Student experience: Securing a job in the legal profession during my final year of studies!

Bethany Rose-Hunt shares her experience of securing a full-time job as a Paralegal (Probate and Wills)

Bethany Rose-Hunt graduated from Kent Law School this summer with a Law LLB degree. She’s now working for a high street law firm and plans to qualify as a solicitor in 2023.

Congratulations on securing a job as a Paralegal! Can you tell us how you went about finding employment? 

Thank you so much! I work for Christchurch Solicitors (CS) LLP, a high street law firm in Ipswich. I knew during my third year that I wanted to move home after university. I missed the Suffolk air whilst in Canterbury so I narrowed my job search to around Ipswich. I had completed work experience with CS during my A levels and kept in contact with the partners through LinkedIn (by liking posts and sending messages). I got in contact with the partners via email, sent them my CV, and asked if there were any employment opportunities with the firm. The rest is history. One interview and a discussion later, I found myself with a full-time paralegal job offer!

Did you make use of the University’s careers services at all? 

Yes I did. Jayne Instone (Employability and Placements Manager) has been incredibly crucial to me in gaining employment in the legal profession. I had a mock interview with Cripps Pemberton Greenish during my final year (organised by myself, as Interviews Officer for Kent Student Law Society and Jayne). This experience was invaluable – not only did I receive feedback on my interview answers, but I was also given advice on how to improve my CV. The partners at Christchurch Solicitors said that my CV was one of the best they’ve seen so it appears that the advice I implemented worked!

I was also an Employability Points winner during my first year and won a reward to have a meeting with a family law solicitor. This experience taught me so much about the routes to qualification and the reality of being a solicitor. Also, as a first year student, the advice I received on my skills inspired me to keep engaging with employability events.

You were an Aspiring Solicitors Campus Ambassador during your studies at Kent, can you tell us how that experience has helped with your career plans? 

I was the Aspiring Solicitors (AS) Campus Ambassador during my second year and it helped me with my career plans by confirming that I wanted to be a solicitor. Seeing AS help people with disabilities, from BAME and low social classes being successful in the legal profession confirmed to me that the legal industry was for me. I want to be a part of the next generation of solicitors with long term illnesses who will succeed and inspire future generations to come!

What skills do you think you gained as a result of being an AS Campus Ambassador? 

So many! Firstly I ran events for Aspiring Solicitors which meant liaising with Jayne and the employability team – this improved my teamwork and communication skills greatly. I also learnt how to network as I was in constant communication with other campus ambassadors and legal professionals. Knowing how to talk to people and be confident is so key to being a successful lawyer so I really appreciated the networking skills I gained in my second year.

Bethany (left) on the Kent Student Law Society stand at a Welcome Fair

Did your Law LLB course live up to expectations? What were the highlights of your programme? 

It lived up to my expectations and more! I knew going into the LLB law degree that it was going to be hard but Kent Law School’s student support meant that if I was ever struggling, I knew I could go and ask for help. This allowed me to enjoy my degree and succeed – what more could I ask for!

The highlights of my programme were:

  • My first ever lecture: Moving from a small sixth form to a large university was intimidating but I will never forget walking into Woolf Lecture Theatre for the first time as an undergraduate and feeling as though the whole cohort was there to support me
  • Kent Student Law Society’s Law Ball: I went to this event in both first and second year and it was a yearly highlight. Networking with legal professionals (most of them Kent Alumni!) whilst socialising with your friends will always lead to a special evening. I will treasure the memories I have from this event
  • Finishing my degree: Putting the full stop on my last ever exam came with the biggest sense of achievement and pride. To anyone currently doing their degree, this feeling alone makes all the hard work (and late nights!) worth it.

Tell us about your work as a Paralegal – what does a typical day look like? 

No day is the same for me which is one of the many reasons I love my job but generally:

  • 07.50: Leave my house and drive to the bus station
  • 08.00: Get on the bus to work
  • 08.50: Arrive in the office, turn on the computers and make coffee for myself and the solicitors
  • 09.00: check my emails and my solicitor’s emails. Print these off and see what the solicitor would like me to do in response. This could be making a phone call to the client or writing an email in response
  • 10.00: Start my daily jobs which include drafting wills and LPAs, looking at the post which arrived and taking action if needed and helping with any tasks that the solicitors give me
  • 11.30: Daily Costa Coffee arrives!
  • 13.00: Lunch break
  • 14.00: Check in with my solicitor to see what the priorities are for the rest of the day. This may be drafting an invoice for the client or making calls to the probate registry or HMRC
  • 16.45pm: Start closing down jobs for the day. Making sure that emails have been sent, all the main jobs for today have been done and write my to-do list for tomorrow
  • 17.00: leave the office, catch the bus home
  • 18.00: Arrive home and relax!

During your studies, you wrote a dissertation on advanced care directives. Which module was that for? Can you tell us how the knowledge and skills you gained as a result of working on your dissertation are helping you in your day-to-day working life? 

My dissertation was on the role of advanced care directives for people with dementia and was written for the Law and Medical Ethics module.

The knowledge I have taken from my dissertation helps me in my daily working life as discussions on wills and LPAs often lead to conversations about advanced care directives. Therefore, having current legal, ethical and public health knowledge on advanced care directives means that I can aid the solicitors I work for to answer client queries. I also chose to write my dissertation on dementia specifically due to my grandad passing away from the illness in 2009. The awareness that my dissertation has brought to dementia means that I am able to educate people in my law firm on the condition and continue to work towards greater education and awareness in my day to day working life.

The main skill that I learnt from my dissertation is that there is no such thing as a silly question! My dissertation supervisor Pamela White actively encouraged me to ask questions which now means that I am confident in asking questions of the solicitors I work for.

I have always been known as someone who is organised but writing an 8000-word dissertation improved this skill even further. I am now able to set my own deadlines for jobs and prioritise tasks I have been given based on their urgency. My dissertation really helped me improve this skill and recognise its importance in working life!

Are there any other modules that you studied or experiences that you had during your time at Kent that are you finding useful in your work as a Paralegal? 

  • Equity and Trusts: Most people find this module difficult as there is more theory and critical thinking than substantive content. However, I loved this core module and have found that working in wills and probate means that I encounter trusts often. I have found that I understand what a trust means because of this module
  • English Language Wild Modules: During my degree I took two English Language modules. I had studied English Language for A level and missed it. I have found that having a grounding in English language and how words work with each other, has greatly improved my drafting skills. It makes writing wills and letters/emails easier as I have paraphrasing skills.

Can you tell us about the route you’re planning to take to qualify as a solicitor?

I am doing my SQE (Solicitors Qualifying Examination) and Master’s as part of a distance learning course at Nottingham Trent University. This means that I will be combining my work and study by studying online whilst working as a paralegal.

I look forward to this new chapter and am eager to see how the SQE differs from the LPC (Legal Practice Course) which my friends are doing. The Master’s I chose is part-time distance learning. If I pass the two stages of the SQE, I will be a qualified Solicitor in 2023! This is because my work as a paralegal counts as qualifying work experience for the SQE qualification route.

How do you see your career progressing? Where would you like to be in five years?

Aim high and dream big is the motto I live life by so regarding my career, I hope in five years to be a fully qualified solicitor specialising in probate and wills. This will mean that not only have I progressed from being a paralegal to newly qualified, but also that I will have a couple of years as a qualified solicitor so my confidence will have grown also.

I also hope in five years to actively be taking on my own clients and have responsibility for my clients. I love being able to help people so being able to process someone’s probate from start to finish is something I am progressing toward.

In five years, I aspire to be working with the partners of my firm to be recruiting new trainee solicitors and paralegals. I know first-hand how hard it can be to graduate and not have your foot in the door of a law firm so I also hope that with my career blossoming, I can give back to the next wave of trainee solicitors.

Personally, in five years I would also have loved to move out of my family home and be settled somewhere here in Suffolk!

Any advice for aspiring lawyers? 

Imposter syndrome is real but you will get through it and find your way! During second year, a lot of students compare themselves to others and start to doubt themselves. ‘My friends have a training contact why don’t I?’ ‘My friends already know what path they are taking, why don’t I know whether I want to be a solicitor or barrister?’ These were some of the questions going round my head during second year. My advice? Focus on your own path. The beauty of the legal profession is that there are so many different fields and jobs you can do. Keep focused on your end goals and know that you will get there, I promise!

Go to student society events and engage: Kent Student Law Society and other societies hold so many events throughout the year so take advantage of them! My headshot was taken at a Kent Critical Law Society event, I made contacts at law balls and I improved my employability skills by being a part of a society committee. It may be intimidating to go to events but if you don’t engage, you won’t get the benefits from those events!

Law is hard but incredibly worth it: The LLB law degree does mean a lot of reading and stress but if I could give first-year me some advice it would be that it is so worth it. The fact I now help grieving family members with their relative’s probate and administer the wills, allows me to give back to others and use my knowledge to benefit others. There really is no better feeling and so for all the aspiring lawyers out there, keep going!

Learn more about studying your Law LLB degree at Kent