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20 April 2016 0 Comments
Posted in Careers, Opinion

Perseverance as a paralegal paid off

Posted by , Solicitor

Trainee solicitor Stephanie Hopcroft explains how two years as a paralegal helped to secure a training contract

Two years as a paralegal was an invaluable experience, which greatly helped me in securing my training contract.

Having completed the LPC and not been one of the lucky few to have secured a training contract for September 2013, I embarked on my journey as a paralegal. I began as a residential property paralegal in Birmingham advising house builders and other property companies on residential development, before applying to Royds Withy King for a training contract in the summer of 2014. Although I was not successful the first time round, my application lead to a position as a paralegal in the firm’s Racing and Bloodstock team and I subsequently became a trainee in March 2016.

A paralegal’s transferable skills

As a self-supporting paralegal, I developed a number of skills, which I was able to use in my training contract application. Here are a few examples:

Communication – I wrote and spoke to various people as a paralegal from clients to medical experts to the Court. I learnt to alter my style, tone and formality depending on who I dealt with and the importance of explaining matters to clients in a clear manner using simple language.

Interpersonal skills – I was responsible for dealing with new enquiries.  This was useful as you need to show empathy where necessary, build rapport with clients and establish relationships.

Teamwork – The preparation of trial bundles is a large task and when a colleague in the department had a deadline to meet, I offered a helping hand. By working together, delegating tasks and motivating one another we got the task done efficiently and on time.

Initiative – On the last day before the rise in court fees I attended the Royal Courts of Justice to issue 7 claim forms. 2 of our claims contained applications for anonymity orders, a procedure I was not familiar with. I could have left the application notices at the court office to be dealt with the following Monday. Instead, I paid for the court fees on my debit card and appeared before Master Cooke to get the orders sealed.

The support I received from Royds Withy King throughout my training contract applications was brilliant. Whatever question you have, no matter how small, they will always be happy to assist you where they can.

The difference in roles

As a trainee, I now work with various fee earners in the personal injury and clinical negligence teams, each have their own personal preferences in terms of writing styles and how their caseloads are managed. This requires a flexible approach to work as well as an ability to prioritize and manage time effectively to ensure deadlines are met.

One of the advantages of working for several different fee earners is the opportunities that arise as a consequence. In the last two weeks I have been to Oxford County Court for a costs hearing as well as a conference at Counsel’s chambers in London to discuss the merits of a case.

Business development is another aspect I have been encouraged to embrace as a trainee. So far, I have taken part in a meeting with the charity Silverlining which provided a great opportunity to understand how the charity supports its members affected by brain injury and to get to know some of our clients over coffee and cake.

I also helped at the Reciprocate Launch event hosted by Oxfordshire Community Foundation at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford last month. The evening was well attended by a number of key contacts from local businesses and having welcomed guests earlier on in the evening, I had the chance to network with a number of key contacts from local businesses over a glass of fizz and what seemed to be an ever-lasting supply of canapés.

As I am sure you are aware, our deadline for applications is fast approaching, make sure you submit your application before 29 April 2016.

Good luck!

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