The transition between paralegal and lawyer – what needs to be achieved
Whether your ambitions have changed, you’re ready to make the leap or your time as a paralegal has inspired you to take your skills to the next level in the legal industry, you won’t be disappointed: the life of a modern lawyer is dynamic, exciting and incredibly rewarding for those who go above and beyond in their profession.
What’s more, as demand for legal services escalates in the face of uncertainty, the earning potential of a lawyer and the number of jobs in this industry are both set to grow. There’s no doubt that your decision to switch from a paralegal to a lawyer is a good move, but making the switch isn’t as simple as a job application and an interview.
Of course, there will naturally be certain transferrable skills and experiences you have gained as a paralegal that could improve your chances of kickstarting your career as a solicitor in the firm of your choice. However, while paralegals may come equipped with an impressive understanding of the law and life in the legal industry, they will still need to follow the same path as anyone else eager to become a lawyer. This will include:
Choosing your route to entry
Today, working as a paralegal is a well-accepted entry point into the profession for both university graduates and ambitious school leavers – but it doesn’t come without its own unique challenges. For those who seek to complete their traineeship with a well-renowned firm, competition is incredibly fierce – even for individuals boasting experience as a paralegal.
Fortunately, the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) ‘equivalent means’ rule allows for some flexibility: provided that you complete the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and can demonstrate that your skill-set and level of knowledge are equivalent to what you would have gained through a conventional traineeship, you can now qualify as a solicitor without securing a training contract.
Leveraging your network
While moving from paralegal to solicitor will certainly be a significant career change, the transition is facilitated through research and an active commitment to growing your network. Not only can this help to boost your chances of securing a training contract if this is the route you have chosen, it can often be incredibly beneficial in linking up with a mentor who may have taken a similar route into the profession. Meeting regularly with contacts such as these can provide some much-needed guidance on the steps you will need to take to land a training contract with a firm of your choice.
Applying for “time to count”
Having already worked as a paralegal either inhouse or for a law firm, professionals who find themselves at this career-crossroads do have the advantage of claiming their work experience as part of their time as a trainee. This is known as ‘time to count’ and must be confirmed by both the firm who employed you as a paralegal and the one who takes you on as a trainee.
You will be able to recoup half of your time spent in the role up to a maximum of six months – so, if you spent eight months as a paralegal, four of those would count towards your time in training. It’s worth noting that this rule only applies for paralegals who have gained experience in this discipline within the three years prior to the application.