Deciding on a particular law course to study can be a nightmare.
How to Choose? Where to Choose? What to Choose?
There seem to be a rising trend for training providers to operate both as certification and governing bodies while delivering their own courses. They offer self-accreditation. Some in the form of ‘institutions’, ‘associations’. Many will say they are 'Governing' or 'Professional' bodies when in fact they may be training providers.
This can be rather confusing as Governing and Professional bodies are Independent and Impartial. They set competency standards for courses which are delivered by independent training providers, they set professional conduct for members.
Governing and Professional bodies do not, themselves, deliver training courses as there will be a Conflict of Interest. A conflict of interest arises when there is a clash between Professional Obligations of the impartial regulator, offering at the same time, services contrary to such Professional Obligations, for personal financial gain. Professional bodies, their divisions, their subsidiaries, their partners, must not engage in such divergent conduct. For example, the Law Society which acts as the Professional body for Solicitors, cannot, itself, deliver legal services which are carried out by Solicitors.
All professionals such as doctors, dentists, solicitors, barristers, do not qualify in 'levels'. They must be fully qualified in order to get their professional qualification. So too must Paralegals and Legal Secretaries. All professionals can specialise and so too can Paralegals and Legal Secretaries.
There is little wonder that selecting the right course and the right training provider can be so daunting and confusing.
If you are a working professional, attending university courses, evening or Saturday classes may be time consuming, costly and probably inconvenient. Incorporating your existing or previous work experience with new career options, not only makes sense but it is worthwhile.
If your decision is to enter the legal profession as a Legal Secretary, whether you have, or do not have secretarial skills or experience will dictate what type of Legal Secretary course you take. If you already possess secretarial skills or experience, you will not need a course which covers typing, IT skills, administration etc. Your choice is easy, as you only need a ‘conversion’ course covering the legal aspects necessary to work as a Legal Secretary. Knowing how to produce legal documents will be necessary as these require specialist skills which include peculiar document layouts, terminology, attestation clauses, ‘without prejudice’, ‘subject to contract’ phrases and so on. Taking a course on ‘terminology’ is not sufficient as you will need specific legal subject knowledge, of which such phrases and terminology is a small part.
Our Legal Secretary Courses are conversion courses which covers Conveyancing, Criminal Litigation, Civil Litigation, Matrimonial, Wills and Probate, Legal Document Production and Legal Audio Transcription.
If you are not yet in possession of secretarial skills or experience, then you need a course covering typing skills, word processing, audio transcription and in particular Legal Document Production and Legal Audio Transcription, office practice plus legal subjects. Such courses are expected to last at least a year.
As a Legal Secretary, you will work in a more administrative role providing word processing within the secretarial department. Such roles can be performed as a temporary (Temp), or as a permanent employee. Being a Temp requires more far-reaching abilities as you may be asked to work within a number of different legal departments. Many Legal Secretaries work as in-house Temps which can be more secure than working for outside agencies.
Another route can be as a Freelance Legal Secretary. You will be working as Self Employed, or a Temp offering your services directly to Law Firms throughout your locality. To be successful as a Freelancer or Temp, your skills and legal experience must be impeccable. Not to mention your command of the English Language.
If you need to brush up on your Typing Skills or check your Typing Speed, you can do this at: www.typeonline.co.uk
There are training providers which refer to themselves as Membership bodies and as such membership to any such association or institution is voluntary.
The Paralegal profession is the next stage upwards. You can progress your legal secretarial career to this next stage by becoming a Paralegal. You will require further training in law covering subjects such as Principles of Law, Legal Systems, Contract Law, Criminal Law and so on. Different training providers will cover different legal subjects, provide different ‘levels’ of qualifications and different methods for qualifying. Some may have end of module exams, some will have essay submissions, others will have research-based awards or a multiple choice test taken at home. At OTC, we prefer end of module tests in order to be fully certain that our graduates have attained the necessary skills required in the workplace.
A law degree is not necessary as Paralegals will not be employed as substitute lawyers. They are employed to complement existing legal services. Their legal knowledge and experience do not need to be on the same level as lawyers. Needless to say, the more legal skills Paralegals possess, the easier it will be to find employment. Many employers expect their Paralegals to be IT literate and have adequate typing speeds. If your speeds are not up to scratch you will need to get typing practise. You may not need 75wpm as legal secretaries do but if you wish to upgrade your typing skills you can get some further practise using the link - http://www.typeonline.co.uk.
Like Legal Secretaries, a Paralegal's knowledge of Procedural Law is vital. They need to know how to commence and progress clients’ matters such as Conveyancing, Divorces, Civil Claims, research case law in order to assist lawyers prepare criminal cases and more.
Many law firms expect such professionals to get into the office and start carrying out procedures from Day One. This is why they prefer to employ paralegals ‘with experience’. This way they feel more confident that they can rely on these ‘experienced’ employees to do just that.
OTC offers Paralegal Courses that do exactly that. We put great emphasis on principles of law and practical legal procedures, giving our students confidence to carry out procedures within the office from day One.
It is not necessary to cover all aspects of law at once, the list is endless. Paralegals can specialise in one or two areas of law, thus being able to offer more in-dept specialist knowledge to clients. Other law subjects can be added on at a later stage.
Solicitor or Barrister?
If you have spent the last couple years in university completing a Law Degree, you have already made the decision to become a Solicitor or a Barrister and you will already know the difference between these two legal giants.
These professions offer Paralegals further scope for advancement and a number of our paralegal students have done so.
A solicitor is like a General Practitioner (GP) who is able to work in all aspects of law.
A Barrister is a Litigation Specialist working in a more specialised role. He or she is the litigation expert and his or her level of qualification will be more specific to Litigation than that of a Solicitor.
While you are completing your Law Degree or the Legal Practice Course (LPC) you may wish to work as a Paralegal to get some in-house experience or even to pick up a Training Contract. This is possible and many law students have done that. There is no further training required to work as a Paralegal if you have already done or is doing the LPC. However, if you are within your first year of a law degree then completing the Procedural Law Course (modules 2 and 3) with us is necessary.
If you are definitely not considering the Paralegal route, then once you have completed your Law Degree you will apply to Solicitors Law Firms for a Training Contract or to Barristers Chambers for a Pupillage.
The Law Society is the independent Governing body which represents Solicitors in England and Wales.
The Bar Council is the independent Governing body which represents Barristers in England and Wales.
A Licensed Conveyancer is a Conveyancing Specialist. The level of training exceeds 3 years and must be followed by working under the supervision of a qualified solicitor or equivalent before branching out to provide paid independent Conveyancing services to members of the public.
The Council for Licensed Conveyancers is the regulatory body for Licensed Conveyancers in England and Wales.
Whichever route you choose, you will agree that you have chosen an excellent profession in which to work. This is one of the few professions where starting out as a Legal Secretary could result in you becoming a Judge!
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