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Paralegal



Paralegals are employed on either temporary or permanent contracts. Paralegals often undertake a wide range of tasks and are generally recruited into specific departments. The work a paralegal undertakes can vary from legal research to proofreading legal documents, drafting and preparing agreements and organising trial bundles. Paralegals at some firms will do similar work to trainees, but much of the work will largely revolve around due diligence and elements of investigation and discovery, document management; involving heavy administrative duties and logistical tasks, such as filing documents, photocopying, facilitating efficiency and providing support for lawyers during transactions.

Becoming a paralegal is a good way of getting the type of legal experience that will help you decide whether you are suited to a career in law, and the experience at a law firm will add value to your CV by increasing your marketability to prospective future employers. Students who do not manage to secure a training contract by the end of their studies could perhaps consider working as a paralegal as well. You may consider this as a way to use and develop your legal skills and find out if you really enjoy a particular area of the law.

It is not uncommon for people who have worked as paralegals to be subsequently offered training contracts at the law firm where they work. At some of the largest city firms, we came across a number of trainees and associates who managed to get themselves noticed by impressing some of the partners they had undertaken work for while working as paralegals. If you decide to apply to a firm where you are "paralegalling", the firm will still require you to apply through the standard channels, i.e. application form, assessment day, case study and interview.

A word of warning; becoming a paralegal is a not a panacea to securing a training contract. We spoke to some paralegals that had been rejected for trainee positions at their firms, due to the firm's policy of not recruiting paralegals from within the firm's ranks. The onus on the student wanting to apply for a training contract through paralegal work experience is to research the prospects of eventually becoming a trainee at the firm first, so that accepting a job offer does not necessarily frustrate or delay your ambition to qualify as a solicitor.

Some people enjoy their role as paralegals a great deal and decide to make it their long-term career. Paralegals in large City and US firms earn good salaries and have good opportunities to work overtime at an increased rate of pay. If you decide to paralegal as a possible career option, acquiring work experience is the key to boosting your prospects of employment.

Paralegals are usually required to be law graduates (or those who have converted to law) who have also completed the Legal Practice Course (LPC) or Bar Vocational Course (BVC). The National Association of Paralegals also offers a post graduate diploma in paralegal practice, which is a formal paralegal qualification. You should carefully research the paralegal qualifications available and speak to recruiters first in order to get an informed and balanced view before deciding whether to undertake a formal paralegal qualification.

 

Our Top Tip: You can apply to firms who take on paralegals through speculative applications or through recruitment agencies. If you decide to make speculative applications, ensure that you find out the name of the person who deals with paralegal recruitment before applying. In addition, there are numerous paralegal agencies who will register suitable candidates.


 

  • Please contact Hannah Jackson, a senior recruitment consultant at Hays Legal specialising in placing paralegals if you are interested to find out more about the opportunities currently available in the market. Hannah.Jackson@hays.com