Paralegals get paranoia

It’s hardly a closely guarded secret that the take-home pay of partners at the UK’s top firms is about to take a nosedive this year.

It’s hardly a closely guarded secret that the take-home pay of partners at the UK’s top firms is about to take a nosedive this year.

It’s equally well-known that the tendrils of the financial crisis have touched every legal market participant.

Take the fate of the oft-maligned paralegal.

Until now, this group has been overlooked. But our front page story today plants the paralegal
community squarely centre stage.

While low-margin providers of commodity legal services are always going to need non-­qualified staff, the odds on securing a position as a paralegal at a top City firm have shortened dramatically over the past year thanks to the recession.

Partly, this is fallout from the wave of trainee deferrals that has swept the City recently. Simply, the paralegal market is flooded with talent. The
top firms have had to come up with a down and dirty way of distinguishing between ranks of candidates with strong CVs.

They’re picking the ones with training contracts already. The way they see it, these candidates have already been through the rigours of an interview, they’ve already been vetted and, crucially, they’re not going to want to come on board and demand a training contract 12 months down the line because they’ve already
got one at another firm.

So now ranks of students who have already pocketed a few grand to ease the pain of delaying the start of their careers – unless they’re at Shoosmiths, of course – are also first in line to pick up well-paid work as a paralegal.

In other words, while the deferrals have put the careers of hundreds of junior lawyers on hold, it has put the prospects of finding work for many an LPC graduate in jeopardy.

And there’s a double whammy. As our sister magazine Lawyer 2B exclusively revealed, many City firms have cut the number of paralegals they employ to the bone.

For some time a stint as a paralegal has, for those that want it, offered an alternative path to a training contract and a way into the law.
Now for some it looks like a path to nowhere.

matt.byrne@thelawyer.com