Law firms are receiving up to 100 applications for every paralegal vacancy as law graduates become desperate for work and law firms seek out lower staff costs.

Research from recruitment firm The Stephen James Partnership (SJP) found a backlog of LPC graduates competing for a diminishing number of training contracts.

The firm estimated that the number of people working as paralegals is likely to increase by 20% in the next four years, but that may still not be enough to meet demand.

SJP founder Samuel Clague said paralegals have traditionally been those with training contracts looking for experience, graduates looking to work as paralegals for a short period, and those wanting a long-term career as a paralegal.

‘Recently, we have seen a new fourth category, comprising of many academically gifted law graduates, who perhaps 10 to 15 years ago would have walked into training contracts, but given the current competition, are not able to secure one.

‘These graduates undertake paralegal work in the hope of one day getting the training contract, but after a number of years of rejection they resign themselves to being paralegals.’

With clients putting downward cost pressure on firms, many firms are keen to employ graduate paralegals instead of more expensive trainees.

Clague added: ‘An LPC graduate will often have two degrees and some relevant experience, which on paper is often very similar to firms’ trainees.

‘Many firms consider that by employing this type of paralegal, they are able to draw on the ability of a highly capable individual who is hungry to impress and work all hours for a fraction of the rate that a trainee is paid.’

A report last month by legal recruiters Hays described the paralegals market as ‘fiercely competitive with an abundance of candidates available

Temporary roles are increasingly being offered to applicants, and LPC graduates can expect a salary of £18,000, rising to around £25,000 for those with at least one year’s experience. The very top salaries hover at around £32,000