Nov 23, 2021

Written By Jack Medforth

How hard is it to become a paralegal?

Nov 23, 2021

Written By Jack Medforth

When looking for a new job it can be hard to know how difficult the application process is and the chances of success. Here, we will take a look at the role of a paralegal before discussing where to look for opportunities and how hard it is to become one.  

What is a paralegal?

Paralegals usually work within legal firms and can have a wide range of duties. Their tasks can range from administrative and secretarial duties to legal research and client contact. The level of responsibility that paralegals have is just as varied, ranging from firm to firm and in relation to professional experience. 

 

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Why become a paralegal?

Working as a paralegal can be a great option for those on the path to becoming lawyers but equally a fulfilling career on its own. Furthermore, the skills developed in the role - such as administrative competence, legal knowledge and client interaction skills - are highly transferable to a huge range of other roles should you want to switch careers later.

It is also important to note, particularly for those on the path to becoming a solicitor, that firms often employ paralegals with a view to offering training contracts later on, using the time to assess the candidate’s suitability for their firm. Even if this is not officially stated in the paralegal role description, the impression you make could be enough to influence the firm’s decision if you later apply for a training contract.

 

Where to look?

The first step is finding out where to look for advertised paralegal roles. There are multiple options, including online job sites, advertisements on firms’ websites and, more recently, universities often offer an online employment portal specifically to their students and alumni. 

It is also important to consider your location when applying for paralegal roles, since there are more positions available in areas with a higher concentration of law firms, particularly in London. 

 

Qualifications & experience

In order to become a paralegal, certain qualifications are usually required. These can range from taking a full law degree, to an award in legal studies or a specific paralegal practice award. It is worth reviewing all of the options here to see which would suit you best. High academic standards are not always required (though these will often help you stand out against the competition) as application success is often largely dependent on how much relevant experience you have. 

Relevant experience, whether voluntary or paid, is highly valuable when applying for paralegal jobs. It may well be the case that some firms prefer candidates with relevant experience to those who have little experience but a high standard of academic qualifications,  although this will depend on the individual employer. 

Previous experience does not have to be specifically in the role of a paralegal, but it should clearly demonstrate that you have the right qualities for it. Candidates whose previous jobs or volunteering roles include a legal element, for example, or client interaction or administrative duties will be looked upon highly favourably. Even if at first your past jobs don’t seem relevant, you will often have built up lots of transferable skills that you can discuss in interviews and on paralegal applications.

 

Dealing with rejection 

Remember: having applications rejected is totally normal! Don’t be dissuaded by rejections, instead use them as an opportunity to improve your other applications. 

The more interviews you do the better you will become at them, and sometimes employers will even offer feedback on unsuccessful applications. It is unlikely that your first application will be successful, so don’t be put off if you find yourself sending out 10, 20 or even 30 applications. This is all part of the process. 

Getting to the point of being accepted for a paralegal position is challenging but rewarding, and completely within the grasp of those prepared to work hard and take rejections as an opportunity to improve future applications. 

 

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