For those who are not aware of the ‘Paralegal Shortcut’ to becoming a qualified solicitor, check out this great article on Lawyer 2B: Equivalent means: how I qualified as a solicitor without a training contract.
As with any debate, there are pros and cons for each side, so it is a matter of weighing up each side and seeing which one has more weight for what you want.
I strongly believe qualifying through the paralegal route, whereby you collect your own evidence of your own experience equivalent to a training contract, is advantageous for Open University law students because it mimics the lifestyle of your studying. Studying with the Open University requires a high amount of independence, commitment, and self-motivation. You are in control of your study schedule and you know how and where to seek advice from your tutors when needed. So you are already equipped with the skills that would assist you with managing your own workload as a paralegal, and help you to know where and when to seek advice from the solicitors and peers in your firm.
If you are studying your course part time, you may find you have the capacity to start putting your evidence folder together and so you could do the two alongside each other. This is also a great opportunity to work out what type of firm you would like to work for if you are unsure. You could do 1 year experience in a small high street firm then do another year in a large city firm. Both will give you exposure to different lifestyles and help you decide what career you want.
As the article mentions, there is still a lot of uncertainty about the procedure, so be prepared for the worst scenario that you do not collect the right evidence or enough evidence. However, do not be disheartened because it is not wasted experience, it is extremely valuable to gain practical skills that your degree does not offer. Another con is that you may miss out on experiencing the ‘whole package’ that a trainee gets, i.e. social events. This very much depends on which firm you gain experience from and what type of firm you want to work for whether it be a small, medium or large firm.
Overall, it is definitely an option to consider, with the fierce amount of competition associated with gaining a traditional training contract offer. Your decision should largely depend on how much you value certainty and stability.
Catherine Howell – OULS Reporter