Advice

‘Paralegal or legal directory researcher: which role will help me secure a City law TC?’

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I have to accept one soon

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, an aspiring City solicitor has two job offers on the table — but which is more attractive to graduate recruiters?

“I currently have two law-related job offers, and I have to accept one soon. One is a paralegal role (not corporate though) with a good medium-sized firm, and the other is a researcher position at a legal directory (think: Legal 500, etc — those companies that write student / legal guides and rank law firms and lawyers).

My ultimate goal is to become a commercial solicitor in a City law firm. Which of these positions would be more useful to me, or look better on my CV, for this goal? A paralegal role surely teaches you many of the things a real lawyer might be doing, and is a well-known position to any HR professional. A legal directory can give you an inside view into how firms operate and where their strengths come from, but it’s not as well-known as a paralegal role and HR might not value them equally on a CV. The salary at both is fairly comparable, and both are in London.

I also worry my CV may be becoming a bit stale since I finished my undergrad two years ago already (and finished the LLM last year), and every year that I wait I feel my credentials becoming more and more ‘outdated’. That is also why it’s very important for me to choose a job that law firm recruitment will value, not just one which helps pay the bills while I continue sending out vacation scheme and training contract applications.”

If you have a career conundrum, email us at team@legalcheek.com.

25 Comments

Wals

Legal directory role I reckon given the paralegal position isn’t corp. Great opportunity to network.

(2)(20)

Prince of Wales

How would a corporate paralegal role compare to smth like a legal directory role? Just slightly better or can’t-even-compare-them better? Assuming your goal is to ultimately land a TC.

(0)(0)

Anon

The type of work experience you have will not define your job prospects. If you are a poor candidate, 18 vacation schemes will not help you.

Obviously, if you had 18 of them you probably aren’t a poor candidate.

Obsess less over work experience and work more on providing better answers to application questions.

(4)(13)

alfius

Your relevant work experience is less important than your aptitude at answering arbitrary questions on a form.

The absolute state of legal recruitment.

(15)(0)

Anon

We can blame the diversity moaners for the “evidence based” bollocks.

(4)(3)

Realist

Paralegal role.

But also get third-party advice on how realistic your aspirations are: most people don’t make it, and none of us are capable of objectively assessing our own chances.

(19)(2)

Anonymous

And that third party cannot be a relative or friend who spouts crap about “listening to your heart” or “following your dreams”. Where you are now, a career in low level administration and a long tube ride home to a rented flat looks like your future.

(5)(1)

A

So basically do not ask any female friend under 30.

(1)(2)

Kirkland NQ

Apply to the ‘Land directly.

(7)(3)

US Firm NQ

Run from this. Escape before it is too late…

(13)(1)

Optimist agreeing with Wals

The research role.

As Wals mentioned, the networking opportunities would be far better than in a non-corporate department. I’ve heard of researchers go to a couple of the events and get offered work experience off the back of networking.

Plus, speaking to your colleagues who’ve been researching these firms a while would be useful as they’ll know which firms are doing good work and may potentially put you in contact with helpful solicitors.

(5)(1)

US Firm 1+ PQE

What’s a legal directory role? Never even heard of it.

(5)(0)

hopefully helpful

I have to go with paralegal on this one. My reasoning is that as a paralegal you will pick up skills that are useful as a trainee and later as a lawyer. You will also get a better understanding of the work of lawyers etc and get exposure to many lawyers at all levels through that experience.
On the flip side, if you work for a legal directory, most of your daily interactions will actually be with people who work in BD (all large law firms have teams dedicated to liaising with legal directories) and not lawyers. You won’t actually get that much insight into how law firms work or even into specific transactions. Though to be fair your ‘commercial awareness’ would probably be off the charts.
If you want to put the TC odds on your side and you don’t want to work as a paralegal, I would highly suggest getting a BD role within a law firm. Here you meet all partners and work very closely with them and that could tip the scales in your favour when applying for a TC role, though this is a very high risk strategy! Best of luck.

(14)(0)

US Lawyer

Serious advice here. If you are from a UEA/Kent/Sussex/Reading type uni “or above”, make sure you sign up to a number of paralegal recruiters, chase them to send you opportunities and even reach out to firms yourself. Make sure that with immediate effect you join aspiring solicitors, start going to firm open days, attending open law fairs, etc. and if you are persistent and personable with 2:1s or above you will get something eventually. It will be more useful to you and probably look slightly better if your paralegal role is in a firm which a) is broadly corporate focused, b) is a firm which has some sort of brand in the City and c) which offers training contracts itself.

If you are from a “lesser” university it is not impossible but going to be harder. You should target a range of firms but be prepared to join the mid-market: think DACB, CMS, Wedlake Bell, Osborne Clarke, etc.

Also, have some clear answers to hand as to why it has taken you a bit longer, why did the masters, why the masters was in the particular area of law, and so on. Keep up the extra curriculars and attend as many in person events as you can.

(24)(0)

Matt james

Reading is a great uni- how it isn’t a Russel Group i will never know, it is very well regarded.

(1)(18)

Anon

There are “lesser” unis than UEA/Kent/Sussex/Reading? I always lumped everything below the better London unis in the same pot of “blob”.

(6)(0)

Anon

Some unis definitely scream “BBC”. Those ones you will get plenty of kids with AAA/AAB. Had they not chosen to study law they would be at Nottingham etc.

(2)(0)

Anon

So part of the lesser blob is fair then if they are in the “couldn’t get into law in Nottingham” category.

(3)(0)

we

Reading is a great uni- should be a Russel group already

(0)(13)

Oxbridge Grad

I did not know there was a uni in Reading. You learn something every day.

(14)(1)

Anon

Apparently it is one of the better shit ones. They really do seem to have some sort of internal pecking order down there. How sweet.

(6)(4)

Anonymous

Sounds like the career path trajectory of someone going nowhere.

(7)(4)

Ex paralegal

I was a paralegal at a us firm (granted after I got my TC) and the experience was unparalleled despite being a practice area different to what my TC firm specialises in. I learnt so much and the skills have come in useful. I was treated like a trainee after a few months in terms of responsibility. Additionally the contacts you make within the firm are vital and could really help landing a TC in the future.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

I would take the legal directory role. You will stay focussed on the wider law firm market and will give you inside knowledge that will be useful for applications. Most paralegals have a TC dangled in front of them and worked hard enough not to have time to apply elsewhere.

The reality for most paralegals is they are either deemed terrible and will have no chance of getting an offer, or will be brilliant and the vast majority of partners will think you are doing amazing trainee/junior associate-level work for significantly less money and will therefore never give you a TC. Why get the same work for more money?

I know this because it was done to me and I had to leave to a different firm to qualify, and my current firm is starting to do that now. So many LPC/BPTC grads without a TC/Pupillage. Employer’s market.

(2)(2)

Tum

Respectfully disagree with this answer.

In principle, no work experience is wasted. However, it depends what kind of experience you get, and more importantly, how you leverage it in a job application. Working in a legal directory would definitely give you an insight into the market and develop strong research and writing skills.

However, OP should take the paralegal position. Nothing beats getting direct experience in a law firm, and having access to other fee earners from which you can build relationships and obtain valuable career advice.

The caveat to this is that not all paralegal positions are made equal. Look for positions that offer you a fair amount of responsibility and interesting work. Doc review positions can be lucrative (at least, once you add on OT) but dull dead ends, so I’d do those for the short term only.

However, as the poster said above, it does not make much economic sense for a firm to hire a paralegal as a trainee (particularly at magic/silver circle firms). So manage your expectations and make sure you’re applying for TCs on the side.

If you paralegal at a firm and they do not offer you a TC after your first application, then get the hell out of there.

(3)(0)

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