I’ve been an employment law paralegal for just over a month now. I had now paralegal experience beforehand, and in honesty was absolutely terrified going into the role! I thought that sharing my experience might help anybody who is about to start a paralegal role, or is considering working as a paralegal once graduating!
The first thing that I want to note is that once I had graduated from university I didn’t step straight into a paralegal job, as I wanted to make sure that the firm and the role was right for me. That was absolutely the right decision for me, as I have ended up as an innovative and forward thinking law firm practising an area of law that I’m really passionate about, and I think that has had a really positive impact on my experiences. Don’t get me wrong, there have been tough days, days where I feel like I don’t have a clue what I’m doing, and days where I feel like I’ve achieved nothing, but there have also been days where I’ve seen the partner within my team win a point at a preliminary hearing as a result of the research that I’d done for him, and times when my clients have thanked me for the work that I’ve done for them. They’re the moments that I live for within the job.
When I first started the job my manager said to me “don’t worry if you don’t feel like you’re doing much within the first few weeks”. I was absolutely terrified as I wanted to show how hard working I am, but how could I when I could be doing nothing? It’s difficult to walk into a law firm and hit the ground running straight away as you begin to take on other people’s cases, help people with their case load and deal with some initial bits of advice. You won’t necessarily have lots to do straight away. However, what has been a big benefit to me is using that down time that I have had initially to research relevant areas of law. I have also sat in client meetings, as so much can be learned from that. For me, it’s so important to keep the bigger picture in mind and learn as much as possible now. I have pages and pages of notes on best practice, from email templates, to advocacy tips, to negotiation tips. These are not necessarily skills that I will need to use straight away, but skills that will benefit me one day. So, one of the biggest things that I’ve learned is that every opportunity is an opportunity to learn.
Another thing that I have found important is networking. Within the firm I have spoken to not only the people in my team, but people in other offices and other departments. Networking doesn’t stop when you start the job. It is useful for your clients, as if they have other things that they need legal advice on then you can cross-refer them, which is great from their point of view and also from a business point of view. I also now have a support network of people that I know can help me with so many different things who have so much experience.
Time management is essential. I always knew that time management would be a big part of my life as a lawyer. It is a profession known for long days (more on that coming in the next paragraph), and lots of work. Finding a way to manage that is essential. I find a to-do list really helps me. Emails first thing in the morning, to-do list written on the basis of that, and then I can tick things off during the day and add to the list if I need to. It’s the best way for me to manage my tasks, and I find that being organised is so important!
Work/Life Balance is so important. I have always been the type of person to work all night and all day, get my head down and get stuff done. I thought that this was the best thing to do. However (and I could not have done this without my boyfriend, thanks Ant), I have learned that it is so important to leave work at work. There will inevitably be some days where something urgent needs doing and you may need to work a little later in the office, but home is home and work stays outside of it. I love my job, but it is not healthy to be thinking about it 24/7. It means that the time spent with my family and friends is quality time, and I am arriving at work refreshed and ready to smash it every day. Finding a way to switch off is so important and essential for a healthy work/life balance.
I hope that this post highlights some of what I have learned in my time as a paralegal. I am absolutely loving it, and I can’t wait to share some more of my journey with you through blogs, vlogs, and social media. I quite often share little snapshots of my day on my instagram story so if you’re not following me on there then please do: @ElsLegalLife