Competition to work in the legal sector is pushing qualified lawyers to apply for paralegal roles, the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives has told the Gazette, after an international firm specifies that applicants for a paralegal job must be qualified solicitors.
Baker & McKenzie, the world's largest law firm by revenue, said it was ‘essential’ that the successful applicant for a four-month paralegal role in its dispute resolution department in London was a qualified solicitor with two years post qualification experience.
The job advertisement said the role would suit either a career paralegal or qualified lawyer seeking to build on their legal experience.
Although some employers may ask for a qualification such as law degree or a diploma for paralegal roles, it is unusual for a firm to require applicants to be solicitors. Such positions often attract students waiting to get a training contract.
But commenting on the advertisement, Baker & McKenzie said that it has been ‘commonplace’ for many years for qualified lawyers, particularly internationally qualified lawyers in London, to take on short-term paralegal work.
A spokesman from CILEx confirmed that it was becoming more usual for qualified lawyers to take on such roles: ‘Whilst this is only one vacancy in one firm it chimes with our evidence, and is indicative that today’s recruitment field is an employer’s market with opportunities to work in the law becoming increasingly competitive. It may also indicate a market shift in demand for skills and competence, away from employing based on professional qualification.’
The institute has been conducting an enquiry into paralegals and feedback so far has suggested there are limited opportunities for recognition and progression for paralegals, while employers have reported receiving applications from qualified lawyers for paralegal roles.
The spokesman added: ‘We firmly believe that educating and training the legal workforce of the future demands open and accessible opportunities to build skills and experience. Unnecessarily restricting access to opportunities such as this will limit the talent pool firms can recruit from.’
CILEx started its paralegal enquiry last summer to see where paralegals fit in the legal market and will announce the outcomes later this year.
Job extract from the Baker & McKenzie jobs website: