You may have thought, perhaps even from a very early age, that working in the legal services sector is something you would like to do. Perhaps you knew someone who worked as a paralegal and found the job interesting. But perhaps your academic record at school or college has let you down, or circumstances of your life meant that you never made it to higher education or, through no fault of your own, your career has simply gone in a different direction completely.
If this is the case, or if you are making the decision to change careers as a mature person and are considering a legal pathway, then how do you go about it?
Qualifying as a paralegal is relatively straightforward, less costly and time consuming than entering the conventional legal professions. Whatever option you go for, you will need to have a good understanding of the legal system and other areas of law.
However, studying law is quite unique in that there is ‘jargon’ to overcome. It is, in fact, very similar to learning another language and so takes time to get a handle on it.
The best way to start on the road to becoming a paralegal, is to dip your toes at an entry level and work up from there. For example, a NALP Level 3 Award is only two units of study. The level of assessment is the same as an A Level, so it will be good to test the waters to assess whether studying the subject is indeed the right thing for you.
Undertaking a Level 3 Award should only take you about two to four months. Each of the two units of study will have an assignment both of which must be passed in order to gain the qualification. One of the units is mandatory and the other you can choose from eight other subject areas.
The assignments could include straightforward questions based on the content of the workbook provided, and others may be based on a typical scenario on which you would have to advise your client.
All assignments are based on the qualification specification which can be downloaded and which contains learning outcomes and assessment criteria. Each assessment criteria has to be covered in the assignment, so the qualification specification can be a very useful guide. There are also sample questions available to give an idea of the style of the assignments.
The next step
Once the Level 3 Award is completed, there is an opportunity to move on to either the Level 3 Certificate or Diploma. These are add-ons, in that for the Certificate, you need to do another mandatory subject and choose an optional one as well and if you go on to the Diploma, it is two more optional subjects.
So, there is a definite pathway to qualification in order to work as a paralegal. You can even go on, after the Level 3, to enrol for the Level 4 Diploma in Paralegal Studies. This is much more of a commitment in that there are ten mandatory units to study, and ten assignments to complete but it will serve you extremely well, if that is the route you choose to go down. Best of luck!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amanda Hamilton is Chief Executive of the National Association of Licenced Paralegals (NALP), a non-profit Membership Body and the only Paralegal body that is recognised as an awarding organisation by Ofqual (the regulator of qualifications in England). Through its Centres, accredited recognised professional paralegal qualifications are offered for a career as a paralegal professional.
See more information at: http://www.nationalparalegals.co.uk
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