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…..



Anonymous 03 March 17 03:46

I totally agree with anon @24/02, and with the first bit of advice. From what I can tell firms are content to dangle the possibility of a TC in front of paralegals whilst very rarely making good on it. I've seen paralegals trapped at Magic and Silver Circle firms for years and it seems to me that the ones who manage to parlay that role into a training contract are the exception rather than the rule. Turning down a TC in favour of a paralegal job, even if it's at a more prestigious firm, strikes me as the riskier move. At least a TC is a sure thing as the bottom rung of the ladder you want to be on. As a paralegal you may well find you've just climbed onto a tiny stepladder.

Anonymous 24 February 17 15:33

It is incredibly rare for a firm to be staffed with decent enough humans to recognise a secretary's potential as a lawyer. I would 100% stay and take the training contract unless you were just temping as a secretary whilst applying for TCs. Paralegal isn't all that much better a route in to a TC than secretary, and in the larger firms, some even push against it. Note as well that many firms run their paralegals on rolling contracts which means not only would you be earning less than your secretarial job, you are going to get fired at the 2 year mark before you get employment rights. Yes, they are that cynical. Sorry, I don't mean "fired", I mean "not have your contract renewed", obviously ;-)

Anonymous 03 March 17 10:23

"So do I risk the certainty of a training contract for the possibility of a TC at a Name firm somewhere down the line?” No, you don't. If your aim is to qualify as a solicitor, you take the training contract offer from your current firm, qualify, and then weigh up your options at that point. If you move on to the other firm as a paralegal, you enter a pool of other paralegals who become your competitors for training contracts. You get stuck there for a few years, no training contract offer, so move on to another firm and enter a different pool of competitors. After a few more years there with no training contract offer, you either get stuck as a paralegal or are lucky enough to receive a training contract offer but from a smaller firm. You accept it simply in order to qualify. You are lucky enough to have that option already.

Anonymous 03 March 17 19:09

Key point, make sure the offer is in writing and sit tight!!!!!!!!

A training contract should never ever be turned down if you do not have other offers for one. I am shocked you would even consider leaving and going to work for another firm that you know nothing of in terms of quality of work, people, and most importantly the uncertainty of weather or not you will be able to get TC with them. The world is not your oyster as yet and the grass isn't always greener on the other side. TC's are very hard to get out there. Stay with the firm you know, take the training contract and don't look back! When you've finished your training you can then leave.

On a another note, don't put all your eggs in one basket. Times change. Here today gone tomorrow, apply for other training contracts in the meantime another paralegal job will come along but TC's yearly and you only have one shot at the application. These days its all about grades and who you know and not experience a paralegal. All those people who get training contracts in big law firms am sure have never worked in mergers and acquisitions before.

Recognise that being offered a TC is a milestone so make sure you drink to that-I am worthy.

Good luck!