What is a paralegal?

A member of staff who has completed some legal training, but is not qualified as a solicitor or Chartered Legal Executive, is usually referred to as a paralegal.

What do they do?

Paralegals work in a variety of environments, from private companies, law firms and the police to local government and the courts. The term applies to any member of staff progressing files under supervision – from legal secretaries who have gained the necessary knowledge to carry out specific practical tasks, to law graduates who progress a heavy caseload of files from start to finish.

Tasks they undertake commonly include research and preparing legal documents and interviewing clients, as well as providing them with general legal information. As a result, good recall, research skills and being organised and accurate are essential attributes.

Paralegals are very commonly employed in the fields of residential conveyancing, personal injury or debt recovery where roles might be advertised as ‘conveyancing assistant’, ‘claims handler’ or ‘litigation assistant’ respectively. A paralegal might be known as a ‘legal assistant’ in family or employment law departments.

How to get started

As the role of the paralegal varies greatly between organisation and different areas of legal practice, so do our courses. Courses start at Level 2 (GCSE-level) training for legal secretaries who wish to move into paralegal work and have not studied for a long time, through to Level 6 (honours-degree level) courses for law graduates to acquire high-level legal practice skills.

Which course to choose

The courses available depend on your current skills and academic qualifications:

We recommend that you start with the CILEx Level 2 Certificate in Legal Studies.

This qualification provides an introduction to legal practice. It is suitable if you wish to start studying law with a view to working as a paralegal in a file-handling role or if you are a legal secretary wishing to understand the context of your work.

This qualification is set at approximately GCSE level.

If you want to work in a file-handling role, then the qualification you need is the CILEx Level 3 Certificate in Law and Practice.

There are eight different practice areas to choose from, each including an introductory unit, a law unit and its related legal practice unit, as well as two professional skills units covering client care and legal research.

The CILEx Level 3 Certificate in Law and Practice also contributes to the first stage of Chartered Legal Executive lawyer training, so it is ideal if you think you might wish to continue your studies. You may also wish to supplement your CILEx Level 3 Certificate with an CILEx Law School Specialist Course in your selected practice area.

If you are a law graduate working, or looking for work, as a paralegal then you will be familiar with academic law but may lack formal legal practice training. You can improve your performance at work by following one of our CILEx Level 6 Single Subject Certificates.

Law graduates can also very quickly acquire the qualifications necessary to become a Chartered Legal Executive lawyer through the CILEx Graduate Fast-track Diploma.