Problem of a reader….
“I am a secretary at a smallish law firm and I have been offered a training contract starting in a year. However I have now been offered a job as a paralegal at a well known mid-sized firm. If I take the paralegal job then I may be able to use that to get a training contract at that bigger and more prestigious Name firm but there is no guarantee.
The job market is so screwed that the paralegal job pays much less than my secretary job but if I get a training contract at the new firm it pays more than I would get as a trainee at my current firm. I am sure that the prestige of having that Name firm on my CV will be much better for my career. On qualification I will earn much more at the Name firm or others of that ilk than at my current place.
So do I risk the certainty of a training contract for the possibility of a TC at a Name firm somewhere down the line?”
The old fashioned answer:
I am clear on my advice. Stay where you are and take the certainty of the TC and then once you are qualified you can move on. The market always goes up and down and in a bad market everyone struggles to move but in a good market you can easily move up to a Name firm from a small country firm, especially if you have good exam results (which still weirdly obsess big law and law generally). You will learn some basic skills at a small firm which will stand you in good stead, such as how to sell, how to build a client base and how to speak to clients and actually give advice.
You will also know how to enlarge and clear a jam on the photocopier which is the most useful talent you will ever acquire.
"All this to look forward to"
I know from your longer letter that you have the clear promise of a job in litigation which is where you work now as a secretary and you will be able to see your path to qualification without any risks. Yes you may get some more money from the Name firm but if you figure in the reduced salary as a paralegal for at least 2 years and the risk that you will not get a TC, the extra money is pretty minimal and it's not worth risking the future long career for a possible short term gain.
Break your career down into small sections and focus on each stage and once you get to the end of that stage, you can move on to the next. Get the TC, get the NQ role, get some experience, move job at 2PQE and then onward and as far up the ladder as you can get. To paraphrase the poet Oleta Adams “I don’t care how you get there, just get there if you can”.
"Which way now?"
This career path is designed that if you fall - or are pushed - off the ladder, the higher you are, the more rungs there are beneath you which you may be able to grab on the way down before you hit the bottom.
Now the modern answer I want to give you:
Leave. Take the job. Go with your gut. Things work out the way they are supposed to. Kismet. Onward and Upward.
Don't dwell on the risks (like lawyers are trained to do) but rather look at the opportunities. Make the change - especially as at your stage these things will all add to your experience and your knowledge. You may find yourself exposed to new environments, people, offices, practices and skills, new areas such as property or family and then, when you actually try them, find out you don't actually f*cking hate them.
It may be the move which sets you free. You may get the Name firm job and the TC you hope for. But if you don’t get it, you will have a different path and maybe end up in a whole new area instead of being trapped doing litigation. Maybe move out of law altogether.
Without moving, nothing would have shaken you from that path but you will be glad that you did get shaken from it - or fell off it - and ended up landing in a more interesting area.
Seeing the world will make you change your views.
Law can be an incredibly rewarding and stimulating professional but there is a long career ahead of you and you want to see all of the options and areas you could experience. People are so of the view that the TC is the be all and end all that they let that goal cloud their vision. I want us to start to realise that we need to get a firm and job that works for US. It’s our job and our career and we should make sure we have seen all that we can before we sign our life away.
Like "is it the right place", "is it the right offer", "is it the right team", "might I accidentally murder the crotchety old bugger in property litigation if I stay where I am" etc etc? All those proper, sensible considerations fall by the wayside, but they shouldn't. We are begging them for jobs but they should be wooing us.
For instance maybe you’ll do criminal, maybe you’ll discover you love scum bags, love going to court, find out you love you a moiderer. Maybe you’ll marry Robert Maudsley.
"The course of true love never did run smooth"
The world is your lobster…..