If you are interested in the Paralegal role and have spent some time researching how to get on the right career path, you may already know that there are several different ways of becoming a Paralegal. You might have also learned that there are no minimum requirements for the role, meaning you can become a Paralegal without a degree.
What you might not have yet figured out is the best way for you to become a Paralegal. In this section of the article, we aim to help you answer that question.
One of the most popular ways of becoming a Paralegal is via a Paralegal apprenticeship.
Like other apprenticeships, these courses combine learning with practical work experience to offer a rounded pathway to becoming a Paralegal. As a level 3 qualification, a Paralegal apprenticeship is equivalent to A-levels.
Embarking on a Paralegal apprenticeship, you can expect to support fee earners who will supervise you and provide you with on-the-job training. Better still, you will be paid a salary for the duration of your course and, if you make a good impression, you stand the chance of being employed as a permanent member of staff once your Paralegal apprenticeship is complete.
Becoming a Paralegal via an apprenticeship offers the distinct advantage of having hands-on involvement in real legal work - something that simply cannot be replicated in academic courses.
Paralegal apprentices can expect to:
• Review and draft a range of documents
• Assist with the opening, progression and completion of files
• Carry out legal research
• Communicate with clients
What do I need to become a Paralegal apprentice?
There are no set stipulations for Paralegal apprenticeships, so employers will identify their own entry requirements. At a minimum, employers often look for maths and English GCSEs along with two A-levels, all at grade C or above.
Who is it for?
Paralegal Apprenticeships are ideal for those who learn best through a combination of classroom teaching and practical experience.
Academic Paralegal Courses
There are also several traditional educational pathways which can dramatically improve your chances of having a successful Paralegal career.
Although a university degree is not an essential prerequisite for becoming a Paralegal, as with many careers, it can make you a more employable candidate. Naturally, a law degree will give you a great foundation on which to build your career, but many Paralegals take the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) after studying another non-law subject at undergraduate level. Some then go on to take the Legal Practice Course (LPC), which is traditionally part of the process of becoming a Solicitor.
You can find out more about both the GDL and the LPC in our article on how to become a Solicitor.
The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) also offers several qualifications which will give you a competitive edge when applying for Paralegal jobs. These qualifications are available at a range of levels to suit prospective Paralegals of different educational backgrounds.
Find out more about CILEx Paralegal courses here.
It is also worth considering taking a Paralegal course with a specialist provider such as Central Law Training or the Paralegal College. If you do decide to take this route, make sure that the qualification on offer is recognised by employers. Both of these providers have had their courses approved by our strategic partners at the Institute of Paralegals.
So, to recap, some of the key academic Paralegal qualifications and courses include:
• LLB Law degree
• Another undergraduate degree with the GDL
• CILEx certificates
• Paralegal diploma from a specialist provider
The Institute of Paralegals (IOP) is set to launch the IOP Law School this year with a range of courses that are specialist in nature. These will map to the competency standards and provide direct routes into specialist Paralegal jobs.
Who is it for?
Paralegal training, courses and qualifications like those detailed above are perfect for people who learn best in an academic environment. There are lots of options available, so make sure you do your research to find the right course for you, your learning style and your career goals.
Becoming a Paralegal by Experience
Some Paralegals choose to avoid formal qualifications altogether, instead opting to work their way up from the bottom and becoming a Paralegal by experience.
These Paralegals usually enter the profession at the lowest level, often in an administrative or support role of some kind, before progressing up the career ladder via hard graft and on-the-job learning. If you can make a good impression on your employer and demonstrate your commitment to becoming a Paralegal, they may offer you enhanced training and development opportunities.
Who is it for?
While this route can sometimes take longer than a Paralegal apprenticeship or qualification, it is ideal for school or college leavers who want to dive straight into the world of work.
The Institute of Paralegals offers an Experiential Route for those that have many years of experience working as a Paralegal but do not have the requisite qualifications.