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What is a Paralegal? Is it Right for Me?

*UPDATED April 2019*

Are you interested in finding out more about becoming a paralegal? Want to know more about the role, what qualifications you need to practice and what you could potentially earn? 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 solicitorsbarristers 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? 

If you’re intent on becoming a paralegal, let’s look briefly at what a paralegal does. Typically, they’re 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: 

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 an aspiring Paralegal?

You need a wide range of skills to become a paralegal. Do the following skill-sets sound like you?

What Qualifications do I need?

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:

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, this kind of 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:

Paralegal Apprenticeships

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?

There are many areas that a paralegal can specialise in, but here are a few to get you started:

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 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!

Read more about becoming a paralegal:

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