Paralegal Careers FAQ
I have gained my NALP qualification. Where do I go from here?
Think about what you like to do in your career and where do you want to go with your qualification. Do you want to work for yourself? Do you want to work in-house in a legal department?
Think about things you enjoy doing in your spare time. Is it arts, sports or maybe something else? Why don’t you find a job in this area? If you are an art fan – check for paralegal positions in production companies, museums and theaters. Like playing football? – look for a paralegal position in a Premiership club.
What can I or can’t I do with my qualification?
Other than reserved activities (see for more information below) as a paralegal you can do anything that a solicitor can do. In a nutshell, it is:
- Represent clients in a small claims court and most tribunals. Examples include Employment Tribunals, rates and rent Tribunals, straight forward personal injury actions, debts etc.
- Assist clients through a Civil litigation process: i.e. helping them to complete court forms, etc. family and child law matters, consumer law, employment law, contract law, housing, landlord & tenant and many more.
- Assistance and guidance in all areas except conveyancing (reserved instrument activity) and immigration (regulated by the OISC)
The list of reserved activities includes:
- the exercise of a right of audience;
- the conduct of litigation;
- reserved instrument activities;
- probate activities;
- notarial activities and
- the administration of oaths.
Why don’t solicitors seem to accept NALP qualifications?
Solicitors will automatically presume that a paralegal is a law graduate who can’t find a training contract but wants to be a solicitor, as opposed to someone who wants to be a paralegal practitioner in their own right. Even a NALP Level 7 qualification may not be acceptable for a law firm.
This is because there’s such an overflow of law graduates that solicitors don’t have to look elsewhere to find a paralegal for their firm. They won’t consider that paralegal is anyone else apart from a law graduate. This is the mindset we at NALP are changing gradually and that’s the reason why we suggest that you should initially look outside of the legal sector for paralegal work.
On the upside, NALP qualifications are accepted by other organizations such as Which? Legal Services, Co-operative Legal Services and others. Some, like Shell Oil, even request a NALP qualification. A Solicitor’s firm is just one of many possible employers of paralegals but there are plenty of other employers of paralegals that will welcome you with the open arms if you have a NALP qualification.
How do I go about finding work?
First, ascertain in what environment you wish to work. If you have an interest in the criminal law – approach the Crown Prosecution Service. Or, if you have an interest in fashion then why not approach fashion houses or retailers such as Gap, Next or other big fashion organisations, all of which will have an element of legality to what they do.
There are plenty of online resources that offer paralegal positions but most of them represent recruiters hiring for law firms, so bear in mind what has already been said about solicitors (above) before approaching them.
It is best to approach HR departments of the organisations that you are interested in. Follow them on LinkedIn, apply for jobs when you see them advertised. Find out who is the person responsible for hiring (it could be an HR person or an in-house lawyer) and approach them. It’s a good idea to try and schedule a face-to-face appointment with them if you can.
Do I need to take any other qualifications?
Everyone is different. Some people take qualifications because they want to validate their current knowledge and experience, others want to change a career.
Whether you need to take any further qualification depends on what you already have under your belt. If you have completed a NALP Level 3, you can do a NALP Level 4, but you don’t necessarily need a NALP Level 7 as it is for English law graduates only.
Level 3 is an entry-level qualification – it’s like A levels. A lot of organisations will require a Level 3 qualification.
If you have a Level 3 Award (this is just 2 units of study), you would need a Level 3 Certificate or Diploma before you could jump to Level 4. The difference between the Level 3 Certificate and Level 3 Diploma is the number of units completed.
To successfully get your level 4 Diploma you need to complete 10 units of study. Level 4 is similar to completing 1 year of a Law degree at a university.
At NALP we don’t currently have Level 5 or Level 6 qualifications but we are working to develop them at the moment.
A NALP Level 7 is developed for English law graduates to give them a paralegal qualification in practice and procedure.
Why do I need a NALP qualification?
In theory, you don’t. This is because the Paralegal Profession is unregulated and anyone could potentially refer to themselves as a ‘paralegal’ whether or not they are members of a professional body or whether or not they have qualifications. However, in practice, you do need a qualification and NALP qualifications are the only nationally recognised and regulated paralegal qualifications in England. Being qualified through NALP will give you confidence, and, more importantly, will give confidence to your clients or prospective employers.
You need to be able to be competent in any area of law in which you practice and gaining a NALP qualification will enable you to gain that competency.
In addition, becoming a member of a Paralegal membership body such as NALP, you will benefit from the knowledge that NALP has a good reputation within the legal sector. As a benefit of NALP Membership, you have the right to be on the National Paralegal Register, thereby giving you a much higher chance of securing a job offer or attracting clients.
The decision to enroll for a paralegal qualification is ultimately up to you as an individual. However, the Paralegal sector is undergoing changes and in order to increase professionalism, it is NALP’s recommendation that any Paralegal Practitioner wishing to offer legal services to consumers, should gain a NALP License to Practice (which is subject to evidence of qualifications/experience) in order to do so, and this cannot be granted without having professional Indemnity Insurance. For this reason, as an added benefit to our members, we have a broker that can offer bespoke quotes to NALP members.