This was a conversation I had with a second year Trainee Solicitor recently, and sadly it’s not the first and won’t be the last. So many Graduates/Paralegals feel that they MUST accept the first training contract that they receive, believing that qualifying as quickly as possible is the most important factor, but it actually goes much much deeper than that.
This particular individual is part-way through their contract and is making the very best out of a situation (they feel like the culture isn’t right) and I commend them for that. They told me that I was actually the first person to acknowledge their feelings. “Everyone always says I should be happy to get one at all”.
If there’s a piece of advice that I always give prospective Trainee Solicitors, it’s ALWAYS “yes, two years isn’t forever, but it’s a very long time if you’re not happy”.
Yes, getting one is really tricky, but please please please, take your time. Being a Paralegal for longer than you want is far better than rushing into getting your qualification, just because that’s what you think you need to do. In fact, being a more experienced Paralegal, can actually lead to getting a much better job at the end:
You’ll be more “marketable” and therefore you’ll have more choice as more firms will be interested in you
You’ll be a more experienced NQ Solicitor as you’ll have gained a much firmer foundation from the Partners and Lawyers you supported as a Paralegal
You’ll have more experience and therefore can generally demand a higher salary upon qualification
Securing an NQ position is not as competitive as securing a training contract, however there’s still competition. You will be a much stronger candidate than someone who went straight from Law School to a training contract. This could lead to more opportunities and therefore more choice
Most firms will promote internally, and it’s generally far easier to get a training contract in the same firm that you’re a Paralegal. After all, you have both “tried before you buy”
Time to count, counts! Having experience as a Paralegal will allow your firm to apply to the SRA for a reduced contract, meaning you’ll qualify quicker anyway.
So what should you do? Make a check list before you apply for anything! Things should include:
Culture of firm – like I said, you’re going to be there for 2 years and the more you enjoy it, the more you’ll get out of it. You need to get on with your colleagues, and it will be really nice if there are people you can socialise with (life outside of work is just as important as work time).
What seats do you want to do? Make sure what the firms that you’re applying to can support you in what you want to do.
What calibre of firm do you want to train with? This will have an impact on what firms you will be able to work for once qualified (although it’s not the end of the world – happy to explain why, if you want to talk).
Make sure you apply for a firm who can offer you all of the above (but be realistic). There is no point applying for a training contract if it doesn’t.
If I can offer any advice or support, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me or any of my team. We’re all experienced in supporting candidates through their legal careers.
Cam d'Espagnac - Manager - Legal Division
firstname.lastname@example.org / 07850 469000