Want a career change or to enter the legal profession? Here's how to become a paralegal

Amanda Hamilton of the National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP) offers practical advice on becoming a paralegal later in your career. 

  • Last updated Aug 15, 2018 2:35:25 PM
  • Amanda Hamilton, NALP

Ever dreamed of a career in law but are worried about the time it takes and the amount it costs to train? Or are you concerned that perhaps it’s too late for you – just that bit ‘too old’ to change career?

It’s no secret that training to become a solicitor or barrister is a costly endeavour; the course fees for an undergraduate degree together with the postgraduate qualifications required can be off-putting. For many people, this is way beyond their financial means and time capabilities. So, what is the alternative if you have a yearning to work in the law?

The good news is that you can now enter the legal sector as a paralegal; fully recognized paralegal qualifications are available online. They start at around £350 for a taster, and can take you all the way through to postgraduate.

The time it will take to complete will vary according to how quickly an individual can assimilate information. If you have not studied since school, then the NALP Level 3 Award is an ideal taster to find out if the subject of studying law is your thing. It is two units of study, one mandatory and one optional (out of a choice of eight legal subject areas) and should take no longer than four months to complete (although there is an overall period of one year to do so).

If, having completed this you decide that you wish to continue, there is a progressive route to a Level 3 Certificate and then a diploma and then even further to a Level 4 diploma. The beauty of going down this route, is that you can dip your feet in the water without losing too much time or money.

For those about to leave school and who have a clear idea that they wish to study law, don’t be put off if you (or more likely, your parents) cannot afford university fees; there is a qualification, that for just a twentieth of the cost of a university degree, which will, on successful completion, give you a full paralegal qualification.

Likewise, if you are on the verge of graduating with a law degree and are hesitating to book your place on the professional course (either for solicitors or barristers) because of cost or career progression looking bleak, then opting for a paralegal qualification could be the answer.

All in all, entering the legal sector has never been easier – and paralegals can do almost the same work as a solicitor. There are just a few activities that paralegals cannot undertake. These are known as ‘reserved activities’ and they include: the automatic right to represent a client in court; litigation; conveyancing; signing a grant of probate.

There are plenty of opportunities to work as a paralegal in a varied number of employer settings. In fact, there is a broader spectrum of jobs available than if you were a solicitor. You can work for a solicitor within their practice, or for a local authority, or a small or larger corporate company. You can even set up your business provided you hold a NALP Licence to Practise or a PPR Practising Certificate, and have professional indemnity insurance (PII).

Training as a paralegal is a great career option with plenty of flexibility, opportunities and variety. And since the withdrawal of legal aid, paralegals are in more demand than ever – so there has never been a better time to choose a career as a paralegal.


Amanda Hamilton is Chief Executive of NALP, a non-profit membership body as well as being the only paralegal body that is recognised as an awarding organisation by Ofqual (the regulator of qualifications in England). Through its training arm, NALP Training, accredited recognised professional paralegal qualifications are offered for a career as a paralegal professional.

See NALP's website and training page.

Twitter: @NALP_UK
Facebook: click here.
LinkedIn -click here.

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