Hello everyone and welcome to my first ever blog post!
So I’m going to start with a bit about me because you need to know a little bit behind the writer, I’ll try to keep it ‘brief’ (pun absolutely intended).
Law was not the planned destination if you asked my 16 year old self. Nor was it even a thought in my young mind. I was always a geek at school and honestly that has never really left me. Teachers Pet, Prefect and never having a detention (I know right, unheard of!). My dream at age 16 was to be……a Teacher! But at that time I was passionate about working with little people! Never in a million years would I have thought about advising adults about their lives!
So upon completing my GCSEs off I went to Sixth Form Studying History, Geography, English Literature and Psychology and then I went on to study for a History Degree. Little did I know that by the age 27 I’d have over two years’ experience working in the legal sector as a Family Paralegal. It isn’t really until now that I realise the subject choices I made at GCSE and A-Level despite not studying Law have helped me to understand the job that I now work in.
I can say that I stumbled across, by complete and utter chance, due to a past relationship way back in 2015; I won’t go into detail as it’s not important. But I can honestly say I am thankful for that experience and truly believe that everything happens for a reason as I wouldn’t be where I am now.
So now you know a little bit about me, let’s get down to what this blog post is really about, the day in the life of a Family Paralegal.
Well…..that’s a lie really as no two days are ever the same.
I work in an independent, high street firm in Cheshire which deals with Family Law (obviously), Conveyancing, Wills & Probate, Road Traffic Accidents and a little Employment Law. There are currently 5 fee earners which include me. Alongside us is 5 extremely important support staff. I have been at this firm for around 2 and half months but I actually feel like I’ve been there for a lot longer.
Most mornings I walk into the building around 8:45 am andfind my fellow Family Law colleague KC, along with the support staff having a little chin wag. Yes, I know what you’re thinking…… what you talk to one another?! We actually like working with each other and share what is going on in our lives. I have come to realise during my career that your colleagues really do play a pivotal part in whether you enjoy going to work and not just in the legal world; it is not all about the work that you are dealing with. You are spending 8 hours a day (in my case), 5 days a week with these people so you have to get along and enjoy being around them or it leads to a life of misery and a lot of self-doubt. After around 10 minutes of catching up, I go into my office. Yes, you read that right, my own office, which I am unbelievably grateful for as it’s unheard of for a Paralegal’s to have their own office. I have learnt in my 2 years’ experience that I am someone who likes total peace and quiet while working with no distractions. I switch on my computer just before the clock strikes 9am.
While I wait for the computer to come on, I check my diary to see if I have any clients (yes I have my own clients too – mainly straightforward Divorce, but you have to start somewhere), I also put into my diary the clients that KC has too, as I sit in on those meetings to expand my knowledge.
Once I’m logged onto the computer the first thing I do ischeck CCMS. What is CCMS may you may ask? For those who aren’t familiar, CCMS is the Legal Aid Agency’s Client and Cost Management System. This system was set up in I think 2016 to make Legal Aid applications for those who have been domestically abused, have a low income and are unable to afford Legal Representation. I am a firm believer that everyone has the right to Legal Representation. However, anyone one that works in the Family Law, working with thissystem can be at times is a little frustrating, as one can expect with any online resource. I check whether we have any actions to complete and if there are any notifications. If there are any then I deal with these first as sometimes they are relatively straightforward, but nonetheless important to progress applications or to pay counsel!
Once I have checked CCMS I check my emails for anything that may be urgent. If there isn’t anything urgent, I then go to speak to KC about the day ahead. It’s extremely important to have a good relationship with the solicitor that you assist as a Paralegal, if you don’t get along, it can be a complete disaster and there can be no trust. Luckily for me, I get along extremely well with KC and it just makes our lives easier that we can trust one another with our cases, especially if either one of us is off sick or on holiday.
We discuss the day ahead and if there is anything urgent to attend to or dates that are coming up, for example any court dates in which we need to prepare a brief and bundle in advance at least 2/3 days before a hearing. I particularly enjoy writing briefs to counsel and preparing the court bundle as it gives you a chance to reflect on the case where the case is up to and tests your memory.
Usually after being given tasks by KC I return to my room across the hall and look at my to do list. My to do list includesbut is not exclusive to; any telephone calls I need to makewhich includes clients, booking counsel amongst other things, what I need to prioritise, any research, any statements, medical evidence, police evidence are due in that need to be looked at, emails I need to send and such forth. The list is endless, but it certainly is satisfying to take my green highlighter when something is completed.
Now you may think, Police Disclosure and Medical Evidence, why would you need that in Family Law? Well it all depends on what type of Family Law the firm deals with. I’m extremely lucky that my firm deals with a vast range of family cases and we don’t particularly have a niche, which for me and my training is so invaluable. I deal with cases that include; divorce and judicial separation, finances, separation agreements, non-molestation and occupation orders, care proceedings (representing parents), change of name deeds, cohabitation disputes between non married couples and children proceedings of separated parents. Although the list is not exhaustive.
I can honestly say one of the main reasons I love my job, is that no two days are never the same. I can’t sit here and write a typical day because there is no typical day. You don’t know who is going to call, what type of clients you will deal with on a day to day basis, what dramas are going to occur, because they do in Family Law. It is my job to help minimise the stressto the client. As KC always says to our clients, there is always a way to fix things, at first it may not see possible but it is.
I can honestly say the only 2 things that stay the same during my working day are my morning routine which I have discussed above and leaving the office routine….oh and not forgetting lunch! (I should get an hour, but tbh rarely ever happens when you get stuck into something).
My leaving the office routine usually starts at around 4:50pm (as I am also lucky to work till 5pm). I write up my to do list in this amazing notepad that I bought from a well-known UK supplier of office stationary of what needs to be done the following day and make sure that my desk is tidy. I personally feel much better both leaving and coming to the office that I have a tidy desk, as the saying goes tidy room, tidy mind or in my case tidy desk, tidy mind.
To some people my day may not sound that exciting, but unfortunately I cannot disclose exactly what happens with cases, but some days can be extremely interesting and also time consuming. You can’t always do everything you want to do on your list. I also have to attend office meetings with the partners and bill and invoice clients (I’ll be honest it is not my favourite part of the job, I have never trained as an accountant, but it is important, as working apart of a Law firm I am part of a business).
My time as a Family Paralegal has learnt me a lot about people and their behaviours (see my A-Level in Psychology did help in some way) and you do hear a lot of things that would surprise most people on the street. I can now honestly say that it is not very often now that I am shocked by something a client says and is surprising how behaviours repeat themselves.
If you’re thinking about Family Law, I have to say based on my experience you have to like dealing with people as you are dealing with clients often either in person or on the phonealongside other professionals and other paralegals/lawyers, clients can be in a range of different moods so you have to know what the right thing is to say. You have to learn to juggle, have good time management skills, be extremely organised by prioritising, but most importantly, you have to have empathy. Clients are trusting you with their lives, sometimes even their children’s lives and dealing with some of the most stressful experiences in their life. They are relying on you to know the Law and apply it to their life. I feel that Family Law is not something you can go into half-heartedly.If anyone wishes to divulge further or ask for any tips, please do not hesitate to get in touch (that’s Law speak) on my Social Media Platforms as listed below.
Thanks for reading. I hope I haven’t bored you to death and given you an insight to the day in the life, of a Family Paralegal.