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If you havent got a training contract yet, have you thought about working as a paralegal? Admittedly, paralegalling isnt something youll want to do forever but its a great way to find out what being a lawyer involves, and a valuable addition to any CV.
Paralegals were once just regarded as failed trainees but as we report this week they are increasingly being moulded into solid building blocks in law firms strategies especially in document-heavy departments such as litigation and corporate.
The top 20 UK firms alone employ roughly 1,000 paralegals between them, but individual numbers vary from just nine paralegals working at Simmons & Simmons to over 150 at litigation powerhouse Herbert Smith (see story).
Working as a paralegal before launching straight into a training contract arguably has several benefits. For instance, it will enable you to sample life at different types of law firms and practice areas before settling in for the long haul. Whats more the salaries are not to be sniffed at with some paralegals commanding wages of up to 60,000.
But as is the case with training contracts and pupillages, competition for paralegal jobs is intense. Its therefore crucial to make sure that your application includes as much information as possible, including details of work experience, vacation placements, voluntary and pro bono work and any awards/prizes.
If you do decide to look for a paralegal position there is a number of options available. Its worth registering with a couple of reputable recruitment consultants as they should have teams dedicated to placing paralegals. Second, you can apply to firms directly. And finally, ask your family, friends and other contacts who are working at law firms to let you know of any vacancies coming up at their firms. Theres no shame in asking them to recommend you.
Unfortunately, securing a paralegal position will not guarantee a training contract. At most of the firms Lawyer 2B spoke to only a small proportion of paralegals were hired as trainees. But that shouldnt put you off. Just because the firm that took you on as a paralegal didn't give you a training contract doesn't necessarily mean you won't get an offer elsewhere. As they say as one door closes another opens.
For more advice on working as a paralegal check out this weeks feature: Join the paras