Life as a paralegal
In this episode of Future You, I speak to Weronika Husejko, a paralegal working in the divorce and finance team at McAlister Family Law
In order of first appearance:
- Henry Godfrey-Evans - editorial assistant, Prospects
- Weronika Husejko - paralegal at McAlister Family Law
Henry Godfrey-Evans: This is the second episode in our 'Life as a...' series where we speak to those in different professions to find out what the job is really like. If you're intrigued by the paralegal route or undecided, then today's episode is for you.
Hello, and welcome to Future You, the podcast brought to you by graduate careers experts Prospects, we're here to help with your career goals. In this episode, I speak to Weronika Husejko a paralegal working in the divorce and finance team at Mcalister family law. We asked her where she began, what her responsibilities are and what she loves about the role. So Veronica, would you like to introduce yourself? Yeah, so
Weronika Husejko: My name is Weronika. I'm 23 years old. I'm a paralegal. And I work as part of the divorce and finance team at McAlister family law, which is like a specialist practice of the Beyond Group. work. I work in Manchester, and I've worked in family law for about two years.
Henry Godfrey-Evans: What route did you have to take to become a paralegal?
Weronika Husejko: Well, I think the most traditional route actually is becoming a paralegal once you finish university, just as a way to kind of gain experience in law in practice, but mine was slightly different. When I was doing a law degree, one of my friends actually, she'd found this careers page. And she then managed to get like a part time clerking role for a barrister whilst we were doing that. So that kind of inspired me to then also check the careers page on a regular basis to see if I could find something that would kind of get me that experience, practically speaking. So I did actually find something on there. That was a part time paralegal role. It was just kind of working at a city centre, personal injury firm. But that then- I mean, I only worked there about one day a week. But that kind of, as an entry role, gave me that experience, I needed to then get a role working as a paralegal when I finished uni. And that was in family law, which is the area that I actually wanted to work in. But I think those basic skills that I picked up, working in that initial kind of personal injury firm did actually really help.
Henry Godfrey-Evans: What skills do you need to become a paralegal?
Weronika Husejko: Well, I think that actually differs depending on the area of law that you need, that you are working as a paralegal. So I think, with family law, specifically, because it is quite different to the other areas of law, obviously, like corporate and conveyance and things like that, I think, with family law, you actually need to have an actual interest and passion for helping people. I think it's really important. For me, I definitely have that, and I always knew that I wanted to work in family. So I definitely- that helps, because it isn't an easy area of law to work in. I think it's also really important that you have empathy and you're empathetic towards the clients. I mean, they're going through the most difficult stages of their life when you're meeting with them. And you know, that's really a key skill that you need to have. But for me, I think it's also important to be driven and motivated. Because as I say, it's not an easy job. And I think if you are then you know kind of where you're heading, but yeah. I think that they're the kind of three most important things.
Henry Godfrey-Evans: Okay, so you mentioned you worked part time while you were doing your degree. I presume there was a bit of training in there as well, what part of your training/education was the most challenging for you?
Weronika Husejko: Well, I think all of them in different ways. So I think the law degree whilst I was doing that was the most academically challenging, it wasn't too bad during the part time paralegal role at the same time, because I would do that one day a week. So it wasn't too bad. But a degree is obviously quite challenging in itself. But then when I was doing the LPC, so the legal practice course, I also did a part time role the same time, but that was, I guess, more challenging in that aspect. I mean, it was had to navigate the amount of work that I had, which was a lot. So I think that was more challenging in that way. I think the legal practice course isn't necessarily academically challenging, but it's there's a lot to learn and a lot of work to do. And I was doing it at the same time as a different paralegal role, which was about 25 hours a week. So that was quite difficult. But then I think when you're actually training to be a paralegal initially, it can be quite challenging in itself, because there's a lot you don't know. And university doesn't really prepare you for that. It's really different to what you learn academically, so yeah.
Henry Godfrey-Evans: So big commitment. What made you go into family law as a paralegal?
Weronika Husejko: Well, before I even started university, I kind of knew that I was interested in that because I did sociology, I did law and I kind of like the mix of the two. They were always my interests. But then when I started university that nobody really talks about the option of going and becoming a paralegal before doing your training contract or anything like that. So then when I went to some kind of firm open days, things like that, I spoke to some paralegals, and I actually liked the idea of gaining some experience in an area of law before going into it and doing a training contract. So I think with family... As I say, I did that personal injury paralegal role first. And that made me realise I definitely wanted to work with people. And then I kind of- because I had that interest in family while studying at uni, and all of that then just kind of naturally, I think came that a family paralegal role will be the right next step to take. So that's when I found a role doing that whilst was doing the LPC. But I'm really glad I did it. Because I mean, it just confirmed to me that that's actually what I wanted to do. So
Henry Godfrey-Evans: What does your role entail as a paralegal?
Weronika Husejko: I think the main part of it is actually just really helping solicitors with their cases. Obviously, you do have cases of your own and depending on what firm you're working for, and you know, things like that. But I think generally, for me, it includes things like attending client meetings, and assist in taking a note in those meetings. I also do things like attend court hearings, conferences with council, which are really interesting. But then you also do the more kind of desk-based work, which is things like preparing court documents, drafting letters, things like that. But I mean, it's more I mean, it depends, obviously, what area of law you're working in again, but that's just what I do in family.
Henry Godfrey-Evans: What do you enjoy the most about what you do?
Weronika Husejko: I think, specifically with the firm that I'm at now, McAlister's I think what's great is that I actually get to co-work cases with other solicitors. So it's not just that I'm assisting them, it's actually that I get the clients get to know me, and I get to know the case as well, which is really good. It's a really good experience for me. So there are actually a few cases that I'm working on where I'm actually involved in the day-to-day work under the supervision of a partner. And the clients, as I say, contact me, and I'm involved in all the correspondence and then also all the preparations and I attend the hearings as well. So yeah, it was really interesting.
Henry Godfrey-Evans: So how do you see your career progressing or changing in the coming years?
Weronika Husejko: Well, I think, for me, my current goal is to qualify as a solicitor. So that's kind of where I'm working towards. So my next step would be to get a training contract with the group. But I feel quite lucky in that, because so the Beyond Group, they've been quite transparent with me from day one, you know, when I started that, I do have options for progression. And the really good thing is with the Beyond Group as well, is that they only hire internally for trainees. So I think that's a really positive thing. So it shows, you know, hard work is rewarded. And it's noticed, and one of the things that I'd get to do here, as well as I mean, I know that I want to do family, but I'd also get to do other seats, such as corporate law. So who knows, I might even end up liking a different area of law, but you know, we'll see.
Henry Godfrey-Evans: What's your favourite part of the job?
Weronika Husejko: Um, I would say it's actually just as specifically as a paralegal, you get a real variety of work. So it just, I mean, day to day, you're working on different cases, obviously, that as I say, there are a few cases which you work on every day, and you know them inside out, and that's great. But there's also because, you know, I assist a group of about 10 to 15 solicitors so it's- you know, you really do get that variety of different types of work, and I think that's really important when you started out to get all that experience
Henry Godfrey-Evans: You knew was coming, what was your least favourite part of the job?
Weronika Husejko: Well, I think with family law, obviously, you're helping people that are going through a really difficult time of their life, it's very stressful for them. And so it can be quite difficult at times to kind of separate yourself emotionally from what they're going through and what you're dealing with. But for me, it's always worth it when you achieve a fair result for your client. And they usually always appreciate it. So you know, it's, it's just really, it's just a really rewarding job. And you really get to kind of get to know them as well. But as I say, it can be quite draining at times.
Henry Godfrey-Evans: Yeah, do you find yourself working past sociable hours quite often?
Weronika Husejko: Um, I think as a paralegal, it just depends what you make of it. I mean, it can be a nine to five job, if that's what you want it to be. It is, I think, all the firms that I've worked at, I've been super busy, but it does vary firm to firm. But for me, I mean, I actually do work outside of those hours, but it's always out of choice. A lot of the time, it's, you know, it's to do net things like networking for my own personal development. But other times it's to do work for clients. And you know, it's all just kind of seeing it see it as a way to achieve my goal, which is to qualify as a solicitor and that's just going to help me get there. If that makes sense. So, you know, so I mean, I really enjoy my job as well. So I don't really kind of think, oh, you know, I've got to stay late. It's not like that I just, I just get on with it really. And I just do what I need to do.
Henry Godfrey-Evans: Yes. Great. Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to get into law?
Weronika Husejko: Yes. So I think my biggest point of advice would be to get as much practical experience as you actually can, whether it's that you're about to start your A-levels, and you're kind of considering whether you're interested in law or not, whether you doing your A-levels, whether you're at university, whether you've finished university, you know, it's just - get as much practical experiences as you can, open your mind to all the different areas of law that there are, because they're all so different. I think, when I was doing my A-levels, and I spoke to one of my friends who also did this, you kind of think that criminal law is almost the only route. and the criminal and civil, I think they're the only kind of routes you see, and there's so many other areas that you know, that you can explore, and they're all so different from each other. So I think the key is to actually, you know, if you find law interesting, go out there, you know, try and get experience with law firms, you know, try and do many seats in different areas and see what you actually like. Because as I say, they're really different. Also, you know, the things at uni like legal advice clinics, Citizen's Advice Bureau, which you can get involved with, I didn't do that, personally, I just kind of took the paralegal route and did that. But that, you know, everybody does different things. There's also when you're actually applying for jobs, I think it's really important, again, to link back your own personal experiences to why you want to work in that actual particular area of law, because that will actually make you stand out.
Henry Godfrey-Evans: Are there any myths or stereotypes that you want to debunk about law?
Weronika Husejko: Yeah, so I think it's a lot more diverse than I actually expected. Particularly at the firm that I'm at now, I've noticed that they're a lot less focused on people's backgrounds, and you know, where they went to university, things like that, which kind of is what you're taught from an early age. And it's more about whether you fit into the culture of the firm, which I think is really important. And here, it's worked out really well. So we have, like, my team, for example, we all get along so well. It just clicks. And I think that that's, you know, everybody knows what they're doing. Everybody's got the experience, and you know, they're really good at the job. And it doesn't matter where they went to university. You know, as long as we click as a team, we're doing the work. And that's all that matters. So it's actually also a lot more collaborative than I thought it would be. I thought it would be kind of, you know, individual solicitors working individually. But we all work as a team. And it's a really supportive environment, which I think I mean, it is firm dependent, but I think that that also kind of surprised me.
Henry Godfrey-Evans: Thanks to Weronika for speaking to us. If you'd like to know more about being a paralegal or the law sector in general, then visit prospects.ac.uk where you'll find advice, case studies and course and job listings. For now, goodbye.
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