Confidence and a healthy dose of realism are the key ingredients for paralegals concerned that lack of past success will stand in the way of a training contract, explains Martin Bloor
For paralegals, not having succeeded in lining up a training contract following graduation can feel like an additional barrier to success. However, while holding this view is an easy trap to fall into, that ‘barrier’ should be regarded as a platform from which to demonstrate a highly developed repertoire of competencies, rather than a blemish
upon an otherwise well-honed CV.
1. Positivity not insecurity
One pitfall which I fell into at unsuccessful assessment days was to try to explain why I hadn’t secured a training contract. Upon reflection, I appeared defensive and insecure. There could be any number of reasons why you do not have a training contract. What’s on your CV won’t matter if your answers are impressive. Recruiters prefer confident candidates. Bringing about a positive change in demeanour is not as difficult as it might seem. Many untested competitors will not have the experience that you possess. Take solace in the fact that, upon a dispassionate analysis of the facts, you would be the bookies’ favourite. Use this to bring out the most confident side of your character.
2. Don’t believe the hype
Although you should engage your marketing skills to explain why you are a great candidate, be wary of going too far and allowing your responses to be perceived as arrogant. Usually there will be a valid reason for your failure at previous interviews. You must be philosophical about those failures and accept that, while decisions can appear arbitrary, if you decry other firms’ decisions as being utterly unfathomable, the conclusion you allow interviewers to reach is that, as a trainee, you’re unlikely to accept the criticism that the role requires.
3. Show loyalty only when your loyalty is reciprocated
Too often, and usually unintentionally, training contracts are dangled in front of paralegals when, in reality, the chance of one being awarded ranges from nil to unlikely. Words like ‘recording plenty of chargeable hours will stand you in good stead’ are spoken by well-intentioned supervisors seeking to encourage hardworking staff. However, often supervisors have little sway in trainee recruitment. If scores of longer-serving peers have not been rewarded, is there really any reason to suppose you’ll be any different? Only show loyalty when it will be reciprocated. Do not fall into the trap of putting all of your eggs in one basket and certainly do not treat your current firm’s application as the ‘main’ application, allowing it to leech your time from other prospects.
4. The elephant in the room
If the question ‘Why don’t you have a training contract already?’ arises, it might feel difficult to challenge head-on. Personally, I think it takes time to learn how to present relevant information in interviews. A self-reflective interviewee who uses their initial answer as a platform to draw parallels with another point (perhaps how it took time to become proficient in taking detailed witness statements) is going to fare better than another who answers
abruptly or arrogantly.
5. It’s not all about you
A final thing to remember is that, unless an interview is going well, the process
is also painful for the interviewer.
After a bad interview, while they wouldn’t admit it, part of the interviewer doubts their own interviewing ability. Conversely, if it goes well, part of the interviewer will always be thinking not ‘what a good candidate’ but instead ‘didn’t I do well’. Ensure you enable your interviewer to walk away with this feeling. Subconsciously or otherwise, if the interviewer feels good about themselves, by association this will reflect well upon you as well.
Martin Bloor is a trainee solicitor at Brabners and membership director of the Manchester Junior Chamber of Commerce