A foot in the door: from paralegal to trainee - Maria Fert

Maria Fert, who is now a trainee solicitor at Shulmans, recalls her journey from paralegal to her present position.

What did you do as a paralegal?

My duties as a paralegal in the commercial property team were extremely varied and very similar to those of a trainee.

The commercial property team makes a point of training their paralegals in different aspects of property transactions.

Paralegals do not do repetitive work, and the extent of their duties will grow as they progress. I was constantly involved in different transactions alongside the team members who supervised me throughout each of these transactions.

This is very challenging but colleagues are aware of your capabilities and are always happy to help you with any questions you may have.

Paralegals working at Shulmans have the opportunity to gain a lot of work experience as well as to work alongside great lawyers who are always happy to help.

How has your role prepared you for a training contract?

When working as a paralegal in the commercial property team I often had to liaise with colleagues from other departments, which helped me to get to know the different teams and their members.

Furthermore, I got to learn the culture and the inside of the firm, as well as the systems used at Shulmans, which proved very helpful when I started my training contract.

How difficult is it to obtain a training contract?

The market is very competitive. It is very difficult to obtain a training contract, whether at Shulmans or anywhere else.

However, working as a paralegal enables you to know the people who work here and to make yourself ‘visible’. It gives you the opportunity to prove to the partners that you are diligent, industrious and deserve to be awarded a training contract.

Do paralegals have to go through the full external process?

I did not have to submit the required online application for external applicants. I informed Chris Peace [Training Principal at Shulmans] that I was interested in becoming a trainee solicitor at the firm. He then provided me with guidance as to how I could demonstrate to the partners that I had the attributes to become a successful trainee.

Will you get "time to count"?

Usually the firm is prepared to allow up to the maximum 6 month reduction and then leaves it up to the individual to decide whether they wish to take advantage of this. It is actually a very difficult decision to make; whilst the thought of qualifying as a solicitor 6 months earlier is very attractive, it nevertheless means that you might miss out on a seat in a legal discipline which you might want to spend your career working in.

Are paralegals at Shulmans guaranteed a training contract?

No, working as a paralegal does not automatically guarantee a place as a trainee.

There are certain skills and values that the firm looks for in their trainees; not every paralegal is able to secure a training contract.

It is a great opportunity to prove yourself to colleagues directly though.

How long does it take to become a trainee?

Once you start your position as a paralegal, you can express an interest in obtaining a training contract at any time. It really then depends on the circumstances as to whether (and when) there are opportunities.