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Conundrum of a paralegal

Conundrum… take a fee earning paralegal position with a law firm in a discipline of less interest that may lead to a training contract or accept a commercial paralegal position in-house?

A recent example highlights this situation. I have been assisting a global company with the recruitment of a paralegal. Working as part of the legal team the role will involve assisting the business with a wide variety of general commercial contracts including sales, procurement, distribution and confidentiality agreements. This is an opportunity to work with a great business and a leading UK legal team.

The individual who has been offered the role is lucky enough to have 2 offers… One is to join private practice in an area of less interest to the candidate (but has a higher chance of directly leading to a training contract) and the other is the role above.

The private practice role offers the opportunity to build on previous private practice litigation experience and the in-house role would give her the first in house experience in a commercial environment, which is an area she is extremely keen to work in.

What should she do?? As you will no doubt appreciate, most paralegals would ideally like a role that leads to a training contract.

I would always suggest that you take the role that offers you what you are looking for in terms of variety and quality of work even if it might take you a few years longer to qualify!

As I, myself, had been interested in working in a commercial environment, I started my in house career as a legal and commercial graduate and through that avenue was fortunate to qualify as a solicitor with Thales, before moving on to BAE Systems. I know many ex-colleagues that have also gone down that route. Although I completely appreciate that it is not for everyone and a training contract will not always materialise.

A recent article in The Solicitor’s Journal concurs with Karyn Palmer, senior counsel at Vodafone UK commenting: “ [I] advise delegates to pursue paralegal positions at corporations, working with in-house legal counsels, before trying to obtain a training contract as this allows graduates to differentiate themselves from fellow candidates and it is a ‘way in’ to securing an in-house training contract”.

So in conclusion, I guess the right answer depends on what you are looking for out of your career…which will arguably span c40 years of your life. As much as you can guarantee anything in life I am sure that after a couple of years experience in this in-house role this individual would be able to get a training contract in a commercial discipline either in-house or in private practice – setting herself up for the rest of her career.

I wait to hear on the decision!!

For more information please contact Joanne McKernan or visit our website BCL Legal.

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