Alex, a paralegal at Clyde & Co, has recently secured a training contract with the firm. We caught up with Alex to hear about his experience at the firm so far, what he’s looking forward to about the training contract and some top tips for the application process.
How’s your experience at Clyde & Co been?
Everything has been very positive! I’ve moved departments since we last spoke, from International Arbitration to Insurance. The change has been quite large, including different types of work and responsibility as well as adapting to the virtual world of work. It’s been quite an interesting experience, but I think it’s been invaluable to my career. The work-life balance has been manageable, despite the current circumstances. Knowing that I’ve got the training contract coming up has pushed me even harder so that I can be completely prepared.
I have learnt so many new things and broadened my legal knowledge. Though there is a lot of work, you don’t take on more than you can handle; if you do have a large workload and are given more things to do, you have to be comfortable enough to communicate that you are at capacity and suggest a solution that allows all work to be completed.. Seniors will appreciate your honesty as they would prefer you focus on completing your work to the best of your ability rather than reducing the quality of your work to meet multiple deadlines.
What's the day-to-day life like as a paralegal?
Every day can be different because of the variety of work. The level of work, however, is quite consistent throughout the day; there is always something for me to do and there are many opportunities for me to take on new responsibilities. Your workload depends on what kind of deadlines you have and, as there are many different deadlines, there is a lot of variation.
The high level of exposure gained at Clyde and Co. showed me that the tasks vary from department to department. I was in the International arbitration department for over 18 months, working on state/ contractor disputes. I found myself completing arithmetic tasks based on auditing reports and I was also responsible for document management for upcoming hearings.
Working on financial based tasks was a new concept and required me to hone my arithmetic skills which I had not used for years. I spent the last 5 months working in insurance-based departments. This was an exciting move for me as Clyde and Co is an insurance-based firm and it was an amazing opportunity to gain experience here prior to starting my Training Contract. In insurance, my work become focused on my legal analysis and drafting ability. The caseloads I have been exposed to are American cases, meaning that I had to adapt to reading American Court documents and understanding the legal jargon commonly used in American cases.
It showed me that each department will require me to draw on different skills. This was an important lesson for me as now feel better prepared for the initial change of work when I move seats in my Training Contract.
How has your time as a paralegal prepared you for your training contract?
I hope that it will provide me with an advantage in confidence. Coming into the role, it will be my third year at the firm. The level of integration I’ve experienced in the firm should hopefully allow me to hit the ground running. I also think my knowledge of the inner workings of Clyde & Co will allow me to be as prepared as I can be.
I chose law because it would give me a good consistent source of income and the options of the industry are endless. You’re not confined to one space; law is international and encompasses an incredible variety of fields where I can always learn something new and broaden my skills.
It was also important to find a structured career that is sustainable through world effecting events such as the global pandemic and recessions.
Why Clyde & Co? What attracted you to the firm and the role?
I initially joined Clyde & Co on a three month contract. As I settled in, it became very apparent to me that Clyde & Co was somewhere I wanted to be long term. I had a lot of support from my department and the Early Careers team. The partners and associates were very happy for me to increase my responsibility and the trainees encouraged me to speak to the Early Careers Manager, Aisling Barnes, to evaluate my options. The Early Careers team instrumental in my decision to pursue a TC with Clyde & Co. The team helped me to pinpoint my weaker areas and suggested how to improve. I began attending graduate recruitment events to improve my public speaking and build my network within the firm. I had the opportunity to work with the Global Corporate Responsibility and inclusion team, which was important for me because of my ethnicity and social background. I also attended internal learning and development classes to learn new skills and put myself in the shoes of a trainee. Prior to the application opening, the Early Careers team arranged a paralegal briefing session. We discussed the different stages of the assessment centre and tips on approaching the application itself. This allowed me to further expand my network and connect with people in a similar situation to me. Being surrounded by my colleagues showed me that I wasn’t going through the process alone. It created a safe place for us to share our ideas and concerns.
One of the main things that attracted me was the prominence of the firm, and that, before coming here, I had my mind set on Dispute Resolution; what drew me to Clyde & Co was not only the fact that they were highly ranked in this area along with many others, but it was the international span.
On top of this, it was easy to find information on Clyde & Co as they had a transparent online presence and a lot of insight days and events. As a result, the offices felt familiar when I went to interview. They are also good at getting their brand out there – they have good social media channels and strong coverage on job boards and recruitment sites.
I wanted to be a paralegal because it seemed like a natural progression into a career in law. Some people went through the route of vacation schemes and training contracts but, as I was working straight after university, becoming a paralegal was the best route for me in terms of making a living whilst gaining invaluable insight into law.
What are you most looking forward to about the training contract?
I’m looking forward to a new level of exposure. As a trainee, I’ll have a high level of responsibility and learn a lot more. Also, partners can put more trust in you as you’re a lot closer to the process and integrated into understanding the corporate issues and procedures.
I’m excited to experience that level of exposure and trust in my work. I’m looking forward to the career progression but it’s also reassuring to know that I have a level of job security as I can concentrate on how best to progress in my role and focus on what I’m doing day to day. That way, I can hit the ground running when I start my training contract.
What was the application process like?
At the assessment centre, I experience multiple tests. There was a group exercise, where you’re given a scenario and told to work it through with the team. The second test was a written exercise which I completed individually. During the process, I was able to apply my legal knowledge and utilise the techniques and skills that I have established throughout my education and career. It is also important to understand the culture of the firm as there will be opportunities to demonstrate your knowledge throughout the assessment centre. The questions and scenarios present an opportunity, as an applicant, to demonstrate that you can make informed decisions based on the firm's Ideologies.
Do you have any hints and tips for applying?
Don’t be afraid to put out an application, even to the biggest and best firms. Coming from a working-class background, I got myself into the mindset that working in a firm like Clyde & Co was too intimidating and out of my league, but I was wrong. You don’t have to come from a certain background or a certain university, you just have to be the right fit. Even if you’re not successful, The feedback you receive could open the door for future opportunities.
I also think it’s important to make sure you’re commercially aware. For me, I’ve developed interests in insurance law and international arbitration, so I made sure to discuss commercial awareness subjects within these topics. Finding a topic I was interested in made maintaining commercial awareness easier. it allowed me to speak passionately and add my opinion. i believe this will help applicants to impress in their cover letters and Interviews. The main thing is to show why you’re interested in what you’ve learned so that the firm can see just how engaged you are.
What are your goals for the future?
I want to use the platform I have to talk about social mobility and BAME issues across the industry. I’d like to work towards improving diversity and inclusion in the legal sector. 2020 bought a lot of societal issues to the media. The Black Lives Matter campaign and the free school meals campaign appealed to me because of my racial and social background. Being able to speak on that and be a role model for those from BAME and social mobility backgrounds is important. I’m hoping to use that as a basis for me to support people and help them work up to the position that I’m in. It would mean a lot to me to be able to use my position as a platform for change. Hopefully, I can use my career to shorten that gap between social minorities and large commercial firms.
To find out more about Clyde & Co and to view their opportunities, click here.