“Philip this might be the wrong time to ask with your extra commitment right now, but would be very interested in publishing your story on how you came to run your own law firm before you started studying law.” (sic)
That’s the brief I received from Ben!
I’m 34 years old and started working in a law firm when I was (counting on my fingers and toes……and now need to check my CV…. yes, I keep a CV…. ah Oct 2001…. now getting the calculator out) 18 – fresh out of college (which was a real flunk by the way) and new into the working world (although this wasn’t my first job but let’s run with it).
My first job at a law firm
I had applied for the position of Office Junior at Berkson Globe Partnership, a firm of solicitors in the centre of Liverpool. At the interview I was tested on my note-taking skills by the current criminal clerk. He ran through a scenario where I answered a phone call and I would take notes so I could pass on a message. I cannot remember much else about the interview but I got the job – full time and earning more than I had ever earned before.
At this very small firm, my role wasn’t just an Office Junior, but also has a receptionist, courier and general “dogsbody”. It was a role I thoroughly enjoyed and it was a great opportunity. Berkson Globe at time was a firm that dealt with Criminal and Family Law, and one of my main roles was to file attendance notes and find files where post had come in. I took an interest in the files and started taking an interest in law.
Learning about legal practice from a Secretarial Role
I also took a keen interest in the other job positions in the firm, looking to see what other people did and I was interested in the role of the secretaries. I knew I could type at around 75wpm already and being the enthusiastic chap I was, when a secretary was off on holiday or sick, I volunteered to help with the typing. At great surprise to everyone else I took to this like a duck to water.
As a secretary I would become more involved and knowledgeable about the files and started learning about the processes and procedures of running a case. I eventually became a legal secretary and moved on to work as a Secretary to at Scott Rees & Co in their personal injury department.
I started off working for junior fee earners, then eventually team leaders and I took the job fully in my stride with the aim of being the best I could be. Eventually, I applied for a junior fee earner role but I didn’t get it. Defeated, I left the profession of law and went out to do some other pointless jobs in the search for financial greatness.
Gaining experience through a broad range of duties
Roll on 4 years later and having done a few self-employed driving jobs, I wanted to get back into working at a law firm. I worked for a short period as an assistant to my old boss at Scott Rees who was running his own firm, then I looked to move on. 143 CV’s were sent between 11th May 2009 and 25th February 2010 (I cannot believe I still have the spreadsheet) and out of those 143 applications, I had only 8 interviews at law firms.
I was invited to a second interview Byrne & Co which involved a typing test. However I was involved in a road traffic accident (how ironic) and suffered a broken thumb. I still attended for my typing test and (with mainly one hand) I flew through the typing test and got the job as a legal secretary.
At Byrne & Co I got the break I wanted; moving on to assisting with files, then on to handling my own cases and eventually was moved into the position of PA to the director. I assisted in the running of the firm, supervisory work with regard to reviewing files, audits, accounts, an involvement in the implementation of the new COFA/COPA roles.
I was also still running my own caseload of costs, personal injury and civil litigation cases, with a tiny bit of Will drafting thrown in. This helped develop my overall business skill set and my legal knowledge.
Finally, a legal qualification
I decided to join the Institute of Paralegals and I took Level 3 BTEC Qualifications in Personal Injury and Civil Litigation, along with Specialist Paralegal Qualifications in the same subjects. In a space of 2 years, I had completed all 4 courses and graduated out of the University of West England with one of the highest marks obtained in the Specialist Qualifications. This was all thanks to me gaining on-the-job the experience and learning.
Starting my Own Law Firm
Whilst working at Byrne & Co and with the knowledge of the additional qualifications I had earned, I started working freelance providing litigants-in-person with advice and assistance in civil litigation matters. This was the beginnings of my own firm I set up in 2013, White Collar Legal. In Part 2 of this post (coming soon) I will tell the story of how this became a successful small law firm.
Lawyer sign: Wesley Fryer
Law Books: Basher Eyre [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Office: By Phil Whitehouse (Flickr: New office) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Busy office worker: Alan Cleaver via Flickr