Did you know that a traditional university law degree is not the only way to get a position in the legal industry? If you’re particularly interested in becoming a paralegal, a paralegal apprenticeship might be the most suitable alternative route for you. Keep reading for everything you need to know about this exciting route into the law.
In general, paralegal apprenticeships are aimed at school leavers and those seeking an alternative to university.
For example, CILEx aims its programme at school leavers with a minimum of five GCSEs from A*-C/9-4 including English and Maths and three Cs at A-Level and a good level of written English.
Whilst most legal employers that run their own paralegal apprenticeship programmes have similar eligibility criteria, they might have their own requirements in addition to or separate from the above. So it’s always worth checking the firm you are interested in for specific conditions.
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Generally, paralegal apprenticeships last two years and allow aspiring paralegals to gain the kind of experience and education needed to begin their legal careers as paralegals. There are two parts to a legal apprenticeship:
Most paralegal apprenticeships involve the study of at least three of the following: law and practice, legal research and client care.
This generally entails some form of employment in a department within a law firm. Typically, apprentices work under the supervision of a mentor or mentors and can work varying hours depending on the firm employing them and apprenticeship scheme.
The type of work you may find yourself carrying out as a paralegal apprentice includes tasks such as drafting legal documents, communicating and corresponding with clients, legal research and perhaps even a case load. It is important to note, though, that your specific role as an apprentice does depend on the department you’re put in.
After successful completion of your apprenticeship and the relevant assessments you will be able to work as a qualified paralegal. The specific type of qualification you will receive will depend on your employer and/or apprenticeship study provider.
The assessment method depends on the provider with which you undergo your paralegal apprenticeship. However, throughout the two-year programme there will be several formal written assessments and examinations you must pass as well as a requirement to collate a portfolio of evidence of your competency as a paralegal built up throughout your time working in your department.
CILEx paralegal apprenticeships finish with something called an End Point Assessment which takes place in the final months of your apprenticeship. This assessment can include some final examinations but the last stage of your programme before completion will usually be an interview. During this, you will present your evidence portfolio to support that you understand paralegal standards.
Once you have completed a paralegal apprenticeship you are in the perfect position to begin a career as a paralegal in your chosen legal area. Many apprentices seek to continue their employment in the firm they began their apprenticeship in, and the good news is that law firms are often keen to continue their professional relationship with these paralegals and employ them on a full-time basis.
If you want to take your career to the next level, you might want to continue studying. You can use your paralegal apprenticeship as a stepping stone to qualifying as a chartered legal executive or even a solicitor as your initial qualification may contribute to or exempt you from certain elements of those apprenticeship options. For example, the period of study in a solicitor apprenticeship is reduced for those who have progressed from other legal apprenticeships.
Apprentices who are 19 at the time of starting are entitled to a basic rate of £4.15 per hour. This rate increases depending on your age and which stage you’re at in the apprenticeship.
However, the answer to this really does depend, as individual legal employers often have specific pay and benefits packages for their apprentices. For example, in the apprenticeship programme offered by Irwin Mitchell, paralegal apprentices will earn a starting salary of £17,000 (£20,020 in London) and receive a range of employee benefits.
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