With the rise of popular TV shows such as Suits glamorising the legal profession and the likes of Meghan Markle’s character Rachel Zane becoming ever more popular due to her marriage to none other than the Prince of England, it is only fair that the world knows what it truly is like to be a paralegal in a top 100 UK law firm.
Working as a paralegal is not as fancy as Rachel makes it out to be, it’s mostly dealing with initial client enquiries via post or email or phone and informing them of the likely success of their case. I think the most exciting part of the role is going to the printer/photocopy machine and scanning letters and supervisions!
As a Paralegal, the day is not too varied, you tend to do the same tasks every day, the cases sometimes vary but it’s mostly the same thing depending on the department you work in, you get used to the clients and their cases and build a rapport with them. I have been dealing with client cases that were opened almost 10-12 years ago. Law is not a two-second thing it takes ages for a claim to go through especially in the department that I work in. I work mostly with public law cases which means dealing with government agencies such as the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Clinical Support Unit (CSU) as well as the NHS. The cases I deal with take a particularly long time to hear an outcome from because when dealing with the NHS you just have to accept that they will be slow.
Today’s duties involved filing in file reviews of client files and ensuring that their status’ were up-to-date and that I had examined all the necessary forms to then write a letter advising the client that the senior case manager of their case had changed and providing them with an update in relation to their case. After which I then printed out the advice letters, placed them in a cupboard for the senior case manager to supervise, once supervised (edited and ensured that everything was correct) I then edited what I had written and printed the letter on a headed sheet to send to the client. This task took up pretty much most of the day as I had lots of clients that I had to write letters to advise the change of senior case manager. Towards the end of my day I had some files to close, so what I had to do what again write letters to the clients informing them that their case was to be closed due to poor prospects and that all original documents that they had provided us with would be sent back to them. By original documents, this could include anything from passports to grants of probate and marriage certificates. Having completed this I then placed the originals and letter into an envelope to send off to the clients.
As a paralegal and dependant on what type of firm you work in, the likelihood of having your own office is minimal to none. You are more likely to work in a shared space with lots of other paralegals and case handlers! The portrayal of a paralegal on Suits is vastly different from the realities. Paralegals tend to spend the majority of their time among senior paralegals or case handlers, it’s unlikely you will rub shoulders too often with a solicitor or partner unless the firm is smaller.
Suits definitely has one thing right, the hours. The hours are long and finding a work-life balance is tough!
In regards to being a paralegal, ensure that you become a paralegal for the right reasons and not because you aspire to be something like one of the characters on Suits, although there are some similarities to work in the legal sector, the majority of it is made for entertainment and should be taken with a pinch of salt. Working in the legal profession is tough and in the UK there are more law grads and people heading for a career in law than there are training contracts. Being a paralegal may help to become a solicitor but there is no guarantee and whilst Rachel Zane may have it all, paralegal pay in the UK is not the best, so ensure you do your research before!