Gaining Work Experience as a Paralegal
As we mentioned in a previous article, there is a huge amount of competition (almost 100 applicants per place) for solicitor training contracts this year. This is due to the increasing number of students completing LPC courses (14,510 LPC places in 2011) compared to just 4,874 new training contracts.
Due to the high training costs of £10,000-£20,000 for becoming a solicitor or barrister, this puts huge pressure on the individuals unable to get a training contract after they finish their LPC.
Because of this pressure (and the requirement for law students to apply for training contracts two years before it starts), many individuals choose to fill the void by becoming paralegals. The main advantages of becoming a paralegal are that you can earn a salary to pay back your student loans, gain experience working in a legal firm and increase your chances of gaining a training contract at another law firm the following year.
What are Salaries for Paralegals?
According to the Institute of Paralegals, you should expect an entry-level salary of £14,000-£22,000 as a non-graduate and £18,000-£25,000 as a graduate. This figure will typically rise with your level of experience, for example some firms pay up to £55,000 to paralegals.
Do I Need any Qualifications to become a Paralegal?
Strictly speaking, no qualifications are necessary to become a paralegal. You become a paralegal by being a paralegal.
However, many law firms in the UK require students applying for paralegal positions to already have an LPC. One of the reasons is that law firms know there is an over supply of LPC students without training contracts. The other reason is that most practical aspects of the job (such as filing, legal research and drafting legal contracts) will require the knowledge and experience of an LPC degree.
- Organizational skills
- Research skills
- Good communication skills
- IT skills
- Ability to work under pressure and to deadlines
Is Paralegal Experience Better than a Vacation Scheme?
Probably not. Even though being a paralegal at a law firm adds great experience to your CV it is by no way a guarantee that you’ll be offered a training contract by the end of the year (in fact some law firms prohibit giving training contracts to paralegals in order to discourage them lobbying partners).
On the other hand, big city law firms that offer vacation schemes generally do so with the intention of offering a training contract at the end of it, which I guess is what becoming a lawyer is all about.
What’s it like to work as a paralegal?
Most paralegals find their job interesting and rewarding. Working within a legal firm gives individuals a better knowledge and understanding of the industry. You’ll also get close to handling paperwork, meeting clients and preparing casework and working closely with solicitors.