Training the firm’s future lawyers
Here at Bonallack and Bishop, we are really proud of our programme for law graduate paralegals.
In general we have two levels of paralegals.
- New graduate paralegals – these automatically form part of our Accelerated Development Programme. The purpose of the programme is to provide more structured training and development for our paralegals, with the intention of bringing them on as our future lawyers, and to do so quickly.
- More experienced paralegals – we are always interested in talking to you, if you are an existing paralegal with some good experience who feels frustrated by a lack of likely career progression at your current firm
When selecting paralegals for either of these two positions, wherever possible we choose local candidates.
January 2020 update. We offered (and had accepted) training contracts, and support for what from 2021 will be known as the Solicitors Qualifying Exam, to 2 of the graduate paralegals we took on in summer 2018. We took on 3 further graduates in summer 2019 and are looking for 2 more in January 2020.
Click here to visit our jobs page with up-to-date details of any current paralegal vacancies
Why did we design this Programme?
Simple. We decided we needed a strong drive for new local talent through excellence because we are growing so rapidly and want to get the right people on board.
The programme is designed to identify, assess and train the firm’s next generation of lawyers.
We strongly believe that the right people are our most important asset. As a result, when recruiting we put greater weight on values, character and talent – and that in contrast, skills and knowledge can be taught.
Too few real opportunities for a legal career – too many McJobs
According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, over 80,000 students enrolled to study law in the UK each year. In contrast, for example, the annual number of training contracts offered vary between 5,000 and 6,000.
As a result, far too many of those who want to get into law, end up with a paralegal position offering no realistic chance of progression. We don’t think that’s fair.
Our Accelerated Development Programme – a summary
Here is a summary of some aspects of the programme which should give you an idea of how seriously we take the Accelerated Development Programme. In short, we do not see paralegals as cheap staff – but as a stepping stone in training our future lawyers;
- Tim Bishop, as senior partner and the only equity partner of a firm with 65 staff, both reviews every CV and interviews, with a colleague, each and every paralegal personally
- Tim also has a personal one-to-one meeting with each member of the programme every two months – to assess their progress, provide feedback of their current performance, and get feedback from them along with any ideas of how they think we can improve the programme.
- Tim sets them regular “homework” personally – tasks set by and answerable to Tim directly – to test the ability and dedication of those on the programme.
- Tim personally run a series of interactive workshops which he has prepared.
These workshops last 90 – 120 minutes and result in each attendee leaving with their own personal development action plan – a list of up to 5 actions, arising out of ideas in the workshop, which they can immediately implement to improve their performance.
Each action plan is individual – with each action chosen by the paralegal themselves to reflect where they see scope for them to improve personally.
These workshops are based on a format that Tim and Jane Bishop developed as part of a highly successful peer support entrepreneurs group they ran in Salisbury some years ago.
The individual workshops cover areas which are not covered in University or Law School and most of which are not dealt with in any external training.
Although more are being developed, currently there are four workshops in the programme as follows;
1. Maximising Costs
2. Time Management
3. Client Care
4. Communication For Lawyers
5. Introduction to Marketing For Lawyers
In addition, the program also involves:
- An ongoing review of their progress in implementing the action plans that come out of the workshop – carried out by our Deputy Practice Director
- A programme of rapid legal education – provided by MBL
It’s worth noting that paralegals are only taken on in those specialties where the team leaders have proven ability of bringing on paralegals. Some of our lawyers are great lawyers but poor trainers – and they don’t get paralegals.
Future professional training?
- Those who succeed on the programme will be supported by us in further education. This could mean paying for their College Of Law education (if they choose to do this course while continuing working with us) or CILEX.
- Equally if candidates choose to conduct their solicitors qualifying exams full-time, for the successful candidate, we are happy to discuss the possibility of keeping a job open for their return at the end of the course – we have just done that with one of those on the programme.
- Training contracts are also potentially available for those who succeed on the scheme. In the last 12 months, for example, we have offered 3 training contracts.
But don’t just take our word for it.
Here’s what Jake and Amelia, two of our 2018 intake who have both been granted a training contract with us, say:
“The Accelerated Development Programme is a sure-fire way for graduates to kick start their legal career in a truly meaningful role.
The firm are really supportive and passionate about developing their junior staff from your first day. The firm allows paralegals to develop and grow in their role as far as their ambition takes them.
Within 8 months I was already taking on files in my own name and have now developed my own case load; this is a great credit to both the training the firm provides as well as the faith they place in their junior members of staff. The firm also offered me a training contract within 8 months of me starting, which I am looking forward to starting this year.
The continued personal involvement of Tim, the senior partner of the firm, really shows the important the firm places on paralegals”
“The Accelerated Development Programme has proved to be a really exciting start to a career in law. The opportunity to take part in regular training sessions with Tim Bishop, senior partner, is a great way to supplement the role, and has enabled me to develop and improve quickly and confidently.
Within 6 months of starting the programme I was running a number of my own files, and since then I have very much enjoyed building up my own case load. The ongoing support of the firm has been valuable as I have progressed to where I am today. The possibility of securing a training contract after the programme is a very exciting opportunity, and I was delighted to receive an offer within a year of being at the firm.”