Karen was involved in setting up the Registered Paralegal Scheme to define and clarify the important role they play.
“Historically, a paralegal was a legal secretary who did more and more duties for a solicitor, but over the years they have become an established part of the Scottish legal framework.
“I did a lot of work with the Scottish Law Society and the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) to revise and update qualifications for paralegals and it was rewarding to see them being put into practice.”
Karen continued: “The voluntary role was demanding but extremely fulfilling. The society also encourages Continued Personal Development (CPD) and as well as carrying out work as the joint president, I continued to study.”
For anyone thinking about becoming a paralegal, Karen offered the following advice: “The role has come a long way over the years and you must gain certain qualifications, so those looking for a career must be prepared to study. In some cases this will mean fitting in studies around work, but putting in the extra effort is worth it as the job gives you a real sense of satisfaction.”
Issued by Frasermedia Ltd on behalf of Stronachs LLP.
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