Advice

‘Should I work as a paralegal at the firm I’ve secured a training contract with?’

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I planned to fill the gap with legal work but the job market is flat so options are limited, writes one Legal Cheek reader

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, one law student is looking to secure legal work ahead of starting their training contact next year. But should they apply for a paralegal role at their future firm or look elsewhere once the job market recovers?

“Blessed enough to have a TC with a City firm due to start next year, and finishing the LPC this month. I was planning on filling some of this gap with paralegal work, but the job market is quite flat at the moment. My TC firm has paralegal positions available, but I wondered (1) how people felt/insight into feelings of paralegaling with your future TC firm? (2) Do people think the general jobs market/paralegal market will open up in the near future (I have a 2:1 law degree from Cambridge and a likely distinction in the LPC)?”

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

48 Comments

Roger

Do it. You’ll be well ahead of the rest of your intake when you start, and unless you’re shit, first in line for NQ positions.

(78)(5)

Anon

Agree…if you were planning on paralegaling in any case, best to do it at your TC firm

(22)(1)

Anon

How do NQ offers work when you hit two years of continuous employment in the middle of your TC? Do they have to pay you redundancy if they don’t offer you a NQ position?

(4)(10)

Beeble

Not an employment expert, but I think moving from the permanent paralegal role to the training contract apprenticeship will count as a new position, so you won’t get those rights half way through your TC.

(4)(2)

Anon

It counts as a new position but if she starts her TC straight after her paralegal role her continuous service is preserved. In any event, she will hit two years at the end of her TC regardless if she paralegalled before hand unless she does time to count. If they can’t offer her a role at the end she should get redundancy pay.

(2)(4)

Hopefully not just mine

I believe training contracts are one day short of the requisite two years

former paralegal trainee

I did a year as a paralegal before joining my city firm for TC. It’s really helpful to get exposure to an area of the firm you might not see or consider for a seat, or some whole-firm access if you can get work in a support department. Highly recommended,

(34)(2)

Walton

You’re on the cusp of spending some of the best years of your life toiling away in that very office. Sit tight and wait.

(40)(13)

Trainee

Ah yes. The poster should instead spend the best time of his life doing something instead. In lockdown. Sitting in his house. Browsing job adverts in a shot job market. Doing nothing instead of preparing for his career. He should go out there and travel and enjoy himself instead on a gap yah, amiright?

Great advice from spoilt brats.

(12)(4)

Anon 99

Agreed.

Just finished the LPC and my TC has been deferred to Jan 2021. Can’t travel and the job market is dead.

Based on this job market, I would jump at the chance of having solid like paralegal lined up for the interim. As things stand, my brain will turn to mush before my first seat..

(2)(1)

Gemma

How about doing something unrelated to law? It’ll give you more skills and experience

(24)(3)

Future trainee

Like?

(2)(2)

Anon

Become a driving instructor, or a fork lift truck driver, an air traffic controller or a pastry chef – all very relevant and classic pre trainee jobs.

(24)(13)

Anon

👎

(3)(4)

Didn’t drive to test my eyesight

Do it. When you start your TC, it’ll take you a month or two to settle into the firm’s systems, culture and generally the way of doing things… you’ll already have overcome that so can hit the ground running with whatever team you’re placed in. But beware, if you’re shite, it could go against you. I know a guy that did this and didn’t perform as a paralegal and in the end had his TC revoked. But above all, don’t drive to test your eyesight.

(46)(2)

Anon

Do it, you won’t be shite. The firm’s expectations will be according to your level. Once your TC starts, you will be way ahead of everyone else.

(0)(0)

John (boomer)

You are going to be spending your prime years at that firm, working late into the night to make the partners a few extra quid. You might be able to get out by the time you’re 40. Or you may be landed with school fees, a high maintenance partner, similarly wealthy friends etc., all of which prevent you from hopping off the gravy train. Even if you do get out, you’ll be jaded with the world and your youthful exuberance and open-mindedness will have long been extinguished. But yes, spending an extra optional year might be a good idea.

(60)(2)

Nick

If you’re interested in other things as well as law, then this is a good opportunity to scratch that itch before the TC starts.

If you’re not so bothered about that/need the money, then it can really help to paralegal for your future employer. You will start to build contacts with people at the firm who will eventually make decisions on your career, and depending on the practice area, may get enough experience that you’re trusted with more responsibility than your peers as a trainee.

(24)(2)

Been there, done that

Don’t do it. If you must paralegal, do it at wherever pays the most. Firms looking to hire paralegals view candidates who’ve already secured a TC on a whole other level to candidates who haven’t. Mentioning your future TC is your trump card, so use it to get that dolla, work half a year and then spend what you’ve earned by going travelling pre-TC (pandemic permitting). It’s one of the last chances you will get before you get desk-shackled! YOLO.

(54)(1)

Joe

I agree.

It’s also a good opportunity to practice in an environment where you can freely make mistakes and it won’t cost you in the long run as it’s just a temporary position.

You can ask as many stupid questions as you like and figure it out at a firm where you don’t have a future so it doesn’t mean anything if you say or do the wrong thing

(30)(0)

Captain Cook's great nephew

100% this. Maximise hourly rate earnings, plus overtime, at some US arbitration sweatshop with phat hours, then go let it rip in some South East Asian outpost like the good colonizing Brit you are.

HTH

(16)(1)

Miss B

What if you’re not successful in your application for the paralegal job, how would that make you feel ahead of your TC?
I would look for STEM jobs that involve research as a transferable alternative

Best wishes to you

(4)(7)

Failure is normal

This I poor advice. If you got a TC you probably got over your fear of failure already. Do not avoid applying because you might feel bad if you are rejected, for anything, ever.

Sorry OP, that sounds a little blunt. In isolation of your reasoning, doing something non law could be a good choice. 🙂

(6)(0)

Anon

For all the reasons set out above, it’s a good idea. I did it and it put me ahead of peers when starting my training contract. You are more useful to your supervisors, because you know the ropes from day 1 / have an internal network and can build from there. However, I would recommend trying to get a chunk of time off between the two roles and have an extended break (go travelling or whatever you actually want to do!) as it’s likely to be the last good opportunity to do anything like that in a while without having to sacrifice career progress. Most firms are pretty accepting of paralegals taking a break before they start their TC and it’s pretty similar to the concept of qualification leave, which some firms offer.

(14)(0)

Anonymous

Yeah sure. Expect bitching from other paralegals though lol.

(14)(0)

Parcel Fish

I faced this conundrum and decided not to. There are pros and cons for either choice, but I decided not to because:
1. I wanted to iron out creases and make cock ups at other firms;
2. as a future trainee there is a risk of getting slammed (I have seen this happen);
3. you can bring fresh insights and ways of working from other firms (or any other jobs if not paralegalling); and
4. you can develop your network outside your future firm.

But having said all that. There’s a lot to be said for working at your future firm. I hadn’t thought ahead to NQ positions as Roger says above, and, the most important consideration right now, I’d say, the paralegal market is extremely dry. Take any job you can get.

(23)(0)

Arnold

How much do you guys reckon a senior CPS lawyer earns? Also what about a junior ? Interesting to know the disparity between public and private

(2)(1)
(0)(0)

TM

Some major assumptions that:

1) you will get the paralegal jobs with your firm in an exceptionally competitive job market

2) you will get be successful finding appropriate roles in other firms, let alone be successful in the recruitment process

Why not apply for the role and then make decisions from there if and when you are successful?

If you did apply to the firm you have a TC with, then one question would be is whether you can apply for “time to count” which could mean you reduce your TC time down by applying the time you did as a paralegal to you period of recognised training. This could mean you qualify 6 months earlier than you are currently planning to.

(5)(2)

God Force

The only reason you wouldn’t get a paralegal job at your future firm would be competition from other future trainees.

(7)(2)

TM

Not necessarily. If they are recruiting permanent paralegals, they won’t want a temp solution. If they need someone with specific experience/knowledge, a future trainee might not be appropriate.

(3)(2)

God Force

While I can kind of see where you are coming from, in practice, most paralegal work is boring AF and anyone can do it, and most paralegal departments have very high turnover.

A boutique law firm who only have one or two paralegals might want long term commitment, and they would likely pay a higher rate to attract these candidates. But these jobs are few and far between.

(9)(0)

Anon

And indeed, most if not all firms which have a training contract programme, will not invest in paralegals in the way in which TM suggests.

American expat

I think TM’s post is a more American view of paralegals. Because of the higher salaries for a first year lawyer there, paralegals do some of the work done by trainees here. The more experienced ones are more like CILEx here, except unregulated. It’s also more possible to have a career as a paralegal in the US than here.

Wasn’t Meghan Markle a career paralegal on Suits?

Gregg Steak

I got a tc and then worked as a paralegal at the firm to get money to go travelling (6 months work 6 months travel) and I regretted it. Everyone else turned up with a “trainee” reputation whereas I had spent the 6 months bundling, so people gave me more of that. It took a while to convince people I was there to do “proper” trainee work and not just the extra pair of hands I was as a paralegal. Go somewhere else and get your mistakes out the way there!

(30)(0)

Anonymous

No! Disastrous idea. Your perception with staff at all levels needs to be initiated as a solicitor not a paralegal. You cannot win by going in at one level when you know you are moving up, especially with the administrative staff and the mid level solicitors who will be partners in the near future.

(14)(4)

Sir Thomas More

I decided not to paralegal at my TC firm and instead found work as an in-house legal clerk. It was a good decision. Allowed me to learn about a completely different company and industry, as well as the nature of in-house legal work. I also developed contacts outside of narrow law firm practice.

(7)(0)

Priti Patel

You’re going to find it very difficult to secure a paralegal position at another firm when they know you have a TC and will be leaving them in a matter of months. If you really do want to paralegal then do so at your future firm. If not, enjoy your one year outside of law for, probably, many years.

(1)(1)

Anon

This is complete rubbish. Having a TC is a gold standard which puts you ahead of every other candidate and indeed quite a lot of paralegal jobs openly advertise that they are looking for TC holders.

(7)(0)

Anonymous

TC’s are two-a-penny. They are not hard to get. It is not a “gold standard”. It is more a Ford than a BMW isn’t it?

(1)(4)

Godfrey Forsyth

Right…

(0)(0)

Kagiso

I think paralegalling with your future TC is not a bad idea.
You will get exposure you need and get understand how the law firm operate.

(0)(0)

Pretty Patel

Words cannot describe how bad an idea this would be.

(4)(0)

Comments are closed.

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