‘How can I stand out amongst other paralegals?’

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By Legal Cheek on


Seeks TC

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, an ambitious paralegal is looking for ways to stand out from the pack and put their best foot forward in TC applications.

“I have recently starting working as a paralegal at a top international law firm and was hoping to ask for some advice on how I can stand out amongst other paralegals. There is an internal application process for paralegals applying for a TC at the firm and this is something I am very interested in. Is there anything I should be doing to stand out in the firm and amongst my colleagues to be in good stead for a TC application and what sort of things do seniors (associates/partners) look for in a good paralegal?”

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



Have you watched the Hunger Games movies? That’s your template. Up your bow and arrow skills to the point where you are literally the only candidate.


Same things as a good trainee to be honest.

If you’re given a deadline, write it down. If you’re not, ask what the deadline is because there will be one.

Always ask what matter to store the work and record time on. It’s often a painful hassle to unwind this if you guess and get it wrong.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, the assumption is you don’t know all of the answers. But make sure you don’t ask the same question multiple times if the answer’s going to be the same (e.g. what font the firm uses).

Proof read everything. Twice. Senior lawyers are congenitally anal, there are partners who get more upset by typos than full blown negligence.

Dress appropriately, observe what everyone else is wearing and copy the style. No one (who’s not a tool) expects you to have a really expensive suit or custom made shoes, but you can get similar looking office wear to the senior lawyers from M&S.

Go to firm/department social events, chat to people etc but save the getting hammered for the informal trainee/paralegal nights out.

Alternatively, just be a really hot girl, you’ll walk it.


Focus on doing the simple things well.

If you’re given an ad-hoc piece of work, make sure you understand the task and deadline, and produce a good work product ahead of the deadline. It’s good to ask questions to understand where the smaller task fits in to the bigger picture.

If you’re working on an ongoing project, take ownership of whatever aspects of that project you’ve been made responsible for. If external emails come to you, action where you can and seek guidance where you need it.

Be responsive. If someone (internal or external) sends you an email, reply promptly, even with just a holding response.

If you can do the above things, people will likely trust you and enjoy working with you.


Wear orange suits, fart in the office and interrupt partners during client meetings.


Work hard, be proactive, follow instructions, be social and friendly and most importantly…

Do not believe for a second that you are entitled to a training contract simply because you are a paralegal!

The unfortunate truth is that many (not all) firms in the City do not have a good paralegal to TC pipeline, mainly because the TC recruits are taken primarily from vacation schemes and direct applications. Think about the fact that vac schemers often do 2 weeks experience to bag a training contract. On the other hand, it is not unheard of for paralegals to put in literally years of experience, whilst constantly getting passed over by sprightly Oxbridge / Russell Group undergraduates, before getting a sniff of an opportunity.

The blunt reason for this is that paralegals, whilst intelligent and highly capable of doing TC/NQ level work, are far cheaper than trainees/NQs, and firms are very reluctant to offer them all payrises (or lose their skillset to the seat rotations of a TC).

How do you navigate this problem? Build up your paralegal experience as soon as you land. Do the work you are given, and do it well. Put your hand up and get onto interesting matters, rather than back-to-back doc review. Build good relationships with your supervisors so they can recommend you for more substantive work.

Then, as soon as possible, use this accumulated experience to cross-sell yourself to other firms and apply for TCs there. There is absolutely nothing wrong with applying to other firms whilst you are employed as a paralegal (and any firm that tries to make you feel different is trying to exploit you). Being a paralegal (at least, in the UK) is a means to an end, not a career path in and of itself (and certainly not at the comparative low wages you are often paid).

If your current firm really valued you after a while (and on a sensible timetable, this should be between 6-18 months), they would encourage you to apply for a TC sooner than later. If you don’t have the nod after a year, go elsewhere. It’s your career and you’ve got to protect it!

Archibald O'Pomposity

Wear thicker-rimmed spectacles than anybody else. This may sound facetious: it is not. If you are genuinely as prompt, accurate, helpful and responsive as the people you want to stand out from, then you just need to look slightly more studious, and stand out you will.

Future trainee (2024 intake)

I have just got a TC at a top UK law firm.

Ignore all the stuff about dressing well and socialising outside your team.

All they care about is how good you are at your job- create a strong impression across the firm that you are a “safe pair of hands” and you are onto a winner.


1. Ask questions about the task and the matter (I’m always impressed when a junior shows enthusiasm in understanding how what they’re doing fits into the bigger picture – and encourages me to give them more work on the matter).
2. Right down all instructions, write down deadlines, ask for a deadline if not given one, write down all answers to questions (hence you won’t need to ask same question twice).
3. Don’t rush your work and proof read before submitting.
4. Ask for more work.
5. Apply to other firms for a TC alongside the firm you’re at.
6. If you haven’t got an offer from your firm within 18 months, move onto another firm.

FWIW I too worked as a paralegal for about 18 months before securing a TC at another (international) firm.

Good luck!


It’s not who you know, it’s who you show.

You need to demonstrate you have what it takes to finish the job.

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