A recent article in the Gazette piqued my interest. It highlighted claims by CILEx that it is becoming more common for qualified solicitors to be recruited into paralegal positions.
The article cited a recent advertisement by Baker & Mckenzie for a dispute resolution paralegal. The advertisement specified that it was ‘essential that the successful applicant’ was ‘qualified as a solicitor.’ Notably, Baker & Mckenzie is the world’s largest law firm by revenue, this insight into its recruitment strategy suggests the firm takes cost savings seriously. Whilst they might pay a two year qualified lawyer upwards of £70000, the cost of a paralegal is likely to be significantly less. So is this exploiting unemployed solicitors or are there benefits in it for both sides?
Commenting on the advertisement, Baker & Mckenzie claimed that it had been ‘commonplace’ for many years for qualified lawyers to take paralegal positions. Clearly, for foreign qualified lawyers, a paralegal opportunity at a top City firm will provide them with quality UK experience which will stand them in good stead to secure a qualified solicitor position once they have completed the qualified lawyers transfer scheme.
Although specific experience was required for this particular position, for solicitors looking to change specialisms a paralegal role can offer invaluable experience in another area of law and ultimately provide them with a platform to transition into a qualified position in that area.
Firms can be very open to offering this type of opportunity since although there is a requirement for them to provide significant training, they gain an extra pair of hands from an experienced professional who is likely to have the potential to pick up a new area of law quickly.
Paralegal roles can also often be a stop gap for newly qualified solicitors who can’t find a position within their chosen discipline. Taking on a paralegal role demonstrates a keen determination to pursue your career in your chosen field and as your experience increases, you may find yourself more desirable when the next NQ roles come up than a newly qualified solicitor with just a six month seat in a particular area.
The good news is, that in the Birmingham market at least, we haven’t witnessed this trend towards qualified lawyers moving into paralegal roles for no good reason. In fact, in hard to fill roles we often see firms recruiting paralegals where the preference is for fully qualified solicitors. This is particularly true of banking positions with top tier firms given the severe shortage of qualified banking lawyers. Paralegals with experience in high demand areas can also command a far higher salary than the paralegal norm.
CILEx may have their own motivations for discouraging people from qualifying as solicitors and indeed the CILEx route can provide many benefits but in the main, as a qualified solicitor you will earn a higher salary, have more career prospects and greater opportunities for progression.
The legal market is booming, firms are recruiting heavily and for most of you, the opportunities are out there to secure your ideal job, which may or may not be a paralegal position…