How to Become a Paralegal: The Whole Truth
And nothing but the truth
Becoming a paralegal
I’ll let you in on a little known secret: law firms are offering Training Contracts to paralegals. So if you’re a budding-solicitor, you should be asking yourself one crucial question: how do I become a paralegal?
There’s a bit of problem though. Finding the answers to this question can feel like an uphill battle; the internet does a pretty good job at bombarding you with incomplete and often contradictory information.
No one quite seems able to tell you which paralegal courses you should consider or which paralegal qualifications employers are looking for.
I’m going to do you a favour and get together all of this critical information right here, right now. Take it easy and save the hard work for when you get started as a paralegal!
By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know all about the different paralegal qualifications, what top law firm like Slaughter and May are looking for, as well as the difference between the LPC and CILEx.
The qualifications you’ll need to become a paralegal in the UK
A law degree
Most paralegals will have completed their LLB (an undergraduate law degree) and nearly all of them will have achieved at least a 2:1. That’s not to say you can’t become a paralegal with a 2:2, but it will be harder work.
It’s possible that you’re one of those lucky students who didn’t do a law degree: looks who’s laughing now.
If you’ve decided that you want to become a legal professional, it’s probably time to consider a law conversion, i.e. The Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). Like an LLB, most employers want their paralegals to arrive with legal knowledge, so this qualification is pretty important.
When considering a legal career, you also have to factor in the costs. It’s no different for you pesky non-law grads! The GDL will set you back between £6,000 to £12,000 and usually takes a year to complete. This might not sound that appealing, but it’ll be worth it in the long run.
Do you even need a degree?
Good question. The short answer is no, but it helps. Many paralegal vacancies list an LLB or GDL as a requirement, but there are definitely paralegal jobs out there that don’t.
You still need to think about how you can demonstrate to a potential employer that you have an interest in law and that you’ve got what it takes to hack it at a law firm.
Junior roles such as internships, entry-level legal assistants or legal administrators provide exactly the kind of legal experiences that employers are looking for – essentially, it’s paralegal training.
Do you even need a degree?
The Legal Practice Course is a must if you’re hoping to become a solicitor in the future. But did you know that to become a paralegal at some of the UK’s top law firms you might be asked for it too?
Like the GDL, the LPC isn’t cheap. Students tend to spend a year studying it at a cost of between £9,000 to £16,000.
This might seem extortionately expensive, but it does open a lot of doors. Obviously, if you have ambitions to secure a Training Contract you’ll need to take the hit. Many Magic Circle firms would prefer their paralegals to have one too.
What do law firms have to say?
Slaughter and May state clearly that: “A legal background is necessary and most of our paralegals either have a degree in law or a Graduate Diploma in Law qualification. We also usually require our paralegals to have completed the Legal Practice Course (LPC).”
But on the other hand, prestigious firms such as DWF simply require their paralegals to have completed a degree. They explain: “We are seeking candidates with strong academic performance including a 2:1 at degree level, preferably but not necessarily in Law”.
Are there other courses that help you become a paralegal?
CILEx is recognised by employers as a great qualification which makes you especially suitable to paralegal and legal executive roles.
I thought you’d never ask! Ever heard of The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx)? If you haven’t, take notes.
If you don’t have a law degree or GDL you’ll have to take the full CILEx route – that involves the Level 3 qualification (A-level standard) and the Level 6 qualification (which is more like degree standard).
If you’ve already got a qualifying law degree, the CILEx can still be useful to you. It’s definitely a more cost-effective alternative to the LPC and even allows you to practice law without completing a training contract.
Instead, you have to complete a 3 year period of qualifying employment (probably as a paralegal).
The big question: which course is best?
This completely depends on what your ambitions are. There’s no right answer.
If you want to eventually land a Training Contract and become a solicitor, then you should probably complete your LPC. But if you’d prefer to practice law more quickly and save money doing it, then CILEx could be a better option for you. Both qualifications will serve you well in a legal career.
Now the question is: what legal career pathway do you want to follow? To find out more, check out the Jump Academy. Or if you’ve made up your mind, check out the exclusive paralegal jobs available on Jump right now by clicking here.
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