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What is a paralegal?

A member of staff who has completed some legal training, but is not qualified as a solicitor or Chartered Legal Executive, is usually referred to as a paralegal. The term applies to any member of staff progressing files under supervision – from legal secretaries who have gained the necessary knowledge to carry out specific practical tasks, to law graduates who progress a heavy caseload of files from start to finish.

Paralegals are very commonly employed in the fields of residential conveyancing, personal injury or debt recovery where roles might be advertised as ‘Conveyancing Assistant’, ‘Claims Handler’ or ‘Litigation Assistant’ respectively. A paralegal might be known as a 'Legal Assistant' in family or employment law departments.

As the role of the paralegal varies greatly between organisation and different areas of legal practice, so do our courses. Courses start at Level 2 (GCSE-level) training for legal secretaries who wish to move into paralegal work and have not studied for a long time, through to Level 6 (honours-degree level) courses for law graduates to acquire high-level legal practice skills.

What courses are available?

The courses available depend on your current skills and academic qualifications. If your current academic qualifications are at GCSE level then we recommend that you start with the City & Guilds/CILEx Level 2 Certificate in Legal Studies. If you already have A levels or a non-law degree please refer to Table 1 below. If you have a law degree scroll further down to Table 2 below.

Table 1 - if you have A levels or a non-law degree

If you want to work in a file-handling role, then the qualification you need is the CILEx Level 3 Certificate in Law and Practice. There are eight different practice areas to choose from, each including an introductory unit, a law unit and its related legal practice unit, as well as two professional skills units covering client care and legal research. The CILEx Level 3 Certificate in Law and Practice also contributes to the first stage of chartered legal executive lawyer training, so it is ideal if you think you might wish to continue your studies. You may wish to supplement your CILEx Level 3 Certificate with an CILEx Law School Specialist Course in your selected practice area.

Type of paralegal work you want to do

Relevant CILEx qualification

Claimant Personal Injury? CILEx Level 3 Certificate in Law and Practice (Civil Litigation)
Contracts/Dispute Resolution? CILEx Level 3 Certificate in Law and Practice (Civil Litigation)
Debt Recovery/Insolvency? CILEx Level 3 Certificate in Law and Practice (Civil Litigation)
Defendant Personal Injury? CILEx Level 3 Certificate in Law and Practice (Civil Litigation)
Elderly Client? CILEx Level 3 Certificate in Law and Practice (Elderly Client Practice)**
Employment? CILEx Level 3 Certificate in Law and Practice (Employment Practice)
Family Law? CILEx Level 3 Certificate in Law and Practice (Family Practice)***
Probate? CILEx Level 3 Certificate in Law and Practice (Probate Practice)
Property? CILEx Level 3 Certificate in Law and Practice (Conveyancing)

**Holders of this Certificate can become Student Members of Solicitors for the Elderly.

*** Holders of this Certificate can become Certified Family Law Assistants with Resolution.

 Table 2 - if you have a law degree

If you are a law graduate working, or looking for work, as a paralegal then you will be familiar with academic law but may lack formal legal practice training. You can improve your performance at work by following one of our CILEx Level 6 courses in legal practice. A full list of units is given below. Success in a course leads to an CILEx Level 6 Certificate in the subject studied. We have also listed non-core law units which you may not have studied as part of your degree but which you might be interested in pursuing now. Law graduates can very quickly acquire the qualifications necessary to become a chartered legal executive lawyer through the CILEx Graduate Fast-track Diploma.

Type of legal work you would like to do Relevant CILEx Level 6 Single Subject Certificate
Dispute Resolution; Personal Injury CILEx Level 6 Certificate in Civil Litigation
Family CILEx Level 6 Certificate in Family Law and/or Family Practice
Employment CILEx Level 6 Certificate in Employment Law and/or Employment Practice
Criminal CILEx Level 6 Certificate in Criminal Litigation
Probate CILEx Level 6 Certificate in Probate Practice
Property CILEx  Level 6 Certificate in Conveyancing
Corporate CILEx Level 6 Certificate in Company and Partnership Law and/or Company and Partnership Practice

Further advice

If you need any further advice on which courses to select to help you to progress in your legal career, please call us on 01234 844300.

Testimonial

Naomi Liston describes her experience working towards becoming a Chartered Legal Executive and progressing through the CILEx qualification levels:

Katie Douglas

Anthony Collins Solicitors LLP

CILEx has given me the confidence to take the next step from secretary to fee earner. I feel that it is paramount in the current economic climate to have the CILEx qualification rather than simply being a non-qualified Legal Assistant; ... read full