Recording a single day in the life of a paralegal would be misleading. I often spend a whole day performing one task. So it wouldn’t give you much scope to focus on such a short time period. Rather I will describe an assemblage of many days. Given the current circumstances – working from home and away from the office – I have spent a lot of time doing this – writing blogs. I will cast my mind back to early March last year. When we were last in the office. I had been travelling to and from Shoreditch for a grand total of nine weeks. Neil and I would be bouncing ideas off one another and I felt I was learning a lot fast. Then, before I knew it, Neil become a disembodied voice on the phone or a floating head on my laptop. As the firm seemed to get busier and busier I found myself cut off from everyday discussions and updates. On the upside I had more time to think and Neil had time to send me challenging tasks with longer deadlines. Anyway, before describing the kind of work I do here is a semi-fictional account of a day in the Shoreditch office…
Day in the life of a paralegal
It’s January or February or March, it doesn’t matter because it’s cold. I step out of the crowd at Shoreditch High Street Station to cross the road and walk quickly through the few lively streets towards Old Street. I pass the Old Blue Last where I saw a gig a few weeks ago and a Japanese restaurant where Neil and I enjoyed Ramen once. And then through the revolving doors and into the atrium of the White Collar Factory. An impressive industrial modernist space with the utilities exposed on the ceiling and a chunky singular concrete column imposing and cylindrical.
I walk up the stairs and, after passing through many doors, enter our small office. Neil is either there, having arrived 3 or 4 hours earlier if he is particularly busy, or he may be yet to arrive if he has time to take his children to school. Often there is work to do on arrival – reviewing a contract drafted the day before which is to be sent to a client later that day or finishing a bit of research to present to Neil that morning. The day is then spent reading, researching, drafting, discussing, overhearing conversations with clients and dealing with new enquiries.
A lot of time is spent researching specific points of law which I then present to Neil to help him take a view on how to move forward with a client. Examples include – cookie law, competition law for exclusive distribution agreements, incorporation of terms by reference into contracts, anti-money laundering legislation, bribery act, anonymising personal data etc. As you can see it’s a real mixed bag. I never know what the next bit of research will bring but the thing I probably spend the most time looking into is data protection. Given that the firm works for plenty of tech start-ups, data laws are often an area to be explored.
Reviewing contracts is a question of patiently sitting down and reading the document slowly and methodically. I tend to switch off completely from the outside world. The contracts can vary from software distribution agreements to drone tenders for governments in developing countries. Having a good eye for grammar and the logic needed to bind a contract together is important. I still feel like a novice but every time I review one of these documents I can tell I am improving. Which is satisfying.
Drafting can seem daunting to someone at my stage. I have drafted supply of goods contracts, SaaS contracts, introducer agreements and a letter to be sent to Counsel for an opinion on a bit of litigation. I have made many mistakes and getting feedback from Neil has been crucial for my development. I have enjoyed the challenge and it is an opportunity to be creative given that you have to come up with the most elegant, simple and effective solution for a client. Which will always be unique to the situation at hand. Being adaptable and mindful of the client’s needs is therefore crucial.
Less time spent in the office has meant more time for me to write blogs for the website and help with marketing. Writing blogs can be a fun exercise. It is similar to writing a short university essay, although your opinion is less important. At the same time it is important to write on the topics that clients will find useful and in language that is clear and relatable. This means one week I am writing about space law but the next about specific software agreements or the need for a representative under GDPR. Being engaging whilst helpful has been my aim.
I often speak to new clients over the phone and this is something in which my confidence has grown tremendously since working with EM law. You begin to get a sense of the kind of things clients are having issues with and you grow confidence in your own voice and ability to understand the issues at hand. My personal contact with clients themselves has been limited so this has been a good way of learning how to communicate in law.
Reading. The more reading I do the better job I do on all accounts. Not giving up when you think you have looked everywhere for a piece of information is also important as you often find that just when you think all hope is lost, if you keep going, you find the bit of information you need in the next few clicks. Working as a paralegal at EM law is particularly exciting because of the close contact between myself and Neil which means I learn a lot about law, but it also gives it the feel of a start-up and each marketing decision is a new adventure.
Hopefully this gives you a rough idea of a day in the life of a paralegal. If you are thinking of a career in law I can definitely recommend it!