27.10.2021

Why paralegals should consider Risk & Compliance

Are you a paralegal applying for a training contract?

Have you considered a fixed-term contract working in Risk & Compliance at a law firm?

Why are you a paralegal? To get legal experience to help you get a training contract? The likelihood is that if you've been a paralegal for any length of time you'll have ticked that box already.

In your training contract, you'll move around a law firm in four six-month seats in different areas, and you won't know which area of law you'll end up qualifying in until potentially four years after you've been made an offer of your training contract.

When law firms look at your paralegal experience, mostly they're interested in the fact that you're working in a law firm, that you understand a bit about the mechanics of a legal services business, you've dealt with lawyers, you've dealt with the infrastructure of a law firm, and you have an understanding of how it works as a business. Most importantly, you're showing them that you can hack it, which is a huge tick box for a potential employer. The value here is your experience working in a law firm, not the specific technical experience you may have picked up in any one particular area.

What happens if you DON'T get a training contract?

Say you don't ever get offered a training contract, and 10 years down the line after endless applications you officially give up on it, or you ultimately decide that a career in fee-earning is not for you.

So what's next? Do you want to be a paralegal forever? If the answer is yes, absolutely continue! This might be the right role for you. However, there will be an upper limit on what you can earn as a paralegal, and, unless you're very lucky, there's a good chance this won't be very high. Your career path is going to be limited, the top of the tree here is likely to be Senior Paralegal or Paralegal Manager.

Why not look at other options?

Why not do something different that's also relevant to training contracts? Getting to know other parts of a law firm could make you a more attractive trainee to hiring firms. You could spend some time in the marketing team or do some business development with a law firm and get to know how a law firm wins business.

This way, when you're applying for training contracts there'll be more to you and you'll have more skills that will help you as a lawyer. It's not just your technical skills that are important, at some point in your career as a lawyer you'll need to bring in work for the firm. So, if you've got some law firm marketing experience, for example, this is definitely a selling point!

Why not consider Risk & Compliance?

While Risk & Compliance is a serious career path in its own right, the work is also really relevant to working as a fee-earner. Equally, many candidates who enter the world of Risk & Compliance whilst looking for a training contract ultimately decide to stay put, having invested time in the field and finding that they no longer want to pursue a training contract as Risk & Compliance is such a great alternative career opportunity!

The work sees you dealing with people across the entirety of the law firm, for example, your exposure is not limited to working in the Real Estate team. You'll work with the Real Estate lawyers, but also with the Employment lawyers, the Corporate Finance lawyers, the Banking lawyers. You'll deal with everyone who brings in work across the whole firm and look at their work from a Risk & Compliance perspective. So you get great exposure across the entire business, and you get to understand how a law firm brings in work, which is valuable in itself.

It's also really legal! There are now plenty of people qualifying from within Risk & Compliance roles and staying with the field as Risk & Compliance lawyers. It may not be easy, but it is possible if you want to do it, which demonstrates how legal it can be. 

Risk & Compliance is a valid and rewarding career path in and of itself with hugely attractive potential progression and remuneration packages exceeding those of partners at many law firms.

Whilst you are making your training contract applications for X number of years, at the same time you could be progressing a career path in Risk & Compliance that will continue to reward you, pay you more, and give you more exposure. If you do decide further down the line that you no longer want to gain a training contract, you'll suddenly find yourself quite an experienced Risk & Compliance professional, rather than stuck in a paralegal role with little to no progression available to you.

If you'd like to discuss a career in Law Firm Risk & Compliance, give us a call on 0207 117 2542, email us at info@ajfoxcompliance.com, or message us on LinkedIn.

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Posted by: AJ Fox Compliance