By Amanda Hamilton, NALP
Training as a paralegal is a great way to start your career in the legal sector. But that’s far from all there is to gain from becoming a paralegal. Unlike other routes into the legal sector, paralegal work involves a lot more freedom and variety of experience, allowing you to focus on the skills, areas and clients that you want. So, what can kind of personal development can you hope to achieve as you work towards becoming, and indeed whilst working as, a paralegal?
- Office skills
The skills needed in your work as a paralegal, i.e., source analysis, critical reading and writing and digital knowhow, are useful for any career. These office skills, essential for paralegal work, offer a promising outlook for climbing the ladder as a leading paralegal. However, lots of these skills, such as learning to use office software, writing a formal letter, organising your own time and workload, are useful skills to have navigating life in the 2020s.
Lots of the day-to-day work of a paralegal requires working closely with other legal professionals and clients. It would be hard for a fresh paralegal to get far without picking up some useful interpersonal and communicative skills. The ideal paralegal will develop the self-confidence to assert themselves at work, pursue their clients’ interests and express themselves clearly.
As a qualified freelance paralegal, you’re free to take on as much, or as little, work as you like. If you would like to build your portfolio as a paralegal, you’re free to take on as many clients as you can handle. If you have other responsibilities, maybe you’re a parent or care-giver, the flexibility of freelance work allows you to pursue a high-powered profession while also keeping on top of your personal life. Besides the personal development provided by the job, the flexibility and freedom given to paralegals allows you to pursue any further personal development without having to choose between yourself and your career.
- Formal personal development courses
Alongside the opportunities for personal development that come with the role, there are also plenty of training courses provided by licensing bodies and law offices. For example, at NALP we offer training courses alongside our paralegal qualifications to help you develop soft skills that are applicable in a variety of workplaces. The potential for progression in the legal industry is fantastic, and employers are usually happy to invest in upskilling their talent.
- Network with people in the legal sector
Pursuing a career as a paralegal will expose you to a variety of people, from different backgrounds, destined for different places. The people you rub shoulders with as a paralegal could one day offer you a job, or help you find clients. More than just networking, meeting a variety of driven, capable people is a great way to make friends.
The opportunities for personal development and transferable skills afforded by a career as a paralegal are part of what make it such an appealing career choice. You won’t leave your first job without being able to navigate your way around a bustling office, deftly use various office software platforms and speak with confidence. But most of all, on every step of the journey, work as a paralegal offers you the freedom to pursue other ways of developing yourself personally and professionally. Freedom to train remotely and, once qualified, practice in a workplace that suits you: as part of a large law firm; as your own boss; as a freelancer. Whatever way you want to see yourself develop; the paralegal profession can help you achieve it.
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 Centres around the country, accredited and recognised professional paralegal qualifications are offered for those looking for a career as a paralegal professional.