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Routes into Law: Paralegal

I have always known that I wanted to pursue a career in Law since a young age. I think this fascination with Law, stereotypically, stemmed from seeing court rooms on TV, but also from the influence of my Mum who works at Liverpool Crown Court. I remember once when I was younger, her work did a ‘Bring-Your-Kids-to-Work-Day’ and me and my sister had a wig and gown on and got our pictures taken on the Judge’s bench. I think we were the only ones there to ask “can we go down to see the cells please?”. Looking back now it makes me laugh because I think I was only about 8 or so, but more recently when I went to the cells when I was on the Crime team at Jackson Lees Group, I think my colleagues would confirm that I shared the same excitement and enthusiasm when going to the cells for the first ‘proper’ time in my career.

I did my A-Levels in my High School Sixth Form and stuck to subjects I liked; English, Psychology and Philosophy & Ethics and then went on to complete my LLB Law Degree at Liverpool John Moore’s University. I think its safe to say everyone has a little blip when they’re at Uni, usually somewhere around the second year, (so if this is you right now this is completely normal!), and it left me wondering whether Law really was what I wanted to do. LJMU offer a chance for students in between their second and third year to do a sandwich year where you can put your studies on pause while you have a year working in the industry. This route is something that I would really recommend, as this working experience gives you a credible advantage and sets you aside from your peers on the completion of your degree. In order to do this though you do need to apply, be accepted, and then find your own placement. I remember sitting in my car and ringing round firms in my lunch hour pleading with them to take me on. I ended up working for a firm in Manchester doing Credit Hire, an area of Law I hadn’t really heard of or ever dealt with before, so I was keen to expand my understanding.

I am grateful to this firm for all I learnt during my time there as I think I developed massively, not only on a professional level, but also on a personal one as I had never worked in an office before – so ‘office etiquette’, for me, took a lot of getting used to. It took me ages to remember silly things like to offer your whole team a cuppa when you were making one – or a ‘brew’ as I guess they say in Manchester? I was lucky enough to be kept on during my final year of University but unfortunately, like many people, I got made redundant during the pandemic in September 2020, something which was quite difficult for me to deal with after finding out I was pregnant in June 2020. Due to being out of work and the uncertainty of whether I would be able to find another job during a time where so many were in the same position as me, I thought I would spend my time wisely and enrol on the LPC/LLM Course at LJMU. To say this was a challenge was an understatement, not only to due all learning being remote as a result of COVID lockdowns and restrictions, but also coming to terms with the changes I was going through in my personal life. This motivated me, even more, to work as hard as I possibly could as I didn’t only have myself to think about. Despite these challenges, I managed to get a Distinction in my LPC exams – something which I am extremely proud of.

Following the completion of my LPC, I was keen to go back to work quickly after studying from home and being in and out of lockdowns for the past year or so. I applied for the role of Family & Crime Legal Assistant at Jackson Lees Group and was invited for a chat with two associates a few days later. This was not classed as a formal interview and was more of a chat to get to know me, to discuss my life outside of work, my hobbies, interests, and my ‘WHY?’. I found this aspect of the recruitment process so refreshing as I felt the associates were interested in ‘Beth the person’ as opposed to what appeared on my CV, in fact the associates never saw my CV and were unaware of the role I had applied for, so the role itself was never discussed. This also meant that when I was invited for a formal interview, I was more at ease having already gotten to know some members of the Group prior and after a successful interview I was offered the role.

Despite this role being more admin based, as Family and Crime are my two favourite areas of Law, this role was ideal for me. I would spend mornings running to court with the Crime team and the afternoons assisting the Family team. After 4 weeks in this role, I was invited to interview for the role of Family Paralegal – something which I was quite taken aback by due to not being with the Group long, but I was grateful that my managers thought that I was capable of this role’s responsibilities. After being successful at interview, I was promoted to Family Paralegal and I started the role in August 2021. Being in a Paralegal role gives you the ability to assist and work closely with a Lawyer on their case-load and gives them the chance to share everything they know about the area with you – which believe me, is a lot! Despite selecting Family Law as an elective on the LPC, nothing can compare to the amount of knowledge I have developed in such a short space of time from being in practice and sitting amongst the team in our office. A great learning experience for me has been taking the calls on our New Business Enquires – as no two scenarios have been the same. I am now at the stage where I can conduct Client appointments and represent Clients at Pre-Proceedings meetings, I am yet to attend a hearing in the Family Court due to hearings still being remote - this is something I am hoping to do in the near future.

Something that is important to me is being able to love my job whist also having time for my family and personal life, as you often hear people say that you can only ever have one or the other. With Jackson Lees Group being one of the few firms in the area to offer hybrid working, I can still have a great work / life balance and spend invaluable, quality time with my daughter whilst working from home 2 days a week, something I am so grateful for even if that means just having lunch with her on my lunch break.

My route into law has made me realise how important it is to try to look for a positive outcome from a negative situation – I remember being so devastated when I got made redundant last year, but if it wasn’t for that negative experience, I would not be in the role I am in today and my route into Law would have been very different.

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