If you haven’t got a training contract after the LPC, is becoming a paralegal the best option?

If you’re determined to become a solicitor and have done the LPC but don’t have a training contact, is becoming a paralegal the next best step or would other commercial experience be as or more valuable?

James Harper, head of legal, LexisNexis: I think both answers are potentially right. I think becoming a paralegal is a great next step, if that is an option open to you.

I don’t think it is the only possible next step. I had the pleasure, when I was at SJ Berwin, of working with trainees who had another career before they came to work with us and they were some of the best trainees in our intake because they had such good commercial and life experience. They hadn’t worked in the law at all before so they were on the same footing as us legally, but they had great commercial experience.

The choices aren’t always there for you. You can’t always say, “Oh, I want to be a paralegal” and then go and become one. It’s not always that easy. It’s about making the best of the opportunities you have.

Veronica Roberts, graduate recruitment partner, Herbert Smith Freehills: I completely agree with James’ comments: paralegal experience can be very interesting and valuable, but equally, so can a range of other things. If you do get some paralegal experience make sure you focus on really trying to understand as much about the case you are working on possible. Paralegal positions can vary; you can end up working on one case or a number of cases.

But get as much out of it as you can, because when we interview somebody who has been a paralegal we will ask how much they learned about the cases they were working on from the lawyers they were working with. That is one point I’d make: if you are lucky enough to get a paralegal role then make the most of it for your interviews.

Joanne Rourke, employability programme manager, University of Law: There is also the opportunity for equivalent means now. So if you go into a paralegal position there is the now opportunity to qualify [as a solicitor] on the back of that. You will need to manage that yourself however, and make sure you have the relevant experience and supervision and have an understanding of the regulations.

James, Joanne and Veronica were talking on Lawyer 2B’s ’How to make yourself employable’ webcast. Watch it in full here.