What is a paralegal?
Paralegals are law professionals who work alongside solicitors and barristers. They support other legal professionals, working in various law firms in the private or public sectors. They’re highly valued members of a legal team with extensive knowledge of legal matters but are not qualified lawyers. Many paralegals work towards becoming a solicitor in a specific area of law.
Most of the work is office based, although you may also assist in the preparation for court cases and attend meetings with clients
What does a paralegal do?
Paralegals carry out various legal tasks and services that vary depending on their area of specialisation. There are a number of areas that a paralegal can specialise in including
- Family law
- Employment law
- Criminal and litigation
- Personal injury
- Corporate law
- Real estate law
A paralegal’s day-to-day responsibilities can be varied and change from firm to firm and case to case but typical duties may include:
- Drafting, preparing and proofreading legal documents
- Conducting legal research
- Assisting in preparation for court cases
- Providing quotes to clients
- Interviewing clients and witnesses
- Going to court and handling a caseload of clients
What skills are needed to become a paralegal?
Paralegals are highly valued legal team members with extensive knowledge of the law and legal matters. Other skills include:
- A flexible and adaptable approach to work
- The desire to develop a career in law
- Commercial awareness and an understanding of clients’ needs
- Excellent written and verbal skills
- Excellent attention to detail to analyse files and data
- The ability to work well under pressure and meet tight deadlines
- Teamwork to work with different departments
What qualifications are required to become a paralegal?
As Paralegals can offer legal assistance, they must be educated and trained in legal systems and procedures to be able to perform legal tasks. There are no specific entry requirements or qualifications but many employers look for recognised Paralegal training and qualifications, such as:
- NALP Paralegal practice award, certificate, diploma
- Postgraduate paralegal diploma
- a Law Degree
- An award in legal studies
- Legal secretary certificate or diploma
Steps to become a paralegal:
Step 1: Study at university
Most law firms will require a minimum 2:2 in a qualifying law degree or a similar result in a non-law degree with a pass on a law conversion course such as the GDL. Recently, many law firms also require the LPC as a postgraduate qualification.
Step 2: Gain work experience
Due to the highly competitive nature of the law industry, it is beneficial to show experience and interest by completing work internships or placements. Typically, employers look for candidates with 6 months of experience. Volunteering and pro bono work also show that a person is motivated and has used initiative.
Step 3: Apply for roles
You can apply for a paralegal role in a range of organisations including, small, niche, mid and large-sized law firms, in-house legal teams or commercial law firms. You’ll need to make sure your skills in law are up to date through professional development. Becoming a member of the Insitute of Paralegals (IoP) provides access to networking opportunities, training and events.
How much do Paralegals earn in the UK?
Graduate entry-level paralegals can expect to earn an average of £23,000. As you gain more experience and responsibility, you can expect a salary between £30,000 to £40,000. Salaries vary depending on experience, location and the area of law you work in, for example, paralegals in London would expect to earn more than other areas in the UK.