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I work full time and what should be a 9-5 job ends up being much longer hours, but this is the life of a paralegal working at a silver circle firm. So making time for training contract applications and actually having a life outside of work can actually feel like they are jobs in themselves! How do you fit it all in?
For me, it’s about balance. You really do need to look at everything you have to do in front of you, and plan your time effectively, and not be lazy. But I’m sure this is no big revelation to any of you! If you want something badly, you HAVE to put in the effort. It’s just the same as work, if you want a promotion you put in the effort. If you want a training contract, you put in the effort. And it will pay off.
Congratualtions to all of you that have Vac schemes coming up, prepare well for them. Knowledge can impress potential recruiters. And remember the majority of training contract deadlines are coming up in July, so get moving and think to yourself you’re almost there!
For all of you law graduates that are out there and struggling to find even a paralegal position, I want you to read this post and think ‘This could happen to me!’ In a time when legal jobs are at their most competitive, you have to explore every opportunity in front of you. I chose Twitter to do this.
I found one mysterious tweet saying ‘A little birdie told me Eversheds has paralegal positions going…’ and an email address was given along with this tweet. I seized the opportunity and applied speculatively at first, inquiring if any positions were available and attaching my CV along with the email. I was told that it was the Litigation department that was recruiting paralegals and I thought ‘Perfect!’ – it’s where my background lies and the area in which my strengths are based.
I had a telephone call a couple of weeks later inviting me to interview, which I attended in November. The interview was fairly tough, over 15 competency based questions and many overlapped so I tried to expand every answer and give examples from every job I’ve had in law…along with trying to build rapport with my interviewer! A week later I was offered the position and I accepted, with no regrets yet. One thing about Eversheds was that I was completely surprised by the way everyone I met at the firm was so friendly and professional. Even now, two weeks into the job, I feel exactly the same way.
So I’ve now moved half way across the country, from Kent to Yorkshire to pursue a six month contract as a Litigation Paralegal with Eversheds, and I am loving it. I may joke about my social life being over since being given a Blackberry for my work emails, but in reality this is the job I have been working to for so many years and hopefully it paves the way to a training contract. I look forward to the late hours and putting in the effort because only I know how hard I have worked to get here….as I’m sure every one of you has too! And you know what, a job will not come and sit on your doorstep, you need to be dedicated and go out on the hunt, and not half-heartedly!
I don’t know about you but sometimes I really struggle to think of questions to ask at firms that I’m interviewing with. There’s such a vast knowledge base to research before you actually go in for the interview itself, that occasionally I draw a blank because I feel like I already know the firm and associates without having even entered the premises. (Please note: there’s a fine line between researching and stalking!)
So where do you do your research? Google is the obvious choice of search engine. The power of Google is almighty! But you will also need to think outside of the box, research online news sites, follow the partners on LinkedIn, connect on Twitter, read the firm’s blog (if they have one), newspaper articles, do the full works and it will help you be more prepared! It’s also become more and more important to have a social media presence online, so start making accounts but always remember to keep them professional! The law firm I worked at in New York would Google search any candidates that applied, digging for dirt and inappropriate pictures, so I know first-hand that it happens.
Last month I actually had the partner of a law firm I applied to send me a friendship request on Facebook only an hour after I had sent them my application. It’s a difficult situation to determine: on one hand the partner is doing his research on you and you wouldn’t want him to make a pre-determination about you based on Facebook pictures or comments you’ve made in the past. BUT, you also don’t want to hinder yourself from getting an interview! The way I dealt with it was to explain to an associate (who had emailed me to say they were considering my application, and had mentioned the partner’s Facebook request) that I was grateful for the request but that I use Twitter and LinkedIn in a professional capacity, and not Facebook. It was a risk that I took by doing this but I had to stick to my guns, although I am sure that some of you may read this and disagree. But I still don’t regret my decision and I think that’s the important thing.
So I also wanted to extend the offer to all of you who read mine, Greg’s, Liam’s and Mark’s blogs, that should you have any questions at all feel free to ask me. You can comment on any of my posts or tweet me here. I would love to have more interaction with all of you or even if there are any topics you’d like me to discuss then please do get in touch and let me know!
You wait to hear back from applications you’ve made, you wait to hear back from interviews you’ve been to and you wait to start your training contract (in the majority of cases, unless there is an immediate start for a lucky few!)
When I was in my final three months of my internship in New York I started making applications as I wanted to secure a job for when I returned home. I updated the CV, refreshed my covering letters and tailored them to whomever I was applying to.
One thing about me: I really believe that technology and technological mediums are the way forward. I applied to a worldwide innovative technology company for a paralegal position and obtained a Skype interview with them. It made me feel like I was making a move forward in some ways: 1) that a major corporation potentially wanted to employ me and 2) that they were happy to interview me via Skype and not in person. I waited three weeks for a response and was told that I would not be advancing to the next round because another candidate had more experience and was available at lesser notice [*sad face*]… However, the company told me to get in touch when I returned to the UK and that there may be another role at the company available to me, however it would be non-legal….I weighed up my options and decided to go for the interview, I figured at least I could meet those who Skype interviewed me in person, as it never hurts to network! With the role being non-legal though I had some doubts as I had undertaken the internship so my chances in the legal world would be greater rather than branching away from law. Needless to say I chose not to take this position (but to my advantage as I had greater things, more suited to my experience, to come my way!)
Ultimately, what I want you to take away from this post is to:
Network your butt off!
Take rejection as a stepping stone to learn and grow from your mistakes;
Analyse the interviews you’ve had, always think how you could have answered the questions better;
Don’t script your answers, be real in the interview and don’t pretend to be someone you’re not;
Remember that sometimes it’s not you, it’s the company;
Never underestimate your competition;
And always remember that if you are called to interview that the company like you on paper, you need to prove to them you’re the right fit in person.
Currently, I’m waiting again. I interviewed with a small firm in Central London three weeks ago and was told not to be concerned if I didn’t hear back from the firm for 1-2 weeks for a second interview. But coming up to three weeks now I’m getting concerned! Questions such as, ‘Should I contact them? Maybe I interviewed terribly? Was I not enthusiastic enough? Were the other candidates better than me?’ all cross my mind, but you have to put them to rest. You need to have the confidence in yourself to believe in yourself. If you can’t believe then how can a potential employer believe in you?? I’ve never wanted to work for a company more than this firm, I think they are fantastic but what’s done is done. Hopefully I purveyed my enthusiasm for the position and all I can do now is cross my fingers. I have my fingers crossed for all of you as well!
And here it is, the first post of what I hope will be an informative journey along with me whilst I search for a training contract.
A little about me:
Well, you already know I want to qualify as a solicitor but what you don’t know is that I graduated in 2007 from Kent University and completed the Legal Practice Course in 2008. It’s been four going on five years since I finished the LPC and still there is no training contract in sight for me. Many of my friends have qualified and many have found alternative employment in various areas such as recruitment and management consulting, but I don’t want to change my mind about law.
I’ve been working as a Paralegal in the meantime, currently working for LexisNexis and am awed to be surrounded by so many intelligent people. My colleagues are mainly all qualified solicitors who are driven by efficiency and a need to modernise the legal profession and I enjoy being at the forefront of this. (For a alternative view see Mark’s post here.)
I’ve also spent time working and studying abroad. I took part in a year long internship moving to New York and working on Fifth Avenue for a litigation law firm. This has to be the highlight of my career thus far, the experience I gained may have been in a different legal system but litigation skills are highly transferable. I also gained academics and topped up my knowledge by studying for a Post-Graduate Certificate in International Business in which I got a distinction.
Before this opportunity came along I was working for a legal publishing company in London Bridge where I stayed for almost three years. I felt I was lucky to have a job in the economic climate the country was facing and I always believed it was better to have a job than no job. But I didn’t just stay idle, I managed to gain a vacation scheme for three weeks and also took one day a week off work and volunteered at the Citizens Advice Bureau as a Gateway Assessor. And even before this, I started my first legal job at 15 and since then I’ve shadowed judges in the District court (which was arranged through my University), I wrote to the Crown Prosecution Service and set up work experience with them, I’ve worked for a Magic Circle firm and also a large investment bank as a paralegal.
But still no training contract…
Sometimes I do feel disheartened, as everyone does when facing a pile of rejection letters, but the rejection makes you a stronger person. Whatever reasons are given for you not being offered a position, it probably wouldn’t have been the right place for you anyway. Keep applying, and keep things interesting on your CV! The amount of interest I’ve had in my CV since I returned in March from working abroad, has been astounding and these might not necessarily lead to being handed the job but on many occasions it gets me an interview.
I believe all of my work experience has rounded me into an individual capable of taking on any work that is passed my way. I thrive when learning about new areas of law, I do my research thoroughly and most of all…I enjoy it! Seriously, do not underestimate the power of work experience, however mundane or monotonous it may be, just think about how amazing it will look on your CV. It’s still my dream to qualify and I can feel that I am so close and in the meantime I’ve gained a ton of experience which will only help me when I take on my training contract.
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.