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Beginner's Guide


updated on 29 August 2023

Find out more on our dedicated 'Paralegal' page.

Paralegals work in law firms but aren’t qualified as solicitors or chartered legal executives. Although paralegals used to be seen purely as support staff, the role of a paralegal has moved beyond just assisting solicitors. Paralegals are a distinct group of legal professionals, although this kind of role is often used as a steppingstone to becoming a solicitor or chartered legal executive.

Some paralegal roles are similar to those of solicitors. This means you can apply to qualify as a solicitor while working as a paralegal, provided you can satisfy the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) that you’ve gained the same knowledge and skills in your role as you would’ve through a training contract. This is called the ‘equivalent means’ route to qualifying – a route that’ll remain valid until 2032 for those who started their law degree or the Legal Practice Course (LPC) before September 2021.

The first paralegals qualified as solicitors this way in 2015, but this route will eventually be replaced by the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE). Candidates can now build up two years’ qualifying work experience (QWE) and qualify via the SQE whether they’ve taken the traditional or paralegal route or completed an apprenticeship.

Another common reason many graduates work as paralegals is because it’s a good way to gain the crucial legal work experience needed to secure a training contract. Some paralegals get the experience and then apply for a training contract at the same firm, while others move on from firms where this isn’t an option and go on to apply successfully elsewhere. However, a note of caution: paralegals perform many of the same tasks as solicitors, but are generally not paid as much and there isn’t the same clear career progression that solicitors can pursue. Stay mindful of your future prospects if this is something that’s important to you.

What do I need to know about the SQE?

The SQE came into force in September 2021 and will replace the LPC as the route to qualifying as a solicitor.

To qualify via the SQE, you must:

  • have a university degree (law or non-law) or equivalent (eg, an apprenticeship);
  • pass the SRA’s character and suitability assessment;
  • pass SQE1 and SQE2; and
  • have two years’ QWE.

You can visit LawCareers.Net’s SQE hub, sponsored by The University of Law, to find out more about the SQE and to stay up to date with how law firms are adopting the SQE.