I suppose I’ve come into the legal world via quite a long-winded route. I initially did an IT degree, took a different direction for a while, and then decided to go to law school. I did a post-graduate diploma in law, which basically means cramming an entire law degree into a single year. It was pretty painful, but well worth it in the end.
Paralegal was for me the next step. So I worked at a few small firms and then about a year ago I joined Pinsent Masons, when an opportunity came up within the IT disputes environment, which fitted everything I wanted to do.
Now I’ve experienced directly what the firm’s about, it’s just made it all completely worthwhile. Everything that the firm promotes to graduates – the no barriers culture, the positive thinking, the ambition, the drive – all of those ideas become real as soon as you start working here.
My role is to provide legal support to the wider IT disputes team. That can simply mean routine administrative tasks – looking after correspondence, managing diaries and suchlike – but it becomes more substantial the more you get into the role. When I joined a year ago I was pretty much thrust straight into the client arena. Now, I’ve taken on a new role as a client intermediary for IT issues. The firm is always looking to give people the chance to shine.
I'm currently working with a big team up on the 13th floor in London on a juggernaut of a case. As a paralegal, it’s good that you get the opportunity to work with clients closely. It feels like there’s no distinction of grades – we’re their lawyers and we are collectively working together to achieve a goal.
I firmly believe that most paralegals intend to use the position as a stepping stone to becoming a qualified solicitor. Personally I’m quite glad that I’ve taken this route – it gives you a massive insight into what you can expect as a trainee. Having said that I know people who have realised that actually, they don’t want to be a solicitor after all, and who are content to continue working as paralegals. It’s not a career choice for everyone.
If you do want to become a trainee solicitor at the firm, you’re still subject to the same formal application process any external applicant would be. The bonus is, we know how the firm works and we know the people. Within our team, we have great backing from lawyers and fee earners who support us every part of the way – they’re always looking to help us develop in one way or another.
The firm is very intent on nurturing talent in general – there's a lot of ongoing internal training, helping you refresh legal knowledge and your skills. As paralegals we’re often going off to different seminars and internal training sessions. When I first started I decided not to have any thoughts about next steps – I wanted to just experience it and see where it led. But within three months I’d already set myself a load of new goals.