I’m a UK law grad working as a paralegal in the Caribbean before starting my training contract in London later this year

Sun, sea, scuba diving and… stimulating legal work

It all suddenly fell into place for Alex Gays last summer.

After two years of applying for legal roles with limited success, two great opportunities came along at once for The University of Law accelerated LLB and Legal Practice Course (LPC) graduate. The first was a training contract offer from top London media law firm Harbottle & Lewis. A few days later, Turks & Caicos Islands-based Griffiths & Partners asked Gays if he’d like to head to the Caribbean to work for them for a year, following his successful application to their job advert on the Legal Cheek Hub.

“After a lot of stressing about training contracts, it has all worked out really well,” Gays tells Legal Cheek Careers via Skype from Providenciales, the commercial capital of Turks & Caicos, where he has been based since November.

This dream ticket of exotic paralegal job with a leading London TC to follow is the product of several years of hard work and creative thinking. While narrowly missing out on a first in his LLB and a distinction in his LPC, Gays applied for over 20 training contracts — each time never quite making the cut. Forced to think outside the box, he drew upon connections he had made as ULaw’s Bloomsbury’s campus ambassador to secure a business development position at the law school. Then, partly thanks to a connection he made in that role, he snared a paralegal role with a small West London law firm, Charles Mia, specialising in private client work.

The job proved a game-changer, with Gays gaining invaluable experience at the coalface of high value commercial disputes. He recalls:

The range of work was fantastic. The small size of the firm meant that I was able to get involved with everything.

Armed with real knowledge of what it was like “to conduct litigation for very successful discreet individuals”, allied with the commercial experience he’d gained in ULaw’s business development team, Gays had something to say on his TC applications that set him apart from the crowd — and the Harbottle and Griiffths & Partners offers followed soon after.

Now, six months into his Caribbean adventure, Gays’ main objectives are to learn as much from working in a foreign jurisdiction as possible — and to get his scuba diving accreditation.

Of the former, he explains:

As a UK overseas territory, Turks & Caicos’ laws are based on our own laws. At the same time, the islands have their own House of Assembly, so there is an interesting legal mix. Working in a law firm here is about applying that law to commercial disputes, including judicial review and some very high value cases, with a mixture of North American, European, Asian and local islander clients.

Gays adds that his firm works closely with the government on legislative matters. This has seen him liaise with, among others, the Chief Justice of the Islands. Among the partners at Griffiths & Partners are founder Conrad Griffiths QC, a former member of leading London set Henderson Chambers, and David Stewart, the former managing partner of Olswang, so Gays is in a great place to learn from top legal minds.

The scuba-diving, meanwhile, is a hobby that the ULaw graduate has been developing alongside other watersports like kite-surfing that are big on the islands.

“My commute is only about ten minutes, and my hours are generally about 8:30am until 6:30pm, which leaves time for watersports, enjoying the sun and socialising at the beach bars,” he says.

With his TC worries behind him, does Gays have any advice to law students and graduates desperate to get a foot in the door of the legal profession?

You’ve got to keep going. At times applying for TCs can be very disheartening, but rather than give up you need to look at what you have that can help you get where you want to be. In my case, I had very practical legal training, having studied the accelerated LLB at ULaw, which meant that I was able to hit the ground running in the professional roles I secured after graduating. The experience I gained and the contacts I made put me on the right path.

Kick-start your career like Alex with ULaw’s accelerated LLB. Find out more by booking onto one of its open days.

About Legal Cheek Careers posts.