Alex Martinelli is a second year trainee and former Private Client paralegal at Boodle Hatfield.
How did you find the first seat of your training contract and how does it differ from your experience as a paralegal?
I was in Private Client before I started my training contract in Litigation. The working style and types of work definitely differ between departments. Litigation has very strict deadlines focused on Civil Procedure, you always have to be mindful of court deadlines and the next stage in the court process while focusing on the task at hand. It requires maximum efficiency because you are likely to be working on several cases at a time, while also preparing for hearings and managing other work as it comes in. There is also a clear end point with Litigation, either your client ultimately wins their case or is unsuccessful. In Private Client, you work on an ongoing basis to help manage clients’ goals, and so you are fulfilling more of a long-term advisory role. Private Client also has an in-department contentious team, so I never had much contact with Litigation in my role as a paralegal.
Speaking to the day-to-day differences between working as a paralegal and a trainee, the biggest is the level of independence I am given to manage matters (with supervision). I had a certain level of independence as a paralegal but it definitely differed matter to matter, whereas as a trainee you are expected to contribute ideas more proactively to solve client problems.
Describe a typical day at the Firm.
When I was applying for training contracts, this was a question that I could never pin down and that is because the work you do changes all the time. It differs depending on whether, for example, there is a trial coming up or a court deadline to meet.
In general, my work involves legal research (usually reviewing the impact of recent case law or answering client questions), reviewing rights & obligations arising under agreements (particularly in leases) and drafting legal documents (such as particulars of claim).
If I have a hearing, I will usually prepare bundles for the court and counsel (folders of key court documents that we refer to at hearings) and will attend court with counsel and make a note of what happens.
What was the most unexpected thing you learnt during your first month as a trainee?
The biggest surprise for me was that you can file a lot of key court documents online. I thought that there would be more court runs! In general, the courts are moving much faster towards digitisation than I had anticipated and e-filing should be possible for most hearings in the near future.
There are also a lot more extra-curricular activities than I had expected for getting to know fellow trainees in-firm as well as external events to meet young professionals in law or adjacent industries. Building a network of contacts is definitely front and centre during the training contract.
In 10 words or less, what is your main piece of advice for someone about to start their first seat or first legal job?
Be proactive and focus on adding value to your team.