Gain experience through paralegal work
Just as paramedics are medical personnel but not doctors, paralegals carry out legal work but are not usually solicitors or barristers. They apply and interpret the law and advise on legal points. As such, they work in a huge range of positions from law clerks and insurance claim assessors to company secretaries and trading standards employees. You’ll find them in legal roles in the civil or criminal courts or working within law firms, corporations, professional bodies, government departments, the NHS, the uniformed services or voluntary organisations. Paralegal work requires substantial legal knowledge and may boost your chances of getting a training contract with a law firm.
How paralegal work can help you get a training contract
The brutal fact is that prospective solicitors outnumber the training contracts available and, with student debts and living costs ever escalating, many law graduates find paralegal work to pay the bills. Approached in the right way, it can also enhance your recruitment prospects following your legal practice course (LPC). Like internships or mini-pupillages, it lets you experience working within a legal environment. Within a law firm you are likely to assist solicitors with their caseload and complete administrative tasks such as proofreading documents.
Not only does paralegal work help confirm that law is definitely for you but it also gives you a chance to hone those sought-after skills that are difficult to practise elsewhere – commercial awareness and client-relationship skills, for instance. It also demonstrates your commitment to work in the sector, and is a great networking opportunity. However, it’s worth checking with your preferred firms that they would consider such work favourably.
The requirements for paralegal work
In theory paralegals require no formal legal training. But increasingly recruiters are requesting a legal academic background; in fact, some law firms only consider paralegals who have completed the legal practice course.
Be warned also that some positions require previous experience, so it’s worth taking the time to find the right position for you. Put as much thought into these applications as you would when applying for your training contract – ensure that you meet the stated requirements and offer something more; you never know where it might lead.