If you have always dreamed of a career in law but the cost and the time studying have always made you believe this is out of your reach, there is a different path you can take.

Training to become a Paralegal could be the answer.

The cost of becoming a solicitor

Studying for a law degree isn’t cheap. It costs around £27,000 (more in the higher ranked universities) to study for a law degree (full-time over three years). Add to that an extra £15k to undertake the one year professional course (either the Legal Practice Course (LPC) for solicitors or Bar professional Training Course (BPTC) for barristers). £42,000 and four years is a huge amount of money, and time, to commit – and still not be in a position to start earning!

You are still not qualified. You still have to find a two year training contract with a solicitor or firm before you can qualify and practice.

Your alternative – become a paralegal

Have you ever thought about entering the legal profession as a Paralegal? Ofqual recognised paralegal qualifications start at around £350 and can take you all the way through to Postgraduate level.

 How long do the studies take?

The National Paralegal College delivers NALP paralegal qualifications. As they are distance learning courses, there is no minimum time. You can do the qualifications as quickly, or as slowly, as your circumstances allow. There are maximum time limits that vary from 12 -24 months, depending on the course. Your ability to learn new skills will probably slow as the time since you were previously studying gets longer, but that isn’t always the case.

If you have not studied since school, then the NALP Level 3 Award is an ideal taster to find out if the subject of studying Law is your thing. It is two units of study, one mandatory and one optional (out of a choice of eight legal subject areas) and should take no longer than four months to complete (although there is an overall period of one year to do so).

If having completed this you decide that you wish to continue, there is a progressive route to a Level 3 Certificate and then a Diploma and then even further to a Level 4 Diploma.

Reduced risk

Studying to enter the legal industry as a paralegal through the NALP qualifications means you can dip your feet in the water without losing too much time or money.

For those about to leave school and who have a clear idea that they wish to study law, don’t be put off if you (or more likely, your parents) cannot afford university fees; there is a qualification that will, for just a twentieth of the cost of a university degree, give you a full Paralegal Qualification on successful completion.

Likewise, if you are on the verge of graduating with a law degree and are hesitating to book your place on the professional course (either for solicitors or barristers) because of cost or career progression looking bleak, then opting for a Paralegal qualification could be the answer. NALPs Level 7 Diploma is all about converting your theoretical knowledge into practical skills.

What is the difference between a paralegal and a solicitor?

Quick answer – not a huge amount. Paralegals can do almost the same work as a solicitor. There are just a few activities that Paralegals cannot undertake. These are known as ‘Reserved Activities’ and they include: the automatic right to represent a client in court; litigation; conveyancing; signing a grant of probate.

There are plenty of opportunities to work as a Paralegal in a varied number of employer settings. In fact, there is a broader spectrum of jobs available than if you were a solicitor. You can work for a solicitor within their practice, or for a local authority, or a small or larger corporate company. You can even set up your business provided you hold a NALP License to Practice and have professional indemnity insurance (PII).

Training as a Paralegal is a great career option with plenty of flexibility, opportunities and variety. And since the withdrawal of Legal Aid, Paralegals are in more demand than ever – so there has never been a better time to choose a career as a Paralegal.