Ways To Access The Legal Profession
Due to the vast number of jobs available within the legal sector, there are multiple ways of accessing them; some are traditional, and some are not. I thought I would write about the ways our staff have accessed their own careers.
Traditional: Solicitor or Barrister
If you know early on that this is the career path for you then you can begin to prepare yourself. Going to university and studying a Law Degree is a very conventional first step, especially if your plan is to become a solicitor or a barrister. On completion, the next steps will depend on the profession you choose. For Solicitors, you can either complete a Legal Practice Course, which is one extra year at university and then 2 years training, or a Solicitor’s Qualifying Exam, which consists of two sets of exams plus 2 years of qualifying work experience. For Barristers, the next steps would be completing the Bar Course, which is an extra year at university, and then Pupillage, which is 1 year in a Barrister’s Chambers. As you can imagine, these routes are expensive and competitive, but necessary if you want to reach this level.
If you complete your Law degree and decide not to train to be a Solicitor or Barrister – There are plenty of other routes you can take:
· Civil Service
· Charity Sector
· Support roles
Although Pro-law is not a Solicitor’s practice, Ian Mason, one of the Directors here, had been a practicing solicitor for 40+ years. He took the traditional route and has experienced a rewarding career because of it. He is now passionate about offering young people in and around Bude the opportunity to access law.
Another prominent role within any legal practice is a Paralegal. You do not need to be ‘legally qualified’ for this role, however you need to have extensive experience and knowledge within a law firm to be classed as a Paralegal. Having said that, many professionals not only gain experience through a firm but also through education and training, allowing them to obtain the vast knowledge they need to carry out a Paralegal role. For example:
· A Law Degree;
· Postgraduate Paralegal Diploma;
· NALP Paralegal practice award, diploma, or certificate; or
· Legal Secretary Certificate i.e., from the Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs
Koren Pitcher, Paralegal and Director at Pro-law, began her journey with Pro-law as a trainee Paralegal, although she had no prior experience, she had the passion and drive to further her knowledge and capabilities within the practice. She has been A.NALP certified since 2019, and became an additional director of Pro-law in 2021.
If like me you explored other options before landing on the legal ladder, there are other ways to access it without needing to start all over again.
My experience began through the Kickstart Scheme; a government funded project, which provides businesses with funding so they can hire inexperienced people to work with them, train them, and give them skills that help them with their job seeking. During this time, I worked and trained as a legal secretary, completing the Institute of Legal Secretaries/PAs course, which equipped with the skills and experience I needed. Although these placements typically only last 6-months, I was lucky that the directors at Pro-law wanted me to stay on. I have now been here for 2 and a half years – still learning and enjoying every second. Many would say this is an untraditional route, however, this may be a more realistic journey for younger people than the alternative degree route, especially if you don’t want to be at the top of the legal hierarchy.
It is important to note that a lot of legal secretary job roles do not require you to have a qualification, just basic GCSE maths and English, as well as a keen interest to learn and develop. Gaining work experience in a law firm, or a similar office environment, would be a great benefit to any job application you may make. Furthermore, if you are able to get a job within a firm, they may be willing to offer you training to a legal secretary or even Paralegal level, as stated above.
Have you considered a career in Law?