Moving from a paralegal role to become a trainee

6 key points to help consider your move

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Bruce Macmillan on 06/12/17

1: What your career goals and aspirations are and whether becoming a trainee solicitor is the best "fit" for your future career plans, our knowledge section - about you is here to provide guidance to help in-house lawyers with their career planning. Most of this is relevant to people who are para-legalling too. Please see also this article that I wrote recently about female progression in law – which also makes some points which are of general relevance about the number of different opportunities that are available in law outside of the traditional routes.

 2: As part of considering your aspirations, you need to decide whether you want to qualify in an in-house team (including central or local government) or in a law firm? Our about my role section explains what is involved in an in-house career. Resources related to law firm practice range from the Law Society's guidance to rather less formal guidance such as Legal Cheek and a very useful guide to the longer term future of the legal services sector in England and Wales, Legal Futures.

3: If you are going to apply from outside an organisation, rather than seeking to move on to a training contract with a company that already employs you, then you need to stand out (in a good way) as only very carefully written, well thought through, well targeted (i.e. why your particular background and experience is particularly useful to them in this role) and rapidly submitted applications are likely to get considered. So you will need to be very well prepared; check all of the job websites regularly, be registered with relevant recruiters; and be very quick to apply as the good roles will go very quickly.

Larger in-house legal teams (including government) may have structured training contract programmes - for example, at the time of writing, Coca Cola European Partners was advertising a ground breaking Solicitor Apprenticeship in their team and BT Plc also has regular intakes - so be aware in good time of when they happen, where they are advertised and how to apply!

Smaller teams in businesses with good people development plans can be persuadable that helping you to qualify is a good way for the legal team to help you to create and meet good personal development plan goals for you. In any event the key thing is that the people whom you are working for see how you (in terms of your work performance, commitment and attitude) can fit into their longer term departmental plans even better if you are qualifying and then qualified with them than if you stay with them as a paralegal or leave.

Remember the key, whether applying from inside the company or from outside, is to work out What Is In It (i.e. you getting a training contract) For Them (your management/ the hirer) In Their Language (i.e. a long term, loyal, high performing legal team member with ever increasing legal value add and great business knowledge) - so work out how you can make a convincing "WIIIFTITL Pitch" about why they should help you to make this journey!

4: The regulatory requirements that the Solicitors Regulation Authority has for you as the trainee and for your law firm or law department as a training provider. The SRA has provided a helpful guidance pack for trainees and for training providers on this: Trainee Information pack and Training Provider Information pack.

5: Whether you can get credit towards your training contract time for the work that you have already done. The rules are detailed here on the SRA training page.

6: Some personal experiences and reflections from people who have been there recently. Marc May in our team recently qualified through the "equivalent means" route and he offers some very insightful comments here.

Remember: be confident, persistent, proactive, focused and patient: this will maximise your chances of getting what you want! Good luck!
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