The competition for training contracts is rife, with the number of applicants far exceeding the number of vacancies at most firms. It is therefore essential that applicants stand out by differentiating themselves from their competition. A great way to do this is through work experience – I worked as a paralegal prior to obtaining and subsequently starting my training contract with Michelmores. Whilst obtaining paralegal experience is not a prerequisite for securing a training contract, and some applicants may successfully obtain a training contract during their studies, it can be beneficial for the following reasons:
- Standing out: Whilst strong academics are a requirement for most firms, having prior work experience enables you to stand out from other applicants by drawing on personal experiences when answering questions throughout the recruitment process. Using real-life workplace examples as opposed to hypothetical scenarios will take your answers to the next level as you will be able to demonstrate the development and application of key skills such as commercial awareness, communication and organisation. Applying the popular STAR method: Situation, Task, Action and Result – will ensure that an answer is fully developed and meets the assessment criteria, thus enhancing your chances of success.
- A way in: Many law firms like to recruit trainees internally from their paralegal pool. A paralegal role can therefore be a stepping stone to obtaining a training contract, which is especially useful if you are struggling with applications. The paralegalling experience enables you to demonstrate your abilities, build relationships and create a positive reputation within the firm, which, whilst not applicable to all firms, can be helpful if the firm has an internal application process for training contracts. This has been the case here at Michemores as we have had several paralegals qualify with the firm via various routes including the traditional training contract.
- Qualifying work experience (“QWE”): Having prior work experience may reduce a trainee’s period of recognised training by up to six months, which means a trainee could qualify after just 18 months of training. However, with the new SQE route, it is now possible to use two years’ paralegal experience towards satisfying the QWE requirement. This could greatly accelerate the qualification process for some.
- Confirming that a legal career is for you: A paralegal role is also beneficial if you are unsure whether a career within the legal profession is for you. I worked as a paralegal prior to and during the LPC, which allowed me to gain an invaluable insight into the working life of a solicitor and the culture and working practices of a law firm, which ultimately reassured me that I wanted to pursue a career in law.