An investigation into the career experiences and dynamics of paraprofessionals, qualitative data 2017-2019

This data set contains qualitative data collected on the career and work experiences of paralegals in five UK law firms. It comprises a dataset of 79 interviews with paralegals, lawyers, members of professional bodies and educators across the UK, specifically England and Northern Ireland. The interviews were conducted either in person or on the phone, average around one hour, were audio recorded and transcribed. The interview schedule included questions on their career journeys and critical career moments, how they perceive career mobility and career success as well as the challenges and advantages of their role. In addition, participant drawings from 28 paralegals were collected, where participants were asked to visually express their experience of their role. One of the key developments in professions over the last decade has been the rise of paraprofessional labour. Given the scarcity of research in this area, the aim of this ESRC Future Research Leader's project is to investigate how paraprofessionals experience working and making a career in contemporary professional environments. Specifically, it focuses on how paraprofessionals experience and attempt to reconcile the tensions of being situated in a changing professional world, characterised by technologicalisation and commodification on one hand, and traditional ways of organising, based on professional expertise and privileged status, on the other. The insights generated will be particularly relevant for the understanding of contemporary professional work and professional careers for both, academics and practitioners.

career, professional occupations, lawyers, career development

Cite this dataset as:
Gustafsson, S., 2020. An investigation into the career experiences and dynamics of paraprofessionals, qualitative data 2017-2019. UK Data Service. Available from:


[QR code for this page]



University of Bath
Rights Holder


Collection date(s):

From 1 February 2017 to 31 July 2019

Geographical coverage:

United Kingdom


Data collection method:

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 79 participants involving paralegals, lawyers, members of professional bodies and educators. 28 participant drawings with paralegals were further collected. The data collection period lasted from May 2017 to February 2019. In total, five law firms participated in this study. These firms were purposely selected in that they all employed paralegals in their firms, allowing for comparability, but also represented different geographical areas across the UK (i.e. England and Wales, North and South) and different organisational approaches to managing paralegals to capture differences in practices.


Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

Working in the Shadows of Professionalism: An Investigation into the Career Experiences and Dynamics of Paraprofessionals

Publication details

Publication date: 24 March 2020
by: UK Data Service

Version: 1


URL for this record:

Related papers and books

Gustafsson, S., and Empson, L., 2018. Climbing invisible walls: The construction of career (im)mobility in liminal professional roles. Academy of Management Proceedings, 2018(1), 16242. Available from:

Contact information

Please contact the Research Data Service in the first instance for all matters concerning this item.

Contact person: Stefanie Gustafsson


School of Management
School of Management
Strategy & Organisation

Research Centres & Institutes
Centre for Death and Society
Centre for Qualitative Research
Future of Work Research Centre
International Centre for Higher Education Management (ICHEM)