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The paralegal has a foot in the door...

10 March 2015

It comes as no shock that the legal market is a saturated one, with statistics suggesting there are more law graduates than there are training contracts available. Many a law student laments spending the £10,000 needed to study the Legal Practice Course, especially as there is no guarantee that the student will reach the end goal – qualification.

When I completed my 3 year LLB, the question I kept asking myself, whilst watching my fellow classmates sign up for the LPC was “should I bite the bullet?” I was reluctant to take out a loan for the LPC without the security of a training contract (‘TC’) at the end of it. Moreover many law firms, including Browne Jacobson, offered sponsorship of the LPC.

I decided against biting the bullet, and opted instead to paralegal. Best decision ever. The paralegal position (or legal assistant role, as they are called at BJ) I managed to secure exposed me to civil litigation in practice, file-handling, effective time management and dealing with clients.– These are key skills every lawyer needs and can only be learnt by doing.

About 2 years in, I had a much better CV. When it came to my applications, I could actually say “I believe I can bring a lot to the table” (and “a lot” no longer meant “but it could potentially be nada”). During my assessment day at BJ, I could actually relate to and have a meaningful discussion about litigation costs with one of the partners interviewing me. I honestly believe this helped my candidacy tremendously.

I was lucky enough to receive a TC offer from BJ shortly after. As the TC offer was for 2 years in advance, I had a year to kill before studying the LPC. So I decided to paralegal here. I got to learn the systems, to know the people, and learned to navigate my way around the Nottingham office! I even got to manage a small team for a few months whilst covering a colleague on maternity.

My first seat was in Health. The team is incredibly busy and as a trainee, while you do receive a lot of support, you are very much expected to hit the ground running. I really benefitted from not having to spend time learning the system, the nuances of civil litigation etc., and was able instead to get stuck into actually doing the work.

I was given the opportunity of working on a multi-million pound case which included: working on a lengthy and very high value Counter Schedule of Loss, liaising with barristers (including QC) independently, working out a complex breakdown of the losses and interest claimed and offered, and attending a 3-week trial at the Royal Courts of Justice. Additionally, I was given the responsibility of interviewing an expert witness independently to obtain a statement.

The exposure I got in the Health seat was better than I could ever have hoped for, and my paralegalling days made sure I got as much out of the seat as I possibly could.

Paralegalling is worth it. But do not be lackadaisical – it is not a ticket or a shortcut to a training contract. It is a head start, a way to know law is definitely for you – and it is a foot in the door. Most of all, by paralleging in advance, you stand to get the most out of your training contract.

So to all aspiring trainees, think about paralegalling. Be it 6 months or 2 years – go and show your prospective firms what you’re made of!