The University of Glamorgan have recently announced that they will be offering a degree in paralegal studies. The degree is “designed to provide you with a flexible, work-related learning experience that will equip you with the necessary skills to succeed in the legal sector”. The course is approved by the Chartered Institute for Legal Executives (CILEX) and successful completion can allow exemption from the level 3 Professional Diploma in Law and Practice.
Because the course was developed along with CILEX it should be a great way for prospective paralegals to train. When it comes to employment the course could give you a real advantage over other applicants. A mixture of legal subjects and practical legal skills will be taught to students on the course. In this way it strikes me as being a kind of “paralegal LPC”.
One question you may ask is this: If you’re going to invest the time and money in a course to become a paralegal, (which doesn’t actually require a degree), why don’t you just invest that time and money into becoming a solicitor via the traditional route? Looking at the fees calculator on the page linked above it seems that it will be much cheaper than taking an LLB course. The course is done over 2 years (if done full time) and shouldn’t cost more than £5000 per year for UK students (less for Welsh students). And your chances of employment should be higher compared to a student who wants to be a solicitor and has just completed the LLB.
Also the required grades are much lower (160 UCAS points or relevant professional experience) which will mean that a legal education from university becomes much more accessible to some. What wouldn’t be ideal is if this sort of course became the norm, and indeed an unofficial requirement of paralegals.
Right now this seems like a great course. We all know how hard it is to get any job in the legal sector, and if you want to become a paralegal this would certainly help you. But what about the future? One day (hopefully!) the economy, and legal sector as a whole, will become more healthy. This should mean employment increases and therefore it won’t be as hard to become a paralegal as it is now. Would this decrease the usefulness of this course when that time comes? I think not. This seems like the sort of course that should be an investment for the future. Something that could help with career progression. Undoubtedly firms will see this course as a massive bonus. So rather than the course simply being something that’s required (like the LLB or GDL for solicitors), we should think of it as a nice bonus that will help in the future. Like a masters degree.
This is only speculation but it will be interesting to see how employers treat this course and what impact it will have on the way paralegals are employed. We certainly don’t want the paralegal role to be labelled “graduates only”, if this does happen then we can be sure that many other course providers will offer paralegal studies similar to this one.