During this particularly uncertain time for applicants, it is important to remember that securing a training contract can be achieved in many ways. If you are unable to secure a training contract at your ‘dream firm’ there are plenty of other roles and opportunities to work towards securing one at that same firm. As a student not yet in any day-to-day working environment, the paralegal route might seem like unknown territory however there are a number of benefits in pursuing this option.
Traditionally there are more paralegal positions available than training contracts. Applying to the firm whilst already working in the organisation as a paralegal could increase your chances of securing a training contract. Due to the highly competitive nature of training contracts, getting experience at the firm as a paralegal enhances your understanding of the firm itself and boosts your network which ultimately increases the likelihood of securing a training contract in the future.
In this week’s article we hear from Aaliyah Freemantle who is a paralegal for a commercial outfit in London called Seddons.
How does the role of a paralegal differ from that of a trainee?
Although it varies from firm to firm, the responsibility of paralegals is similar to that of a trainee.
Aaliyah noted that despite the similarity in work, a key difference between the roles is that trainees often rotate departments (“seats”) every 6 months, whereas paralegals remain within a specific department.
As a result, paralegals often gain more experience in one practice area. However, by the same token trainees are exposed to more practice areas and gain a greater insight into other departments within the firm.
How competitive is it to secure a paralegal role?
With training contracts becoming increasingly competitive, paralegal roles have been the next available position for any aspiring solicitor. In recent years, certain firms are expecting a greater degree of experience and qualifications. Some firms now look for paralegals to have completed the LPC and have strong experience in the particular area of law you want to be a paralegal for. Aaliyah believes that by having experience as a legal assistant in a regional firm in London before applying for her training contract helped her stand out from the crowd.
What might you learn from being a paralegal?
As an applicant, one key aspect recruiters are looking for is being able to understand how a law firm operates as a business. Aaliyah says paralegals benefit from being asked to assist different practice areas. This puts you as an applicant in a better position to know what area you want to qualify into and also how a firm operates and remains competitive in the crowded legal market.
Lawyers switch between speaking in complex legal language to conversational language. Through experience as a paralegal, these skills will be honed while interacting with other colleagues and clients prior to applying for a training contract. This skill will be important as you pursue your legal career particularly when explaining solutions to clients who might not be familiar with legal terms in a contract.
How and why does becoming a paralegal help to secure a training contract?
Many firms are increasingly hiring trainees internally from their paralegal pool. If you can secure a paralegal role at the firm of your choice it can make a massive difference. For firms that aren’t hiring internally, paralegal experience will certainly give you exposure to that firm if you choose to apply there and can showcase to other employers your understanding of the legal sector and how firms operate.
Aaliyah makes a really important point to “never underestimate a job well done”. As a paralegal you get quite involved in cases. It is likely that you will get praise for your efforts and in that scenario it’s a great opportunity to reach out to the lead solicitor and express your interest and get their advice on training contract applications.
With clients as well as a paralegal you get to make good impressions with clients and that can work in your favour. In Aaliyah’s experience after impressing a client she was named in a Legal 500 review. Examples like this whilst being a paralegal provides employers with evidence of your potential to be a well-rounded trainee solicitor in the future.