Training: Paralegal purgatory

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  • A paralegal role can provide a graduate with a valuable learning experience but only for the interim and surely not something to do long term or as a career?

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  • Being a "Career Paralegal" must be one of the most depressing roles within the Legal Profession. It isn't a clearly defined role and in reality does not garner respect from colleagues.

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  • This is sick. The legal profession in the UK is becoming like America, thousands of graduates chasing after a handful of law firm jobs. LPC providers should do the conscionable thing and cap the number of places every year, not increase them. Alternatively set a minimum requirement of 2:1 , with 2:2s being granted places by discretion. That's how they do it in Hong Kong anyway.

    Either that or close 50 or so law faculties.

    Drastic measures must be undertaken.

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  • I worked as a paralegal for a number of years before I qualified as a lawyer, and I know first-hand how frustrating and demoralising it can be to pursue a career as a lawyer only to end up being treated like a third class citizen in a law firm just because you are a “paralegal”. There are things you can learn by doing proof-reading, paginating, and doing all the gamut of grunt work a paralegal does, but even if you are lucky enough to be in a firm that lets you do proper fee-earner job, paralegal is not a career for life in the UK. The ROI is terrible, especially if you have funded yourself through LPC/BVC with debt.

    Overzealous student recruitment by law schools and the rigid path to qualification do not help. However, the inability of aspiring lawyers to view themselves with a good measure of objectivity and realism (and dare I say, a healthy dose of cynicism for the profession) is equally to blame for the plight faced by paralegals in the UK. Too many aspiring lawyers think that the story about empty tins of caviar they heard during the contract law lecture does not apply to them.

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  • I think the main issue is that the paralegal experience does not count towards the route to qualification as a solicitor. If we look at one of the basic equity principles underpinning common law, namely "Equity regards substance rather than form.", then it is obvious that if the substance of the paralegal role is the same as the role of a trainee, then not recognising the paralegal role creates a truly unjust result for the person who desperately wants to qualify as a solicitor.
    I think this is something that should have been addressed properly long time ago. We have the CILEx (formerly ILEX) route to becoming a solicitor, so why should the paralegal route be disregarded. If we had a properly regulated paralegal profession where you can use "credits" based on your experience towards your qualification as a solicitor, then we would really not have the issue of "paralegal purgatory" at all. Of course, I am referring to paralegals who do similar level of work to that of trainees and have all the required qualifications (LLB, LPC, etc.) but this does not negate the point. Any system which does not allow an individual to progress on the basis of the experience they have gained and focuses on a "label" is ultimately flawed and unjust. I am afraid that this is the case with the current system of qualifying as a solicitor in the UK. Reform is desperately needed to prevent such unjust (and inequitable) results as the ones mentioned in the article. Legally, you will always look at the substance of an agreement rather than the “label”, so why should we have a system of qualifying as a solicitor which contradicts basic legal principles of fairness and which blatantly focuses on labels contradicting reality.

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  • Just picked up on this thread on return from holiday. The CILEx route to qualification to a lawyer is, of course, open to paralegals. LPC and BVC graduates are able to join CILEx at its graduate grade and from there qualify as a chartered legal executive whilst working as a "paralegal". So the "paralegal route" is already there - the CILEx route through which one can also requalify as a solicitor.

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  • I took a risk and completed the LPC, in London, without securing a training contract. Shortly on completing the LPC, I was offered a paralegal job with a top 100 regional firm (this is a firm that had previously rejected my application!). Within 3 months of working as a paralegal, my salary increased and approximately 6 months later, I was offered a training contract. The more work I did as a paralegal, the more responsibility was given to me so it's not all about photocopying and other mundane tasks. You develop important skills, knowledge and experience as a paralegal which puts you in a good position when applying for training contracts and ultimately for when you become a trainee.

    Working as a paralegal can get you a training contract at the firm. It just comes down to your attitude and how much you really want it. You need to always bear in mind the ultimate goal whilst you are a paralegal: you want to be a solicitor and therefore you need to complete your training. Don't get trapped into thinking you need to work 12 hour days if that means you will not get time to do applications for training contracts of prepare for interviews. Firms can keep dangling the carrot in front of you but you need to think about yourself (as firms are inevitably doing the same). Stay focused, be disciplined and be determined to reach your ultimate goal.

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  • 1) Return to the days when it was fairly difficult to get into law, so we don't have as many substandard candidates. This would be tough, but close ILEX and remove law degrees that require less than an A and 2 Bs at A-level.

    2) Set a minimum salary for paralegals.

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  • We hired a paralegal to give her at least some kind of a start in the law (not because we wanted cheap labour); she totally impressed us with her quality from day one; we set ourselves up with the SRA to offer TCs and she became our first trainee. Some stories have a happy ending.

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  • Try being told by the senior solicitor's in interview that the training contract program is no longer in use and that training contracts are actually still running for 2014,2015. You join the firm and find out the training contracts are in fact only for 2016. At the same time having to deal with a petulant child of a fifty something year old partner attempting to drive you out of the firm, falsely playing off telling you to settle cases and in the next instance pretending he had never given you those instructions, because as you later discover the firm employed you instead of the qualified solicitor the petulant child wanted. I left the said top 50 ranked firm......would I have a case for constructive dismissal....the list of his petulance goes on..........

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