10th Feb 2016

12 Years a Slave?

WHAT DOES A “PARALEGAL” DO?

On a radio programme recently the presenters were speculating what a “paralegal” was. “Perhaps he parachutes into court” was their best guess. I have escaped parachutes so far. In reality my job is to help the qualified staff. I have a degree and a post-graduate qualification in law, and I am studying for the solicitor’s exams. I free up the time of the more experienced staff. Hopefully everyone is a winner. The solicitors get more time to concentrate on the difficult areas; the clients get a better service and better value for money; I get experience.

SIX MONTHS AND COUNTING

These six months have gone very quickly. They have been the most challenging, but the most stimulating months of my legal career to date.

AUGUST: LEARNING THE LANGUANGE

I arrived at Berwins after working in several legal firms of different sizes. I soon found out:-

  • The words “exchange” and “completion date” are cast in stone.
  • The word “requisition” means “imagine the Spanish Inquisition are behind you”.

Underpinning this is the desire for quality, which is the watchword of the people I am working with. This is important work. No corners must be cut. The client’s needs are paramount.

SEPTEMBER: I AM ONE MONTH OLDER BUT CONSIDERABLY WISER

I have calculated that there are 150 years of legal experience working in the office I work in (I should stress that this is 150 years of combined experience*). This enables me to work and learn a lot. Most of the issues I face have an answer and I am working with people who know the answer, and have patience with my own “difficult” questions.

OCTOBER: THE RUN INTO CHRISTMAS BEGINS

It is October and I am still learning. I am learning what responsibilities we have. I am learning that we have to make sure that all our clients have somewhere to live over the Christmas period and that sometimes this is actually quite difficult . I am learning that I am part of a team.

NOVEMBER AND DECEMBER: THE REAL RUN INTO CHRISTMAS (AND A SHORT BREAK)

I now feel an integral part of the team. There are completion dates to meet and we are working around (other people's) holiday plans and deadlines. Everything goes smoothly. I am almost convinced I deserve that Christmas break.

JANUARY: THINGS REMAIN BUSY

The imminent changes to stamp duty mean that people are understandably anxious to complete before the changes come into force.

AFTER SIX MONTHS I CAN LOOK BACK AND SAY

  • I am proud to be part of a team of conscientious and able lawyers.
  • I have learned a lot and still have a lot to learn.
  • *One of the things I may learn is that it is dangerous to add up the combined years of practice of the people I work with.

Jonathan Exal is a legal assistant in Berwins' residential property team

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