by Payal Shah
Paralegal/Twitch and SQE Candidate
Hi! I’m Payal, a Warwick Law alumna (2017-2020). Like many others, I graduated in the height of the pandemic with no vacation scheme or training contract offer. With the world upside down and the legal industry now available in the palm of your hand, it was a confusing yet exciting time to enter the legal job market.
Since graduating, I have worked in various legal roles and have built up my experience from scratch. I recently completed my legal internship at Walt Disney, started a new role as a Paralegal at Twitch, and have a summer internship lined up with EY Law. Today I’d like to share with you how I started my legal journey.
By mid-2020, every law firm had realised the potential of the virtual world. Law firms hosted free virtual internships on websites like ‘The Forage’ and encouraged law students and graduates to participate whilst their vacation schemes were temporarily on pause. This was the first step towards gaining legal experience, albeit virtually. These experiences gave me the encouragement to find my own path, at my own pace and be flexible with my options.
However, it was important to me that I had some real work experience too so that I could build my skill set further and bolster my CV. Therefore, alongside completing virtual internships, I was also searching for entry-level legal roles. As well as keeping an eye on law firm vacation scheme deadlines, I used two key resources to find opportunities in high street firms and in-house legal teams: LinkedIn and the Instagram page @inhouselegal.
When it comes to LinkedIn, it is important to search for the right title. At first, I limited myself to “Paralegal” searches, and very quickly found myself with options that tend to require way more experience than I had (more on this later). I then researched other entry level roles and started using more keywords such as “Legal Intern”, “Contracts Administrator” and “Legal Graduate”. These searches threw up a lot more vacancies that were slightly better suited to my level of experience.
Now let’s talk about the requirement of “X years experience is essential”. As a rule of thumb: if you meet 75% of the criteria, you should apply. You’ll probably be thinking, “there’s no way I’ll be accepted with less than the required experience!”. The incredible thing about legal roles is that you learn by doing, and therefore it is vital to demonstrate transferable skills and the willingness to learn. Remember that retail/tutoring/volunteering job you’ve done? Think about how interacting with customers in a shop has developed your communication skills and made you more resourceful. Give an example of this skill and show how it provides evidence for a requirement in the job description. Perhaps you’ve taken a module or participated in a moot where the topic is closely related to the job and could use this to help show your interest and motivation for the work. Above all, you must demonstrate that you are willing to roll up your sleeves, do the work, and learn new tasks.
With this approach, I got my first legal job as a client care paralegal at PGMBM Law. In this role, I acted as the first point of contact for clients who wanted to be part of a Group Litigation Order and was responsible for updating and managing client case files with accurate and up-to-date documentation. In my application and interviews, I demonstrated how my tutoring job during A-Levels and work experience at Warwick Law Clinic has made me a suitable fit for this role.
Soon after, I secured the role of Legal Intern at The Walt Disney Company. I worked within Media and Entertainment Distribution where I assisted in drafting various contracts across several territories within EMEA regarding the licensing rights for Disney media products. In my cover letter, I spoke about my interest in media law which was sparked from a moot I participated in for a Practical Advocacy module during my undergraduate degree.
I now work as a Paralegal at Twitch, assisting in both regulatory and contracts work. The experiences that I gained in my previous roles have helped me to get to this position.
Alongside this journey, I am also completing my qualification to become a solicitor through the new SQE route. I chose to do my SQE1 studies part-time with Barbri, and have completed the SQE1 exams in the first ever sitting in November 2021. I am now looking forward to studying part-time and sitting the SQE2 exams, whilst working.
The SQE has opened a new pathway to qualifying as a lawyer that doesn’t rely on the much sought-after sponsorship/TC from a law firm. I hope to use my in-house legal work experience to complete my qualification and to continue my journey in-house. Working in-house has proven to be a valuable learning opportunity as it has shown me that there are alternatives to gaining legal experience without pursuing private practice training. I hope that my journey reveals to you that graduating is just the beginning of your career and that there are many routes to reaching your goals.