It might sound obvious, but for those of you who aren’t aware, a Paralegal is almost like what a nurse is to a doctor…at least that’s the extent of my creativity in making a suitable analogy of the role. But the position can vary dramatically based on a number of factors; where you work, who you work with and how much you as an individual are willing to invest.
Paradise or Para-kill myself right now?
Now, for some of you, undertaking a role as a Paralegal may be the most busy, hectic, rollercoaster of an experience where you really begin to develop as a young lawyer. You may be reviewing contracts, negotiating clauses, hosting conference calls and/or giving presentations. For others, your role may be more administrative-based; filing, note taking and conducting due diligence.
Regardless, it’s valuable experience that must be taken with a positive approach. I’ve set out three tips that I think will put you in good stead for the duration of your role, should you be considering one.
Tip 1: Do your research.
It may be great on the CV to have ‘Paralegal at X Law firm’, but think of the work that you might be doing. Understand the difference between working in-house, in comparison to working in private practice. Both are very different environments, with very different needs, offering very different opportunities. Make sure you research the department/company you have applied to, and make sure that you will be given the challenges you seek…If you don’t know, ask!
Tip 2: Set your own goals.
You need to set realistic targets of what you want to learn and gain from this experience. Don’t ‘go with the flow’, create your own path of development. You will find it much more rewarding in the long term, and the staff will appreciate you for it! Be in a position where after 6 months, 1 year, or however long your employment contract is, you can reflect on what you achieved. This will put you in great stead for future interviews (Training Contract or not!), as it shows self-awareness and development.
Tip 3: Embrace the experience.
Have fun! Being a Paralegal is great. You have been provided with an opportunity to gain some high quality legal experience, whilst interacting in a business environment. Make the most of receiving advice, criticism and mentoring from lawyers, partners and general counsel.
Paranoid about the future?
Now you’re a Paralegal, so what?
A lot of in-house legal teams and law firms have begun to more frequently recruit their future trainees from their existing pool of Paralegals. And it makes complete sense. They know you, they’ve worked with you for a substantial period of time – and they like you (in most cases anyway).
Regardless of whether you can obtain a Training Contract via progression from a Paralegal role, the fact is that it is a great way to fill any gaps in between University, the GDL, the LPC, and when your Training Contract begins.
If I’ve yet to make it clear, being a Paralegal is a great opportunity. Having graduated from University without a Training Contract, I was in a bit of a pickle (to put it politely) in working out how to improve and make myself stand out amongst the other hundreds of people in exactly the same position. But gaining extra experienced worked.
The need for Paralegals has been on somewhat of an increase over the last few years, which is great news for all of you budding ‘Rachel Zanes’! If you, like me and every aspiring lawyer at some stage in their career, find it difficult overcoming the hurdles of obtaining work experience, vacation schemes, and the elusive Training Contract – consider becoming a Paralegal. It will help, honest!