Life as a paralegal at DLA Piper

In this article, Matthew Berrick interviews Chetan Mistry about his experience working at DLA Piper. This piece focuses on the roles and responsibilities of being a paralegal and some tips for aspiring solicitors. Huge thank you to Chetan for sharing his insight!

Tell me a bit about yourself and what does a career in commercial law mean to you?

I studied Law at the University of Liverpool where I was awarded a First-Class Honours degree. Throughout the duration of my degree I acquired various legal work-experiences which developed my interest in commercial law. One factor I particularly enjoyed was the international aspect of my work, something I am keen to pursue in my legal career.

As a graduate, I took a year out and worked in the retail industry which enabled me to save funds to travel across South-East Asia. During this time, I also managed the family owned business in a client facing role. Growing up in this environment exposed me to the commercial market from a young age. Some of the qualities I gained in these roles built a strong foundation of skills that I have been able to utilise in my legal career. After that, I spent a week in a regional law firm where I was able to use the knowledge from my degree to create a successful legal argument which was used against the opposition. I valued my experience in this role as it highlighted my desire to work on an international platform.

I then joined DLA Piper as a paralegal in their Leeds Legal Delivery Centre (LDC) in October 2018.

What are your day to day responsibilities as a paralegal at DLA Piper?

In short, it varies massively – a fact which is one of the great things I have found working at DLA Piper. I initially started off in the Litigation and Regulatory team where I would be acting as assignment lead on various e-disclosure reviews and data subject access requests. This is a very dynamic team as I have been part of cases involving listed companies and ones based overseas. Alongside this, I supported the Intellectual Property team with their work for the Premier League; an exciting task as an avid football supporter. I was able to refine my legal drafting skills whilst working for an elite client of the firm.

I was then fortunate enough to go on a client secondment which I will discuss in further detail later, however, this shows some of the great opportunities you can be afforded through being a part of DLA Piper. After my return, I joined the Real Estate team where I currently sit. Here, I manage over forty different lease transactions from instruction through to post-completion. I am also instructed on drafting ancillary documents and advising on title queries. I am liaising directly with the client, tenant’s solicitors and senior fee-earners on a daily basis.

Alongside my billable work, I am enthused to be involved with the technology sector steering group where I am able to collaborate with senior associates and the Leeds office Managing Partner. Most recently, I have created a diversity and inclusion ambassador role within the LDC which I believe truly demonstrates the responsibility

you are afforded if you put yourself forward. It also highlights the importance DLA Piper places on diversity and inclusion at all levels of the firm.

Why did you choose the paralegal route before applying for a training contract?

I had involved myself with many legal placement opportunities throughout my time at university, but I felt it was important to develop this further through working as a paralegal. In this role, I am able to gain a first-hand insight into working for an international law firm whilst progressing my legal skills and knowledge. I believe this will provide me an advantageous start to my training contract as I have been delegated many trainee-level tasks. It also gives a more in-depth understanding of what practice areas you may wish to pursue, nevertheless, I would suggest to keep an open-mind.

What has been one of the most interesting experiences or cases
you have been involved with at DLA Piper? What was particularly interesting from a commercial/strategic perspective (that you are allowed to disclose)

I am grateful to have been a part of so many interesting cases and experiences. One that stood out for me was working on a complex, multi-party rail litigation. In this case I was involved in the e-disclosure review which provided a unique insight into the depths of the case. As a result, I was invited to the London office for four days (where I was put up in a very nice hotel) to assist the litigation team with the bundling for the litigation.

Alongside working closely with the associate, I worked independently in Counsel’s chambers which was a position of significant responsibility. It was very rewarding to be entrusted with a task that exceeds the standard duties of a paralegal and is usually only entrusted to trainees. It was an amazing experience to be part of. DLA Piper successfully acted for their client and this case was featured in The Lawyer’s Top 20 cases of 2020 and I was honoured to have been part of that team. This also shows the opportunities that are available to those that demonstrate enthusiasm and dedication.

As a paralegal it’s unique to have got to work for a client in house. Explain a bit about your experience working for a client in house. Who were they? What did they do? What did you enjoy commercially about the experience? What did you learn? (And anything else you think is important to mention)

I agree – it really was an incomparable experience and I was very grateful for the opportunity that DLA Piper afforded me.

I joined LabTech, a real estate client, who have an extensive portfolio of assets across London including Camden Market. I was initially involved in drafting numerous legal documents for the traders within the market and simultaneously assisting on other matters. However, my responsibilities quickly extended from this to leading a lease review for the CFO, closely working with finance and supervising the team in my manager’s absence.

Aside from living in central London (which I loved), I really enjoyed having this responsibility and being able to work with senior individuals within the company across different departments. It was also a great way to extend my network and connect with many of the people I worked with. Most of which I still keep in touch with. Personally, I learned how much I am actually capable of and that confidently exercising soft skills can be as equally as important as technical ability.

Additionally, I learned a vast amount in relation to property law and, also, how to manage a client’s expectations effectively. If you ever have the opportunity to go a secondment then take it!

From your experience, what advice would you give to aspiring lawyers trying to secure training contracts?

A great asset to offer as a candidate, trying to secure a training contract, is the transferrable skills you have gained in your experience to date. This includes both legal and non-legal work experience, the latter is equally as important. Whether it is working in a local high-street law firm, a part-time job in the retail sector or being involved in extra-curricular activities such as sport teams or travelling, it is important to recognise the value of these experiences. In all of these examples, you will have gained skills which will enable you to demonstrate your potential as a candidate. Displaying this alongside a strong motivation to succeed will be pivotal to securing a training contract.

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