Was I wrong to accept my legal assistant role?

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Maybe I should’ve headed straight for a training contract


In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, one law graduate worries she’s pigeonholed herself into a lower-tier of legal work by not applying for training contracts while at university.


I have recently graduated with a 2:1 in law from a Russell Group university. However I achieved a 2:1 by discretion and my final year average was actually 58. Because of this I did not bother applying for training contracts commencing in 2018. I have just managed to get a job as a legal assistant in a conveyancing firm. I’m not sure whether this will increase my chances of being able to get a training contract for 2019, or whether not applying the first time around shows a lack of dedication on my part. What do Legal Cheek readers think? For context, I have little legal work experience but I worked a part-time job in retail throughout my three years at university.

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Being a solicitor is boring, do a cool job instead, like fisherman or drug smuggler.

Source: I am a bored trainee solicitor who wants to be a fisherman or drug smuggler.



How are things at Jones Day? 😉



You’re boring mate, come up with a better line.


Katie's wannabe lover

I got a 2.2 due to health reasons. They didn’t consider their discretion. I worked my way up from the bottom. I started in the call centre (have you been injured…) and now am fully qualified which I did with the same firm doping high level claims. If you don’t have the qualifications or work experience you’re doing the right thing



Health reasons that didn’t allow for you to claim mitigating circumstances or defer the exams…?




What a bitter comment. At least he/she have qualified.



I was given the option to defer but decided to sit them anyway. After three suicide attempts I wanted to get away from the city as soon as possible to help end the memories. It wasn’t a moan about them not using it, just starting the background.



Please stop doping your high level claims. They caught Lance in the end and they’ll get you too.


Marcus Tullius Cicero

I don’t think you’re necessarily trapped by legal assistant experience – if you don’t succeed in gaining a Training Contract, use it to your advantage. You could use that experience to qualify as a Chartered Legal Executive and cross-qualify as a Solicitor later on, if you wish. Further, You say that you’re involved with conveyancing; most of the Chartered Legal Executives who work at firms like DAC Beachcroft and Wedlake Bell are specialised in residential or commercial conveyancing.

This legal profession is interesting and more flexible than its continental counterparts – use your privilege! Best of luck.



Law firms can’t be this picky! Like come on!



Yeah they can. There’s often 2000 people applying for 50 spots at city law firms. They can be as picky as they like…



So does “friend zoning” also exist in the legal recruitment world?



Perhaps try smaller firms that will offer a TC internally to its paralegals? There’s plenty of them out there. Get some experience under your belt first and pad out the cv.



Or Jones Day, if you’re hot.



Or CC, if you have good turd retrieval skills.



I don’t think the fact that you haven’t applied for a TC is a problem. Why not “take time out to experience the industry and then decide how you wish to progress”.

My advice would be, don’t become a lawyer, but if it is something you really want then…. good luck with it all.

Well done for getting into conveyancing, it’s certainly a good way to get into commercial/ real estate etc.



I think a lot will depend on your university. You can get away with borderline marks from a top university. If you’re from a poor university (with those marks), it will be difficult to secure a City TC, but not impossible. Realistically speaking, you would not have immediately secured a TC with your experience/marks, so the experience that you’re getting is beneficial.

I have a very low 2.1 and managed to get TC interviews at silver circle and US firms. However, I would say that the rest of my CV is quite strong.



Hey, very interesting. You guys are talking about TC, I have been unable to secure a paralegal job. I have not been able to get any kind of job for the past 2 years it sucks beyond belief.

I do not even know why I am not getting a paralegal job. I have had plenty of work experience as a volunteer. Because of my Law degree 2.1 no other profession wants to touch me because they see the LPC and I have been questioned many times why I chose this or that role if i HAVE STUDIED LPC. anyways my life sucks.



The unhelpful answer is “it depends”.

Unless your grades are excellent then you are very unlikely to walk straight into a training contract. You will need a period as a paralegal/legal assistant to impress.

But being a paralegal/legal assistant isn’t a guarantee of a training contract either. You will need to work hard to impress, and make sure you work at a firm who does offer training contracts to their staff. Many firms do not, and will instead only offer training contracts to recent graduates with great academics.

I have worked at firms where a legal assistant was offered a training contract after 4 months, and where an extremely hard working legal assistant was not offered one after 4 years.

Basically, pick the right firm that offers training contracts to its staff and where you think your face will “fit”, and work your ass off to impress.

Good luck.



I think many recruiters at City outfits would find the kind of experience you are now getting, combined with your grades, a bit unpalatable – unless you were applying to firm with a real estate practice to which your experience might directly relate. I’m not saying it’s fair or right, but why would a recruiter pick a candidate with 58% doing conveyancing and with little other work experience when they could have an Oxbridge or Russell Group candidate with a first and vacation schemes and relevant experience coming out of every orifice? Outside of the City, the situation might look very different, but I have no experience there and can’t really offer anything constructive. And, in fairness, your post doesn’t specifically say you’d be looking for a City TC. The work experience in retail is valuable, though – it shows work ethic.

(Source: Interview candidates for TCs regularly. City practice.)


Lord Harley of Counsel Estate

Nah. Just tell everyone that you are a solicitor and after a few years, apply to the SRA for some waivers; they won’t bother checking your credentials, the cretins.

You’ll have higher rights and be a grade 4 prosecutor in no time.



Trot on mate you don’t know anything abut the SRA



Friend of mine secured a TC with a US firm with a discretionary 2.1 as he got rounded up from 58.5%.
It shouldn’t hold you back at firms that do not require a “high 2.1”. Use your experience to outline key skills and strengths.
I would make an added effort to get out and meet firms and their graduate recruitment teams, talk to them frankly about your grades, see what they say and it’ll may give you the confidence you need to apply there. Though that’s what anyone who is serious about a TC should be doing.



Fake question. People don’t turn to LC for career advice.

Content has to be filled somehow though.



The experience you gain will help you with training contract applications, both at the firm you are at and externally. With the right firm you can learn a lot.

I assume you’ll be studying the LPC soon?

I’ve found the best way to progress is internally. I got a 2.2 and I have the LPC, but from working as a paralegal, I have learned more about career progression than I did in those 4 years. My applications have improved so much in that time.

There is no rush, apply for training contracts whilst you are working in that role and build on your experience. Ask the lawyers you work with for advice on applications. I don’t see how you are wrong to accept your legal assistant role, use it to your advantage!



… no offence, but I don’t want to take advice from someone with a worse grade than me and who still hasn’t made it to being a trainee solicitor.


No offence but

No offence but starting your comment with “no offence” doesn’t stop it from being rude.



The truth hurts, clearly.

It is not unreasonable to want sage advice from someone who has ultimately made it to the position that the advisee aspires to reach.

Much butt-hurt.



It’s not unreasonable no, but it is daft to start off saying “no offence but” and expect that to mitigate the offensive thing you’re about to say. Especially when thing you say didn’t really need to be said.

Lord Lyle of the Isles

Nae offence but a dinnae wan career advice from teenage mumpties who dinnae even have a career.



I have recently graduated with a 2:1 (60% average) and am currently working as a paralegal at a regional sized firm. I can resonate with this. I don’t think your lack of TC applications is what will show a lack of dedication; I do think your lack of legal work experience may hold you back. If I were you, I’d be applying for all the vac schemes and work experience under the sun right now, to get my CV up to scratch for the next round of TC applications.


Future MC trainee from a non traditional uni

People often underestimate the importance of being able to sell yourself on an application form well and overestimate the inportance of grades. If you can show how committed you are to the career and firm on your cover letter/application questions and really emphasise your commercial awareness in a way which Dosent feel like it is shoehorned in for the sake of it then you can get to the interview stage. What you then do is up to you and you have as good a chance as anyone else of securing the TC providing you perform on the day. The importance of diversity in the eyes of law firms has also greatly increased, partly due to groups such as Aspiring Solicitors and partly due to the firms to make themselves more favourable in the eyes of the public/prospectivetrainees. Even if you don’t have the grades, apply anyway because firms use contextual recruiting and if you are living in one of the 30% most deprived areas of England (as measured by the 5 IMD measures) and write a good application form, you are quite likely to receive at least a couple of interviews/AC invites. Good luck and have faith in yourself.



I’m in exactly the same position as you and have just taken a job in a local reputable firm. I think it was the best thing for me as it allowed me to learn more about the process and what firms look for in a candidate, as well as gain experience which others won’t have straight out of Uni. This is a great way to gain connections and pad out your CV. It also gives you time to discover what areas you really like and dislike, don’t pressure yourself and stop worrying about what other people are doing. Focus on yourself and you’ll get where you want to be, nothing bad can come from gaining extra experience. You’re building your stepping stones into an amazing career. There’s no rush!



Do a year and BOUNCE.

12 months makes it look like you went on your own terms. Moving after a year is ok if you think it’s not for you.
Less than a year and you’re generally viewed as a quitter unless you have a really good reason (e.g. health, family, etc)
More than a year and people wonder why you have not started to progress.


Another Rupert

Have you thought of getting some lowly/ cr@ppish job with any old law firm and then do the Legal Exec bit to become a Solicitor thru’ the back door ?



I have exactly your credentials and after 8 months in my Legal Assistant position got a training contract with an International law firm.

Stick at it.


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