What is a Paralegal? Is it Right for Me?
*UPDATED April 2019*
Are you interested in finding out more about a paralegal career? Want to know more about the role of a paralegal, what they earn and what qualifications you need to practice as a paralegal? Look no further!
This page contains everything you need to find out more about the ins and outs of the paralegal world.
What is a Paralegal?
A paralegal undertakes a wide variety of administrative and legal work. They provide support to solicitors, barristers and/or chartered legal executives and are often Associate members of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx). This is a legal role that requires an essential knowledge of law and legal matters, but is not a qualified lawyer.
A paralegal role is to support lawyers in their work and can be specialised in a specific branch of the law for example:
What does a Paralegal do?
Now you have a basic understanding of what paralegal means, let’s now look briefly at what a paralegal does. Typically, paralegals are employed in law firms to work in a specialised department. Their duties will vary depending on the department. However, a paralegal’s work may involve some of the following tasks:
- Legal research
- Project management
- Document management
- Drafting basic legal documents
- Administrative support
- Client care and client progression
Do you want to pursue a paralegal career? Find out more about the steps to becoming a paralegal in our guide.
What skill-sets suit a Paralegal career?
You need a wide range of skills to become a paralegal. Do the following skill-sets sound like you?
- Good organisation skills – this is the main attribute that will serve you well!
- Good communication skills
- A passion for law
- An eye for detail
- Teamwork – often you will be required to work in teams
- Research competency
- Analytical skills
- Ability to work effectively under pressure – you’ll often have tight deadlines
What Qualifications do I need to become a Paralegal?
Although there are no official qualifications needed to become a paralegal, you will want to consider carefully what you study.
In such a competitive environment, it is beneficial if you have:
- Past legal experience in the area of law you wish to practise in (e.g. banking and finance, employment, litigation and so on)
- Studied these relevant areas of law and have shown an academic interest
Do I need a degree to become a Paralegal?
Although you do not technically need a degree to become a paralegal, it may be beneficial considering the competitive nature of the career path.
Due to the popularity of paralegal positions, most law firms require as a minimum a 2.2 (and sometimes even a 2:1) in a qualifying law degree. Alternatively, a similar result in a non-law degree supplemented with a pass on a law conversion course such as the GDL is acceptable.
Recently, an increasing number of law firms also require the LPC as a postgraduate qualification too. A legal background is a real advantage and so completing this is ideal to get ahead.
In light of this, paralegal work is becoming increasingly popular amongst LPC and BPTC graduates. This is in part due to the fact that there are an increasing number of students finishing LPC and BPTC courses who have not yet secured a training contract or pupillage respectively. Undertaking such work is a great way for such individuals to:
- Build legal experience
- Reinforce their CV / work experience credentials
- Keep in the ‘legal loop’
- Network from the ground making vital contacts which could eventually lead to further training opportunities, such as a training contract (some law firms even advertise on this basis)
Another option is to enrol on a paralegal apprenticeship. These are for school leavers with good academic records and strong A-Levels who wish to complete paralegal training within a law firm rather than through a degree, GDL or LPC. The government Trailblazer scheme is one such option.
Take our quiz to decide if an apprenticeship is the right route for you.
What areas can I specialise in as a Paralegal?
There are many areas that a paralegal can specialise in, but here are a few to get you started:
- Family Law
- Criminal Defence Law
- Real Estate Law
- Corporate Law
- Intellectual Property Law
- Estate Planning and Probate Law
What is the Paralegal Salary?
Entry level graduate salaries for paralegals tend to range from £14,000 to £25,000, rising to up to £40,000 with experience. Of course, the salary range for paralegals differs with the area of practice and law firm concerned.
What’s the difference between a paralegal and a legal assistant?
Whilst both do basic legal research and are sometimes used interchangeably, there are a couple of differences – paralegals tend to have university degrees, more involvement with cases and higher salaries.
How to become a Paralegal
Take a look at our step-by-step guide to becoming a paralegal.
Paralegal Case Study – Life as a Paralegal
We caught up with Amy, a paralegal in the dispute resolution department at Farrer & Co, about her life as a paralegal. Amy discusses the highs and the lows of the job along with some top tips for success. You can also read our blog about paralegal duties in China.
Where can I get further help?
You can join our Facebook Help group for more information around Paralegal careers here!