Clare finds studying the Legal Practice Course part time, alongside her paralegal work, aids her academic and professional development
How did you secure your paralegal role?
After securing my law degree at the University of Kent, I had to build on my experience. Initially, I worked as a receptionist and then in business support for a large organisation, before securing a legal assistant role in their legal department. I then worked as a legal assistant in a high street law firm, before obtaining my current role as a dispute resolution paralegal at Collyer Bristow LLP.
What's a typical working day like as a paralegal?
I assist partners and associates with general case management tasks such as liaising with clients on costs issues, preparing bundles of case documents to counsel, and carrying out legal research.
What do you enjoy most about working in the legal sector?
The job of a paralegal is what you make it. I find the opportunities to develop my experience and skills are what makes it exciting. I work within both the banking and financial disputes team and the media and privacy team, so the work is always varied. Highlights have been issuing proceedings in court and writing an article for our website which led to me contributing to the legal column of a trade magazine.
What are the challenges faced in your work?
Banking is a very technical area and it can take a while to get used to the terminology but it is simply a learning process. An issue relevant to any paralegal or trainee is the fact that you may be working on a matter for more than one lawyer at any one time. Effective communication and organisational skills are vital. Lawyers will not know what other work you have ongoing and you don't want to spread yourself too thin, so you need to speak up if you have any problems.
In what way is the Legal Practice Course (LPC) relevant to your work?
The LPC is preparing me for life in practice as a solicitor, so I'm glad I've chosen to study the LPC part time, alongside my paralegal job. My studies have helped me at work and likewise my experience in practice has helped me with the course, as it is directly relevant. For example, for the skills assessment, I researched a legal issue of a hypothetical client and prepared a letter of advice. As I was experienced in writing to clients, I felt more confident in this and the opportunity to further develop my research skills has definitely benefitted my work.
How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?
At first, I was mostly involved in casework with various lawyers, however, I now have the opportunity to get involved in business development (building networks with people and helping to attract new business). An example of this would be article writing and many lawyers do this to establish themselves as experts in their fields. Business development is an important aspect of a solicitor's role so this is excellent experience for me.
What advice can you give to others seeking a paralegal job?
Paralegal roles are increasingly being seen as a step towards gaining a solicitor's training contract and so securing these roles can be competitive. Do take advantage of any opportunity to gain relevant experience, whether at a local law firm, a pro bono law clinic, or your local Citizens Advice Bureau. Be sure to make use of the contacts you make along the way as they will be an invaluable source of advice.