Why Law Graduates Can be Choosers

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GDL graduate Cathryn Kozlowski on why she turned down a paralegal job

With more and more law graduates working as paralegals before commencing the Legal Practice Course (LPC), the demand for such positions is almost as fierce as for training contracts themselves.

The majority of paralegal recruitment companies specify that candidates must have either completed the LPC, or have at least a year’s experience working as a paralegal. This places potential candidates who have only completed their LLB or GDL, and decided to defer the LPC until securing a training contract, at a disadvantage.

With paralegal vacancies like gold dust, the received wisdom is that it would be ludicrous to turn a position down. Beggars can’t be choosers, right? I disagree. It’s my strong belief that while gaining experience can enhance aspiring lawyers’ CVs, accepting any position offered can be a dangerous move. Candidates must also be careful not to tarnish their CV, and, provided they are still at a relatively early stage (i.e. haven’t completed the LPC), can still afford to be selective.

I’ve been on the hunt for a position within the legal industry for a few months. Initially I had very few responses. Then I had my CV reviewed by a recruitment consultant, who suggested numerous changes. After making the amendments, I then continued to apply for vacancies and began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was invited to three separate interviews. Interview one turned out to be unsuitable for my qualifications, and I wasn’t offered the position. Much to my amazement, interview number two resulted in an offer of a position as a paralegal. After searching for months, my decision to turn the position down came as a shock to many of my friends and family. So why did I turn it down?

There were a number of contributing factors, and it certainly wasn’t a decision I made quickly, or easily – and, before continuing, I’d like to make clear that there were not many details provided on the job description, so I was unaware of the finer details of the position at the time of applying.

Firstly, the job was part-time, so I would have needed to have found another part time position to start at exactly the same time in order to continue to pay rent and bills. Not a huge problem, after all we should be willing to bend over backwards for a coveted legal position. Another issue was the salary, which was very low. Even with another job, I needed to be realistic about how I would afford to live. Also, I’d have been working for a sole practitioner, in family law, and I would have been based in an office on my own. The position itself would have involved purely administrative tasks; writing letters, faxing, emailing etc. For these reasons, I turned the position down, and I don’t regret my decision.

I have now started to realise that firms are not just looking for specific legal work experience, but are keen to find rounded candidates, with a broad range of experience. For this reason, I started applying for a wider range of positions that will enable me to develop my commercial awareness and learn business skills, as opposed to purely paralegal positions. This is proving to be far more successful, and I remain confident that it will be the right decision in the long run.

Cathryn Kozlowski is a law graduate who is interested in media and criminal law. She is currently working in wine investment, and blogs at Legally-London.

Listen to Cathryn on the RoundMyKitchenTable podcast: [buzzsprout episode=”37256″ player=”true”]