David Bowie as a paralegal

It’s been reported that David Bowie used to work as a paralegal at Legastat, the legal copying service in Carey Street.


From the Jack of Kent blog:

Of course, a co-worker will have then dismissed Bowie’s dream with “there is no future in dressing funny”.

And outside, a judge and barrister would walk past…

I knew Legastat specialized in big photocopies – some old legal documents are bigger than foolscap – but they obviously do more. They describe their work as ‘paralegal services’, and they also do digital archiving:

If you don’t have the time and resources to prepare your bundles or hire paralegals in-house we can help.

Use our paralegal and document review services for:

ordering documents chronologically
creating disclosure lists and indexes
paginating and cross referencing
first stage privilege review

That just leaves the question of what exactly a paralegal is, in the UK. I thought of it as a broad term covering people who help lawyers in their work but are not fully qualified in any particular way. But actually there are qualifications. In fact the situation of paralegals seems to be in the process of changing. When I trained in a firm of solicitors in the late 1970s, the employees were mainly solicitors and articled clerks, legal executives and trainee legal executives and legal secretaries. There were ‘boys’ of a range of ages delivering and sorting post and files too. But nowadays the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, CILEx, does give paralegals some training:

What is a paralegal?

A member of staff who has completed some legal training, but is not qualified as a solicitor or Chartered Legal Executive, is usually referred to as a paralegal. The term applies to any member of staff progressing files under supervision – from legal secretaries who have gained the necessary knowledge to carry out specific practical tasks, to law graduates who progress a heavy caseload of files from start to finish.

Paralegals are very commonly employed in the fields of residential conveyancing, personal injury or debt recovery where roles might be advertised as ‘Conveyancing Assistant’, ‘Claims Handler’ or ‘Litigation Assistant’ respectively. A paralegal might be known as a ‘Legal Assistant’ in family or employment law departments.

As the role of the paralegal varies greatly between organisation and different areas of legal practice, so do our courses. Courses start at Level 2 (GCSE-level) training for legal secretaries who wish to move into paralegal work and have not studied for a long time, through to Level 6 (honours-degree level) courses for law graduates to acquire high-level legal practice skills.

There is also an Institute of Paralegals and a National Association of Licensed Paralegals. The Wikipedia article on Paralegal also has a UK section.

7 thoughts on “David Bowie as a paralegal

  1. For a minute, I thought the singing organ-grinder had beaten me to it. But this pre-musical incarnation of David Bowie alias Jones (to avoid a clash with the near-namesake of Mancunian Davy Jones of the Monkees – the ‘USA’s answer’ to the Beatles in the Swinging Sixties) had indeed been reported on this website 15 months ago: http://transblawg.co.uk/2014/09/28/internationally-acclaimed-barrister-amal-alamuddin-marries-an-actor/

    I am unsure a legal photocopying clerk – who had reportedly often disappeared to a back room to dawdle, doodle, write poetry, pen musical lyrics for Marquee Club appearances in nearby Soho and draw sketches – can be referred to as a ‘paralegal’.

    And, before you, Margaret, ask. Yes, I have used the services of Legastat, but long after David had left (20 years) whilst my first university law lecturer, an Equity (Chancery) Barrister of Lincoln’s Inn, often picking up legal textbooks from Wildy’s Book Shop on the other side of the archway for us undergrads, might well – when practising around the mid-1960s – have collared the said future Ziggy Stardust for photocopying of oversize conveyancing plans and Wills. Alas, it is also too late to ask.

  2. I seem to be in the dark over the identity of Trevor (perhaps, the singing organ-grinder) and over what detail. Securitising a back catalogue (‘Bowie Bonds’) has vague echoes of a Besserungsschein > a ‘debtor warrant’ in DE.

    David almost certainly had a single-tasking role operating a photocopier pre-Internet, email, e-disclosure and digital age, to wit: about half a century ago (and as a number of my ‘Swinging Sixties’ legal contemporaries have mentioned to me anecdotally) http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/obiter/the-man-who-sold-the-photocopies/5052952.fullarticle

    Compare that to the impressive range of expanded services now offered by the young Legastat team in the year 2016, as in your weblink and article, Margaret, and not a single member of which would have been around mid-1960s. Knowing the shop from frequent visits thereafter, I am willing to wager that not even ‘bundling’ – let alone ‘privilege review’ – was offered back then. In the words of David’s 1998 catchy hit single : ‘Little Wonder’…

  3. The singing organ-grinder has beaten us to it in that ‘securitizing the back catalogue’ is a reference to the Law Gazette article, I see.

  4. Either the Law Soc. Gazette, or the constant BBC TV World, CNN and Daily Mail Online news references to ‘Bowie Bonds’ and David’s (or was that his lawyers’ and accountants’) business acumen.

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