Paralegal Work As A Gateway To Becoming A Solicitor
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Paralegal Work As A Gateway To Becoming A Solicitor

Paralegal Work As A Gateway To Becoming A Solicitor. Hello everyone, I hope you are well. In today’s post, I will be sharing a guest post from Amanda Hamilton, Patron of the National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP). Amanda will explore whether being a paralegal is a sensible stepping stone to becoming a solicitor. Although being a paralegal is a rewarding career in its own right, some paralegals decide to take additional training to become solicitors. So, is this a good route to becoming a solicitor?

Paralegal Work As A Gateway To Becoming A Solicitor

Can working as a paralegal be a stepping stone to being a solicitor?

The short answer is yes. Working in the legal sector as a paralegal can count towards your two years’ qualifying work experience should you wish to take your SQE (Solicitors’ Qualifying Examination).

The slightly longer answer is that it doesn’t have to be. Working as a paralegal practitioner can be just as rewarding as being a solicitor and allows you to do much of the same work as your solicitor colleagues.

So, How Do You Transition From Working As A Paralegal To Qualifying As A Solicitor?

This depends very much on whether or not you have a qualifying law degree or a degree in another discipline (or equivalent, such as an Ofqual Level 6 qualification).

If you have a qualifying law degree, there are currently two routes to qualifying as a solicitor. The first is to apply to complete the Legal Practice Course (LPC), which can cost between £12,000 – £17,000, depending on which training provider offers. The second is to go through the Solicitors’ Qualifying Route (SQE), which is far less costly. The SQE1 and SQE2 exams cost a total of just under £4,000. Still, preparing for these two courses can cost approximately £6,000, or approximately £10,000 (subject to any possible discounts). It is hoped that the LPC will be replaced eventually by the SQE.

Suppose you have a degree in another discipline. In that case, the routes to qualifying are twofold: first, you could apply for a postgraduate diploma in law (PGDL), a one-year law conversion course that costs between £7,000 and £13,000; once completed, you do the LPC as above. The alternative is to go straight into the SQE1 and SQE2. The latter route is far less costly than completing the PGDL and LPC, which can cost up to £30,000.

The Next Step

The next step is to complete two years of qualifying experience, including any time you have worked as a paralegal. The final step is to pass the SRA’s character and suitability test before being admitted to the solicitors’ roll.

Suppose you intend to qualify as a solicitor. In that case, working as a paralegal and gaining qualifying experience is just as essential as completing the SQE (Solicitors’ Qualifying Examination) as it opens up options. So, starting your legal career as a paralegal is a great way to gain experience while earning a living, and if you choose to, it can also be a stepping stone to becoming a solicitor. Choosing a paralegal career is a great option if you don’t fancy being a solicitor but still like to work within the law.

Alternatively, if you’d prefer not to work within the legal sector, there are plenty of opportunities in other sectors to use your paralegal skills.

A Wide Variety Of Jobs

Most organisations will have an element of legality in what they do and will always need someone with paralegal skills to assist them. For example, a few years ago, Jimmy Choo Shoes advertised for a NALP-qualified paralegal to work in their legal department. The possibilities of gaining a glam job are endless: working with a premiership football club, working with one of the big oil companies, or working in retail or car manufacturing companies. The list is endless.

A Profession In Its Own Right

With the virtual eradication of legal aid some ten years ago, consumers are increasingly required to gain access to justice at a reasonable cost. Paralegal practitioners can fill that gap simply because many solicitors will not wish to take on work at the ‘bottom’ end of the scale. Examples would be an individual who requires assistance to collect a ‘small claim’ debt, needs help to complete forms after someone has died, or even need advice on taking an individual to court for breaching a contract. These matters are essential to a consumer without specific knowledge of the law. Still, they may not come within the scope of the cases that a solicitor will want to assist with nor in which they can afford to involve themselves.

Working as a paralegal practitioner is now considered a profession in its own right. Paralegals carry out work that used to be completed by solicitors before 2013. Without professional paralegals stepping in, most consumers would resort to free advice and assistance offered by solicitors/barristers offering ‘pro-bono’ work (offering services for free) or organisations such as Citizens’ Advice and others. Alternatively, they could put their hands in their pockets to pay for a solicitor.

A Paralegal Practitioner can offer assistance at approximately one-tenth of the fees a solicitor may charge for the same job. We are talking about the difference between paying £200-£500 per hour (depending on seniority, location in the UK, and nature of the case), which is definitely outside the scope of most consumers, and £20-£80 per hour, which is what a paralegal may charge.

But There Must Be A Downside To Working As An Independent Paralegal Practitioner?

The only potential downside is that there are rules relating to what a paralegal can and cannot do. Reserved activities are specified in The Legal Services Act 2007, which can only be practised by authorised individuals such as solicitors or barristers. Paralegals cannot undertake these activities.

So What Are The ‘Reserved Activities’ That Paralegals Cannot Undertake?

There are two main reserved activities that affect paralegals. The first is ‘Conducting litigation,’ which only solicitors can do. This effectively means that paralegals cannot act as agents for their clients; paralegals must not issue proceedings, receive, or sign documents on behalf of clients, but they can assist clients in completing forms as long as all documents are signed and served by the clients themselves.

The second is that there is no right to audience, meaning that a paralegal does not have the automatic right to represent a client and address the court on a client’s behalf. Nor can they call or examine witnesses. However, there is nothing preventing a paralegal from requesting the judge to grant the right, but this will only be given at the judge’s discretion, which may depend on the circumstances of the case. If not granted, then the paralegal can assist the client in doing this themselves.

There are four other reserved activities: conveyancing, probate and notarial activities, and administration of oaths. Any paralegal practitioner should know and understand these and how they may restrict their business.

‘Holding Out’

Although paralegals do much of the same work as solicitors, it is important that they never claim or imply that they are solicitors. This is called ‘holding out’ and means that a paralegal must never imply that they are anything other than a paralegal practitioner. Even referring to themselves using the term ‘lawyer’ can be misunderstood by a consumer to mean ‘solicitor’ even though it may not be technically wrong to refer to themselves as such.

In Conclusion

Working as a paralegal in the legal sector can be a stepping stone to qualification as a solicitor. If you wish to pursue this path, you can take SQE Prep courses with an organisation such as BARBRI to help you prepare for SQE 1 and 2.

Alternatively, three years of paralegal work will count towards the relevant legal experience required to apply for a NALP Licence to Practise, and you can set up on your own as a Professional Paralegal Practitioner (subject to evidence of competency in the areas in which you wish to practise and to gain professional indemnity insurance). The bonus is that, as a paralegal, you can work in various sectors, not just the legal profession. From local government to fashion, football to property, charities to defence – all these sectors are open to you as a paralegal.

I hope you enjoyed that.

Talk soon

About The Author

Amanda Hamilton is the Patron of the National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP), a non-profit membership body and the only paralegal body recognised as an awarding organisation by Ofqual (the regulator of qualifications in England). Through its centres around the country, accredited and recognised professional paralegal qualifications are offered to those looking for a career as a paralegal professional.

Web: https://www.nationalparalegals.co.uk
Twitter: @NALP_UK
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NationalAssocationsofLicensedParalegals/
LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/company/national-association-of-licensed-paralegals/

 

Working with Strong women, I help empower women not to give up on their goals and find true happiness within themselves. #lifestyle #womenempowerment #selfcare

7 Comments

  • Clarice

    This is good to know. I haven’t really explored this career path but I think it pays great and must be considered. Thank you for sharing this.

    I definitely learned something new today especially about the reserved activities that paralegals can’t undertake.

  • Catherine Kay

    Great post on Learning how paralegal work can be your stepping stone to becoming a solicitor. This post simplifies the journey, making it accessible and inspiring for aspiring legal professionals.

  • Stephanie

    Great information in this article for individuals considering moving from a paralegal to a solicitor. Thanks for all the research.

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