The paralegal profession for career changers

There are a good many reason as to why people embark upon a career change- and some not so good. Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that such a move from a familiar industry and environment into a new field is very bold, and speaks volumes for the career changer. A successful career change takes great tenacity, hard work, and drive.

The growing flexibility of the 21st century workforce and career structure means that 2013 sees quite a large number of people deciding to change careers.  Career changing into the legal profession is relatively popular; the perception of a legal career is that it gives job stability and security upon qualifying.  Although long and arduous, the training and studying necessary to becoming a lawyer is very flexible.

Whilst a great many consider a career as a lawyer, there are other jobs in the legal profession- of which the paralegal role expanding and growing. For potential lawyers, it is very much worth considering changing jobs to a paralegal role first. Such a role will give the potential lawyer invaluable insight and experience into the legal workplace. Such a role can also be a start in the legal industry, without committing time, money and energy in a demanding profession that is not for everyone. Indeed, if set upon a career as a lawyer, then many firms (especially larger City and international firms) will encourage and assist with training leading to becoming a lawyer.

Alternatively, the career changer should consider becoming a paralegal, being as it is today a challenging, varied, respected and rewarding profession in its own right. Additionally, now is a good time to change careers to a being a paralegal, as the role is expanding and developing. Paralegals are no longer mere assistants or legal secretaries; rather, they have greater responsibilities and duties. An invaluable part of any law firm, paralegals today have a very wide and varied job role, have a great knowledge of legal processes, and are very well respected in the industry. Indeed, some even have their own clients.

It is likely that the sector will eventually (but no time soon) be regulated like solicitors, barristers and legal executives. Currently, the profession is not regulated, but the Institute of Paralegals and the National Association of licenced Paralegals provide a (self) regulatory framework, training guidelines, career structure and standards. As the profession expands in importance and job role, it is likely that a regulatory body and set of regulations will be drawn up. This is a reflection of the growing significance of paralegals. Evidently, it is an exciting time to start as a paralegal; the self regulatory bodies can be useful in providing information to the career changer as to the nature of the role, training, qualifications, career paths, and similar.

The other good news for career changers is that there are few entry requirements. However, the reality is that many recruiters and firms are now only hiring those with at least an LPC, or with several years experience. Whilst mentioning entry requirements, any formal qualifications or experience in business, administration, or related fields will enhance your application. Career changers would be strongly advised to seek such experience or qualifications.

Despite the seeming need for advanced legal qualifications, although problematical, this is not such a barrier. Coming from a related background or field will help a paralegal job application. Indeed, some firms like the maturity and the varied experiences and skillset that a career change will bring- but admittedly such firms are very rare. Studying the LPC will put you on a level playing field with the majority of other applicants- but to get to that stage requires a lot of investment in time, studying and money. However, what the career changer may lack in legal knowledge and experience, employers like the maturity, life experiences, and the varied skillset that the career changer does have.

Aside from applying directly (or via agencies or recruitment consultants) for paralegal jobs in this overly competitive job market, there are other approaches. Try applying to large companies to work ‘in house’ in their legal department, for example. Such a role will give the career changer invaluable insight and experience of the paralegal world.

Paralegals fulfill a very demanding, challenging, and stimulating role. Paralegals have much responsibility, and are very well respected in the industry. The nature of paralegal recruitment, training and entry to the profession makes it an ideal role for the career changer. Indeed, whether a stepping stone to training as a lawyer, or a second career in its own right, the nature of the role is perfect for those considering a career change into the legal industry.

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