The harsh reality is there are simply not enough training contracts for the number of people who want to become solicitors. As a result, many aspiring solicitors become paralegals while they either continue looking for a training contract or gain direct access to a training contract. The question those considering the second option often ask us is “how quickly can I progress from being a paralegal to a training contract?”
Is there a benefit in being a paralegal before you apply for a training contract?
The short answer is yes. Being a paralegal will give you invaluable insight into what a solicitor does day to day and how they do it. However, there are other important benefits. These include the ability to:
- Build your professional network (internally and externally)
- Actually do ‘the work’ (work that is often around the same level as a trainee would do)
- Add real legal weight to your CV
- Gain real life exposure to different areas of law
- Develop genuine legal skills
- Demonstrate you are fully committed to a career in law
The fact you will have had an opportunity to make a favourable impression on the partner or senior associate managing the firm’s training programme ahead of their adjudication should not be overlooked either. It could give you an enormous competitive advantage over the candidates they’ve never met.
However, you do need to be realistic. Being a paralegal is not automatic entry into a training contract.
However, hiring statistics show the number of paralegals that secure training contracts at the firm they have worked at does show some firms at least look positively upon this type of experience. Simple research on LinkedIn or Google will help you identify which firms tend to offer their contracts in this way so you can target your efforts more strategically.
If you are planning to move from paralegal to training contract, there are a few other things you could do to make the transition quicker for you and easier for your employers.
Firstly, complete the Legal Practice Course (LPC). Some law firms fund LPCs for the candidates they offer training contracts to, but most expect you to already have this qualification.
When in post, leverage your network and experience. Some of your friends from college may have secured positions as paralegals or even their own training contracts. Ask them for their advice.
More importantly, be prepared to tap up your family and friends. Ask them if they need legal help and if they do, direct them to the relevant fee earner in your firm. More than ever, progression in a law firm is linked to the ability to bring in work. You can’t set your stall out too early.
Similarly, take every opportunity to grow your network. Keep up to date with the latest developments in your location and in the practice areas and industry sectors you are most interested in via LinkedIn and make connections. If you are invited to attend the firm’s events or networking events, take them. This is where you will start to meet potentially useful new contacts.
Demonstrate you are a self-starter and self-disciplined. Legal work can involve long hours and complex cases. Show you can handle all of this and that you have what it takes to perform under challenging conditions.
You must also avoid any legal problems. As a lawyer your character must be beyond reproach. Don’t get into any silly situations that could stop impact your chances of becoming a lawyer as the firm and the Solicitors Regulatory Authority will conduct background checks.
While there are no guarantees a paralegal position will lead to a training contract, you can improve the chances that it does. If you’d like to discuss this in more detail or speak to one of our legal recruitment specialists about finding a paralegal role, please get in touch today.