A law degree isn’t the only way into a legal career; there are less conventional ways in!
As a paralegal in the Private Client department at Keebles I specialise in helping clients write their Wills and put Lasting Powers of Attorney in place to help make sure they are looked after properly in their later years.
When I talk to people about what I do sometimes I get the feeling they must think this is what I always planned to do but the truth is my route into the role was anything but conventional!
I studied English Literature at the University of Lincoln and whilst I thoroughly enjoyed my time studying ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Jane Eyre’, I was never absolutely certain it was what I wanted to do once I had graduated. I distinctly remember being sat in Lincoln Cathedral on my graduation day having achieved something amazing yet feeling sudden dread that all those people around me would also be out there trying to find a job relating to their degree! I must admit that thought was deflating so, once I returned home, I made the decision to take a break from education and take a part time job in retail to get some experience of the ‘real world’.
From there a friend who worked for a local firm of Solicitors asked if I’d be interested in a receptionist job. I agreed to interview (mainly thinking the hours would be more sociable) without actually considering the incredible doors it would go on to open.
After working with the firm for a few months I was asked if I could spend my afternoons as a secretary in the Private Client department, helping the team with all sorts of support for the Wills, Lasting Powers of Attorney and Probate services they were delivering to our clients.
I have to say the law was never something that had sparked my interest but once I began speaking with clients and drafting documents for them I suddenly realised I found the whole process fascinating. During that time I was also asked to assist in both the family and conveyancing departments and although I enjoyed both I was really drawn to the Private Client work because, I think, of the client contact.
Now the legal bug had bitten so I decided to investigate ways in which I could qualify into this area.
Coincidentally (and somewhat fortuitously) at around the same time I received an offer to work in Sheffield for a firm training individuals with a similar background to myself (staff with a more admin facing role) to become legal advisors within the private client department. I was involved in a 6-week intense course shadowing my colleagues and from there I was ready to begin fee earning and started gaining my own case load.
I had initially looked at the more traditional route of going back to university to study law and sitting the LPC but I decided I’d prefer to earn whilst I study and had also noted the high stakes/high pressure atmosphere of applying for training contracts. It was then that someone had suggested CILEx (The Chartered Institute for Legal Executives), a course that would allow me study at my own pace whilst still working full time.
The CILEx course usually runs over a 4-year period and students have the option of studying via distance learning with an online tutor or attending one of the colleges around the UK that offer the course. Once qualified a person becomes a Legal Executive with the option to then become a Solicitor if they so choose to do so. Legal Executives are seen in the same professional capacity as Solicitors and will often have a more tailored knowledge of one area of law. I began my course 2 years ago whilst working as a Legal Advisor and have really enjoyed the experience so far. I think the main benefit for me is that I know I’m working towards the title of Legal Executive without the added pressure of finding relevant employment as I’m already doing what I love every day, meeting and advising clients.
After recently being hired by Keebles as a Paralegal, I’ve found that being able to do what you love for such an established firm is highly rewarding.
The support Keebles provide for their staff is outstanding and I feel lucky to be a part of the firm. You have the flexibility to source your own clients and I am currently heavily involved in promoting the firm to make sure those who need our services know about our services. Most recently that’s involved me taking responsibility for building up our working relationship with Age UK in Doncaster for whom we’ll be rolling out a free Will Clinic in October in honour of ‘National Older Persons Day’.
For me private client work is all about helping those individuals that are sometimes overlooked. Due to the nature of my work many of those clients tend to be older so I now take a lot of time out to visit those clients so they have someone to talk to and to ensure their interests are being met.
I can safely say my route into law may not be a conventional one, but my journey has been a valuable one and the experiences I’ve had along the way have only been an asset to my legal career!