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Skills to take you from a Paralegal to Trainee

15 December 2022

Although experience of working as a Paralegal is not a requirement when applying for a training contract, it helped me to showcase the relevant skills I had developed and understand the wider context within which the Training Contract application form questions were asked.

Having gone through many years of Training Contract rejection I used to look at my time as a Paralegal in a negative way, as it reminded me that I was unsuccessful in achieving my main goal of becoming a lawyer, but I have since realised that had it not been for my Paralegal experience I would not be sitting where I am today (pardon the pun).

How being a Paralegal helped me when applying for my Training Contract

Perhaps the most obvious example of how being a Paralegal helped me to secure a Training Contract, is that it allowed me to gain a greater understanding of how a firm operates, how a firm’s culture impacts the clients it works for and the way in which they conduct the corresponding work. I gained first-hand experience of the challenges and opportunities facing law firms and how the role of a trainee can play a part in achieving success.

I was also exposed to intangible aspects of a firm that you cannot gleam from their website. For instance, I found it fascinating to see how a firm’s marketing department collaborates with fee earners in devising client service strategy and the numerous ways in which business development opportunities can occur, all of which was imperative to developing my commercial awareness, which is an important skill that you’ll be assessed for during your application process.

In my opinion the most beneficial element of my Paralegal experience was that I got to witness first-hand what a firm expects from its trainees and also what characteristics makes a good trainee. When I say that I do not just mean drafting and analytical skills and other technical abilities, I mean attitude, enthusiasm and dedication and those sort of characteristics that are crucial to becoming a good trainee. A good trainee will engross themselves not just in the work, but into the culture of the firm, making themselves an indispensable member of the team. I learned that I needed to show in my application form that I was capable and willing to do that.

Skills I have developed that have helped me become a Trainee

There are numerous skills I have developed but in my opinion the most valuable is the ability to take responsibility for your own workload. This means managing your capacity, being proactive in driving matters forward, and taking the initiative in seeking out work to diversify your experience. As a trainee you’re there to make a valuable contribution to the team and being proactive in making that contribution is a great and valuable skill to have.

Another skill imperative to becoming a good trainee is drafting. While this may be a less glamorous skill it is absolutely essential and should not be overlooked. During my time as a Paralegal, I took every opportunity to draft pieces of work outside of my comfort zone as I find this the best way to learn. I was fortunate enough to be provided with guidance and supervision throughout these exercises which helped me to refine my skills. Having had those experiences means that when I’m now asked to draft a more technical piece of work, I do not worry, but rather relish the challenge as I know that I have the foundations laid from my time as a Paralegal on which to build upon.

Finally, my time as a Paralegal exposed me to the importance of client service to the extent that, as a trainee, I have already built relationships with clients and continue to do so. I feel this is due to the fact that, as a Paralegal, I developed a real understanding of what makes client service successful by learning via osmosis from my colleagues. Whenever the opportunity arose, I would take part in client calls so that I could experience how the relationship worked and developed but also how strategy was devised and implemented. With these experiences under my belt, I now feel comfortable in dealing with clients on my own and offering my thoughts on matters which is not something that can be learnt on a website or in a textbook.

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