How to become a Paralegal

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Amanda Hamilton, CEO of National Association of Licensed Paralegals
Amanda Hamilton
paralegal job and how to become a paralegal

Paralegals are in more demand than ever before. The current cost of living crisis and the withdrawal of Legal Aid in 2013 hasn’t stopped the need for good legal services, but it has put pressure on wallets and budgets. If you have always dreamed of a career in law, now may be a great time to consider becoming a paralegal. Here’s our guide on how to become a paralegal…

What does a paralegal career look like?

There are plenty of opportunities to work as a Paralegal in a varied number of employer settings. In fact, there is a broader spectrum of jobs available than if you were a solicitor. You can work for a solicitor within their practice, or for a local authority, or a small or larger corporate company. You can even set up your business provided you hold a NALP License to Practice and have professional indemnity insurance (PII).

The first step to become a paralegal

Get qualified. Whilst you don’t need to be qualified, you will find that being qualified will make it far easier for you to get a paralegal job, or even set up your own paralegal practice.

How long do the studies take?

NALP paralegal qualifications are distance learning courses; there is no minimum time. You can do the qualifications as quickly, or as slowly, as your circumstances allow. There are maximum time limits that vary from 12 -24 months, depending on the course. Your ability to learn new skills will probably slow as the time since you were previously studying gets longer, but that isn’t always the case.

If you have not studied since school, then the NALP Level 3 Award is an ideal taster to find out if the subject of studying Law is your thing. It is two units of study, one mandatory and one optional (out of a choice of eight legal subject areas) and should take no longer than four months to complete (although there is an overall period of one year to do so).

If having completed this you decide that you wish to continue, there is a progressive route to a Level 3 Certificate and then a Diploma and then even further to a Level 4 Diploma.

You can find one of our training centres by clicking here.

Reduced risk

Studying to enter the legal industry as a paralegal through the NALP qualifications means you can dip your feet in the water without losing too much time or money.

For those about to leave school and who have a clear idea that they wish to study law, don’t be put off if you (or more likely, your parents) cannot afford university fees; there is a qualification that will, for just a twentieth of the cost of a university degree, give you a full Paralegal Qualification on successful completion.

Likewise, if you are on the verge of graduating with a law degree and are hesitating to book your place on the professional course (either for solicitors or barristers) because of cost or career progression looking bleak, then opting for a Paralegal qualification could be the answer. NALPs Level 7 Diploma is all about converting your theoretical knowledge into practical skills.

Why not become a solicitor instead?

Three reasons:

  1. Cost: it costs a huge amount (>£40,000) to become a solicitor.
  2. Time: a minimum of four years studying is needed.
  3. What you will be doing: there isn’t a huge amount of difference between the two roles, with the exception of reserved activities.

Oh, and another. Becoming a paralegal doesn’t mean you cannot become a solicitor in the future. Being a paralegal gives you real practical experience of working in the legal world. You can then decide if a paralegal career is perfect for you, or you want to take it further.

What is the difference between a paralegal and a solicitor?

Quick answer – not a huge amount. Once you become a Paralegal, you can do almost the same work as a solicitor. There are just a few activities that Paralegals cannot undertake. These are known as ‘Reserved Activities’ and they include: the automatic right to represent a client in court; litigation; conveyancing; signing a grant of probate.

There are plenty of opportunities to work as a Paralegal in a varied number of employer settings. In fact, there is a broader spectrum of jobs available than if you were a solicitor. You can work for a solicitor within their practice, or for a local authority, or a small or larger corporate company. You can even set up your business provided you hold a NALP License to Practice and have professional indemnity insurance (PII).

Becoming a Paralegal is a great career option with plenty of flexibility, opportunities and variety. And since the withdrawal of Legal Aid, Paralegals are in more demand than ever – so there has never been a better time to become a Paralegal.

Start to become a paralegal by clicking here

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Amanda Hamilton, CEO of National Association of Licensed Paralegals
Amanda Hamilton

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