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Why Becoming a Paralegal Is the Best Way to Build a Career in Personal Injury Law - Amanda Hamilton, NALP

26/06/18. For law graduates looking to enter the personal injury sector, the only true viable pathway currently is to qualify as a paralegal. Why? There are several reasons.

Firstly, taking the conventional route is time consuming and costly: going to university to read law costs £9k per annum. Over three years and £27k later (minimum – add on accommodation/living costs if relevant) and an individual may graduate with their degree but be substantially in debt. Then there is the professional qualification to gain in the fourth year. The LPC costs anywhere between £12.5k and £16.5k and the BPTC this year (2018) is expected to be over £18k (according to AllAboutLaw).

What is going on? How can the providers justify such a cost knowing full well that very few graduates will be able to gain training contracts in order to qualify as solicitors? The statistics speak for themselves: around 5,000 training contracts each year and around 9,000 graduates, each and every year competing for them. Compounded over the years and the competition becomes terrifying!

It’s a similar story to qualify as a barrister. 500 pupillages available every year and 4,000-5,000 graduates competing for them each year.

What is to be done? It’s vital that we educate law students about the options available. Transparency in providing the right information should be offered by the conventional professions on their websites. In addition, we should all do our best to impart information about what is actually happening within the legal services sector, regarding the difficulties in gaining training contracts and pupillages, and encourage students to look at alternatives.

Training to be a qualified paralegal can cost under £2,000 and then gaining experience can be attained in any environment where there is an element of legality attached. For example, for those who are coming into the legal sector for the first time, the NALP Level 4 Diploma covers not only academic law relating to tortious actions, including negligence, but also Civil Procedure i.e. taking someone to court and the processes involved to prove personal injury through a negligent act. There are also many law firms specialising in personal injury where experience can be attained.

It is a fallacy that paralegals are just ‘would-be’ solicitors and barristers who can’t find training contracts or pupillages and are working solely in solicitors’ firms. On the contrary, paralegals can be found in most environments including football clubs, retail establishments and film production companies to name but a few.

Having said that, paralegals perform quite an important function within law firms too. Especially, those firms which concentrate on personal injury. Such firms operate on a no-win-no-fee basis. There is quite often a lot of work required prior to taking such actions to court (if indeed the case gets to court at all, rather than be settled out of court as many are). What better reason to utilise the skills of paralegals to save costs, prior to being able to claw them back at the termination of the case on a no-win-no-fee basis.

Most organisations and companies will have a paralegal (or even a team of paralegals) working within their team. Why? Because, everything we do in this modern age has a legal connotation to it, and individuals can be trained to perform those legal tasks.

Paralegals who have qualifications and experience can perform at just as high a function as a solicitor. Indeed, solicitors do not have the monopoly on good practice and conduct. You just have to look at the latest statistics from the Office of Legal Complaints to realise that.

With the standard of qualifications for Paralegals being set at a high level (NALP’s qualifications are all regulated by Ofqual - the government body that regulates qualifications in England) why should solicitors not recognise the potential and promote and utilise paralegals within their PI firms. Paralegal recognition is most certainly warranted in this economic climate.

Personal Injury solicitors often find that they are lacking personnel to deal with the case flow. With limited numbers of trainee solicitors at their disposal, it makes perfect sense to bring in teams of paralegals to perform the tasks that are needed.

As to how to find the paralegals that you need, there is now a register – The Licenced Paralegal Register (LPR), where potential employers can contact individual paralegals who are members of NALP.

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 training arm, NALP Training, accredited recognised professional paralegal qualifications are offered for a career as a paralegal professional. See: http://www.nationalparalegals.co.uk and http://www.nalptraining.co.uk/nalp_training

Twitter: @NALP_UK

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NationalAssocationsofLicensedParalegals/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/amanda-hamilton-llb-hons-840a6a16/

 

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