Paralegal to trainee: the easy path?

Paralegal to trainee: the easy path?

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Author: Melissa Roberts, Trainee Solicitor

Working as a paralegal is a great way to gain experience in law, but is it really a quicker way to secure a training contract?

Melissa Roberts, Trainee Solicitor

Qualifying as a solicitor has been an aspiration of mine for a long time, and so after graduating from university, securing a paralegal position seemed like the next logical step. This was not only because I wanted to 'keep the ball rolling' and complete the LPC as soon as possible and, without funding, in reality I needed a full-time job to pay for it, but also because it seemed reasonable that I get a job which would provide experience in the sector that I one day hoped to qualify into.

It is often said that a paralegal position gets your 'foot in the door' at a law firm and means you have an easier time in your quest for a training contract. I think this has elements of both truth and falseness to it, as even though I worked at Shoosmiths, who promote a supportive internal route and desire to progress internal talent, I went through the same process as all the other candidates; from the application to the assessment day.

However on the flip-side of the coin, my first-hand experience at Shoosmiths was also invaluable; it gave me an abundance of opportunities to glean useful tips and advice from a host of people within the firm from training principals to current trainees, and it also meant that by the time the assessment day came around, I was fully integrated within the firm and understood on a practical level what it meant to live and work by Shoosmiths' values.

Essentially, my experience as a paralegal at the firm that I wanted a training contract with gave me confidence; during the assessment day I recognised various faces who to me were not intimidating partners but colleagues from the office, and during my interview I was able to give my answers to questions assuredly, in the knowledge that I had real experience to back up what I was saying.

Don't get me wrong, the paralegal to trainee path certainly isn't easy, at one point I was juggling a full-time job, my LPC studies, and training contract applications. Shoosmiths are transparent throughout the recruitment process that the best candidate for the role will be the successful one, and you're not necessarily the best just because you have worked for them. I still had to prove myself on my application form and on the assessment centre, and stand out against other internal and external candidates. But as stressful and difficult as it often felt, my transition to becoming a trainee has been all the more smoother as a result of having worked here. At the very start of my training contract I already had experience in how to navigate the case management systems, accurately time record and, rather more crucially, how to effectively liaise with clients.

Ultimately, whilst the route I chose took me longer to reach my end goal, I can honestly say that the skills and experiences that I picked up along the way have been invaluable, and if I could have my time again I wouldn't change a thing.