If you are wondering how to become a paralegal, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning careers within the legal profession, as well as law job prospects in the UK.

    The Job Description
    Paralegals carry out legal work in a wide range of organisations, although they are not fully-qualified solicitors or barristers. Examples of places they could work include:

    law firms, supporting solicitors (usually specialising in one area of law such as probate or family law)
    the public or ‘not-for-profit’ sector, for example as an advice worker or caseworker in a Citizens Advice Bureau, charity or trade union
    civil and criminal courts, police forces and enforcement bodies like Trading Standards
    commercial businesses, advising on business law or managing contracts.
    Your exact duties as a paralegal would vary depending your employer, but your work would often involve:

    preparing legal documents
    interviewing clients and witnesses
    attending court
    handling a caseload of clients
    giving legal information to clients
    typing, filing and other general clerical tasks.
    With experience, you might eventually carry out most of the work that a solicitor does.

    Person Specification
    The key personal attributes of good paralegal include:

    excellent spoken and written communication skills
    patience and tact, to be able to work with all kinds of client
    the ability to take in large amounts of complex information
    a high level of accuracy and attention to detail
    research skills
    the ability to work under pressure and meet deadlines
    good organisational and time management skills
    computer and administration skills
    respect for confidential information.

    How to become a paralegal
    The entry requirements for becoming a paralegal can vary between employers. You will need a good standard of general education and a good understanding of the law and the legal system, which you would usually prove by having:

    a law degree
    a HNC/HND or foundation degree in law or legal studies
    relevant work experience in a legal setting
    a paralegal qualification from the Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX) Paralegal Programmes, the National Association of Licensed Paralegals or the Institute of Paralegals.
    Some employers may ask for at least a class 2:2 law degree or a postgraduate law qualification. Some may even prefer you to be a trained solicitor or barrister with the Legal Practice Course (LPC) or the Bar Vocational Course (BVC) – many law graduates take jobs as paralegals if they have not yet found a solicitor’s training contract or barrister’s pupillage. (See the Solicitor and Barrister profiles for more information).

    If you do not have a law qualification, you could start as an administrator in a law firm and study for paralegal qualifications whilst you are working.

    Training and Development
    You will usually be trained on the job by your employer, for example in company procedures, case management systems or in-depth training in a particular area of law. You can also study for paralegal qualifications whilst you are working, from any of the following organisations:

    ILEX Paralegal Programmes
    National Association of Licensed Paralegals
    Institute of Paralegals.
    ILEX Paralegal Programmes (with City and Guilds) offers:
    Level 2 Certificate in Vocational Paralegal Studies
    Level 3 Diploma in Vocational Paralegal Studies.
    The National Association of Licensed Paralegals offers:
    Higher Certificate in Paralegal Studies
    Post Graduate Diploma in Paralegal Practice (PPC) – for law graduates who want to progress as a paralegal and do not wish to qualify as a solicitor or barrister.
    The Institute of Paralegals offers:

    Legal Practitioners’ Qualification: Foundation Course
    Edexcel Level 2 and Level 3 Awards in Law and Legal Work.
    You can normally study for each organisation’s courses by distance learning, or part-time at some local colleges. Check the websites (in Further Information) for more details on the qualifications and where to study.

    If you are working in a legal setting, you could also choose to study a part-time foundation degree in law or legal studies, which are offered at several colleges and universities. For information about foundation degrees, see Foundation Degree Forward.

    At the moment there are no rules about what qualifications and training a paralegal must have. However, the National Association of Licensed Paralegals and the Institute of Paralegals both offer professional recognition and ongoing training to members.

    The Pay (a rough guide)
    Starting salaries are usually between £16,000 and £25,000 a year
    With experience this can rise to up to £40,000
    Top salaries in large law firms can reach £70,000 a year.

    Job Prospects
    You could work as a paralegal for many kinds of organisation, including law firms, commercial businesses, local government, public bodies, or for the police, courts or probation service.
    Jobs may be advertised in the local press, at Jobcentre Plus or by specialist legal recruitment websites and agencies.

    With experience and further study, you could qualify as a legal executive and eventually as a solicitor. If you have already achieved the Legal Practice Course (LPC), some law firms may offer you a training contract to allow you qualify as a solicitor.

    Useful legal resources:
    Institute of Paralegals
    2nd Floor, Berkeley Square House
    Berkeley Square
    W1J 6BD
    Tel: 0870 243 2308

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