Working within the legal profession has been of great interest to me since I studied Law at college. It was here that I developed a flair for legal theory which in turn ignited my desire to pursue a career in Law. After going on to study Law at the University of Newcastle, it became clear that becoming a solicitor was the career path for me. After gaining some legal experience at a high street firm in my area, I successfully applied for the role of Legal Assistant at Silk and have been learning the ins and outs of what it is like to be a Legal Assistant, as well as my Solicitor and Barrister colleagues every day!
Meet our Legal assistants:
There is always something new to learn here at Silk and I am lucky enough to be assisting on some very interesting, challenging yet rewarding cases, where I have gained valuable experience, which continue to inspire me to become a family law specialist solicitor. I’ve learned a lot already and for anyone wanting to take this career path, I have come up with some top tips to be successful in doing so.
My first practical piece of advice is to be organised. As a legal assistant, it is your job to keep up to date with the solicitor you are assisting. This may be about what meetings or court hearings are coming up, which clients need to be contacted, what pieces of work need to be drafted, and sticking to agreed, or court-imposed deadlines. To help with this, keep a good “to-do” list going and make a list of key dates for the month for the solicitor you assist.
My second piece of advice is more general. Take every opportunity you can to learn about the law. If you are a legal assistant, attend that client meeting or court hearing and make use of every opportunity to strengthen your legal knowledge. If you aspire to be a solicitor, gather as much practical experience as possible and make use of the endless online resources to better the legal knowledge that will allow you to excel in an interview with a law firm.
The next piece of advice is to have really good people skills. I have also found that the ability to empathise with your clients is really important. They are often at their most vulnerable when they require legal advice and assistance and it is always important to ensure that they are treated with respect. Listening is often more important than talking in some meetings I have attended.
I would also say to never be afraid to ask questions. There have been times when I have felt like my questions might be too silly to ask, but your team would rather you ask the questions and learn from their advice as this helps you gain knowledge and therefore improves your standard of work. You will quickly learn that in a good law firm, colleagues will draw on each others’ experience to help each other, which ultimately benefits clients from that wealth of knowledge and experience. You can make a real difference by helping more senior colleagues, who will value your input.
Another piece of advice is to remember that everyone makes mistakes. Amendments to work and missing information is normal, particularly at the beginning of your training. Have a chat with the solicitor that you assist to go over the mistakes you made and take notes on how to improve in the future. Every day is a new opportunity to learn and even when we get things wrong, this is just another one of those opportunities. A good mentor will help build confidence.
Being a Legal Assistant is a fulfilling and rewarding job, but sometimes takes a lot of responsibility. These are just some of the things I do each day to make my day go as seamlessly as possible!