If you’re pondering a career in law, becoming a paralegal can be an excellent starting point in your law career. In this blog, we explore how you can kickstart your legal career, what qualifications you may need, the daily tasks you’ll undertake and how being a paralegal can allow you to progress to more advanced positions later on.
Education and Training
A solid educational foundation works heavily in your favour. Typically a minimum of five GCSEs (9-4 grades) or equivalent is a good starting point. When moving on to higher education, aim to pursue legal courses if available, but A-Levels in English, History, Politics and Economics can also be beneficial. Paralegal advanced apprenticeships are also available across the country and typically take 24 months to complete with a mixture of workplace learning and study. Employers usually set their entry requirements for this, so be sure to touch base with legal firms to ensure they accept apprentices before pursuing this route.
The most common way to become a paralegal is to complete a law degree at a university. Most universities across the UK provide law courses but there’s often a lot of competition for places, so high grades are essential to meet the entry requirements. Even if you’re a mature student, you’re hopes of becoming a paralegal are not dashed! Explore Open University for Law Courses, which allow you to work full time and study when convenient.
Work as an Admin Assistant
Many aspiring paralegals begin as admin assistants in legal practices. This role provides valuable exposure to law firm operations and allows you to learn from solicitors and experienced paralegals. You’ll be able to gain insights into the legal field and the intricacies of specific areas of law, which can help you find an area of law that you’re passionate about. The National Association of Licenced Paralegals and the Institute of Paralegals are great avenues to explore when aiming to become a paralegal.
Paralegals assist solicitors in tasks such as drafting legal documents, conducting legal research, interviewing clients, managing case files, maintaining records, and ensuring all documents are up to date. Effective client interaction is a key part of their role, along with submitting legal documents to courts and corresponding with court staff.
Skills and Day-to-Day Tasks
Strong research abilities to gather information relevant to cases is paramount in becoming a paralegal. You’ll need effective written and verbal communication for liaising with clients and drafting legal documents, good admin skills, legal knowledge of court procedures and government regulation and be able to stay organised to manage case files, deadlines, and documentation. Familiarise yourself with legal software used in law firms to maximise your workload and stay up to date with any changes or new laws that are introduced.
In terms of your tasks, your main priorities will be to conduct extensive research and draft legal documents for your legal field. You’ll manage data, handle confidential client information, interview clients and witnesses, appear in court and handle a caseload of clients.
Path to Progression
Once you’re a qualified paralegal, there are many ways to progress further in your career. Consider specialising in a particular area of law, such as family law, criminal law, or corporate law, and gain more experience and knowledge in those fields. You may have opportunities to advance your career as a senior paralegal, legal executive, or even a solicitor with further education, which many firms offer whilst on the job.
Embarking on a career as a paralegal can be a fulfilling journey into the legal world. It’s an opportunity to learn, grow, and make a valuable contribution to the field of law. Whether you’re starting as an admin assistant or seeking formal training, your determination and dedication will be your key to success in this rewarding profession. If you’ve secured your qualifications and are looking for a Plymouth-based legal firm, check out our recruitment page for roles that may be suitable for you.