Institute of Paralegals
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Not all courses are equal. Some are highly valued by employers but others are considered largely irrelevant. We recommend that you consider the following issues before choosing which course to do:
Some training providers imply you must do training before you can become/call yourself a paralegal. That simply isn’t true. The paralegal profession is an unregulated one and you do not need to do any training or join any organisation (including us) to become a paralegal. Most paralegals do not have legal qualifications. However, if you do not have relevant experience then doing the right course is likely to increase your chances of success.
The best courses to improve your employability are practice and procedure orientated courses teaching specific useful information on the type of law you wish to specialise in. Academic courses, short duration courses of a week or less, and ones in different practice areas (e.g. doing a course in family law when you want to become a criminal litigation paralegal) are usually a waste of money if it is your goal to significantly increase your employability.
On-the-job-training can be very expensive. An experienced paralegal may be charged out at £120 an hour – so every hour they are training you instead of working becomes expensive!
Employers therefore most value relevant prior experience above all else. In second place is a course which has taught you what the experienced paralegal would have taught you – i.e. courses which most closely replicate the skills and knowledge that you would have picked up with work experience: relevant deadlines, how to complete the official forms, common problems to watch out for, procedural steps etc.
3. Will employers value the course?
If prospective employers have never heard of the course you have done, there is a risk that they will not value it regardless of how good it actually was. Typically therefore we recommend that you do a course which leads to a national qualification or which is accredited by a professional body like ourselves.
Do training in a relevant subject. Paralegals specialise. The job of a criminal law paralegal is very different to that of a conveyancing paralegal or a probate paralegal. Doing training in family law is not going to impress an employer if you are seeking work as a personal-injury paralegal.
8. At what point can you benefit from your course?
You do not have to wait until you have completed your course before you can start applying for paralegal positions. The very fact that you have spent your own money and have taken responsibility for your own training will impress most employers.
There are times when a non-law course may still be very beneficial. Law firms not only need to know the law but they need to understand the sector in which that law operates. So, for example, if you have training in, say, NHS internal procedures, or in how the Patent Office treats patent disputes then that knowledge may be very useful to a law firm specialising in those areas.
10. An LL.B, LPC or BPTC are not always good options
Do not consider doing a law degree, the Legal Practice Course or the Bar Professional Training Course unless you want to be a graduate and/or plan to become a solicitor/barrister. These courses are exceptionally expensive and not designed for paralegals. Every year many law graduates are shocked at how little value is attached to the law degrees by employers (because the courses are too academic). The LPC covers too many topics and so you do not learn any one topic in sufficient detail. The BPTC (previously called the BVC) covers too many irrelevant subjects. Consider doing a dedicated paralegal course instead – it is quicker and cheaper!
Almost all paralegal training courses are offered by distance learning. Virtually the only ones done face-to-face are those run by FE colleges or universities, and continuing professional development courses/conferences. Accordingly when you look to do a distance learning course make sure that you are happy with the amount of time you given to complete it and with the tutor support (if any) offered by the training provider (usually online or by telephone).
Look at the courses we recommend as a good starting point.