Find out about the various qualifications you can undertake to become a paralegal.
Paralegal work is becoming an increasingly popular option for law graduates as competition for vacation schemes, training contracts and pupillages remains as fierce as ever. Paralegals are often regarded as the ‘backbone of the legal sector’ and there are now routes to qualifying as a solicitor even if a paralegal has not undertaken a qualifying law degree.
However, there are attempts to make the role of the paralegal to be viewed as more of a career in itself as opposed to a stepping stone to qualification or a ‘second-best’ option for those who miss out on training contracts. Enter the National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP). So what does NALP do?
NALP offers membership to the paralegal profession and lobby on behalf of their increasing membership to develop the status and perception of paralegals.
NALP also recognises that there are different levels of paralegal—junior paralegals and senior paralegals carry out very different jobs, but they all need a thorough grounding in the English legal system before they undertake their roles. That’s where NALP qualifications come in.
The Level 3 Award/Certificate/Diploma in Paralegal Practice is aimed toward school leavers, with the diploma allowing students to gain key skills and competencies that are necessary for a paralegal. It’s the benchmark qualification which takes students closer to becoming a professional paralegal.
Another option for A-Level school leavers is the Level 4 Diploma in Paralegal Studies. This would provide you with a good knowledge of the English legal system and procedural law. You can use this as a springboard to launch your paralegal career or specialise further.
NALP also offer a Foundation Degree in Paralegal Practice. This is run in conjunction with the folks at Newcastle College and will provide knowledge of the legal system, procedural law through academic and work-based learning.
You've also got the option of legal apprenticeships including a specific level 3 qualification aimed at aspiring paralegals. More on that here.
Options for graduates
For graduates, there is a Level 7 Post Graduate Diploma in Paralegal Practice, which intends to bridge the gap between an academic degree and the practical and procedural skills necessary for the ‘career paralegal’.
So there we have it, all the recognised qualifications you can get on your journey to becoming a paralegal. Remember, just because paralegals don’t earn as much as solicitors, doesn’t mean it’s an easy job or even easy to get a job as a paralegal—there's still complex problems to deal with on a daily basis and competition is fierce.
Next article: Paralegal salary
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