in Legal Profession, Training Contracts, Pupillage and Work Experience

Why do Paralegals Always Seem so Unreliable?

Why do Paralegals always seem so unreliable?

One of the main reasons people come to see me as a career coach or contact our website is because they are law graduates and unable to get ahead – whether this is to secure a training contract or work generally in the legal profession.

We very often look at CVs and can see why they haven’t progressed in a matter of seconds. The main cause is very often their lack of legal work experience. These are the candidates for whom the legal profession is a closed shop, unfairly discriminating against them and preventing a successful legal career.

Those with legal experience but not progressing will spend years skulking around darkened cellars of large London law firms, undertaking document reviews and administrative tasks without ever thinking whether this contributes to their chances of success. After about 5 years they look back and wonder why they are not qualified.

Just occasionally we pick up what seems to be a reasonably interesting and productive paralegal vacancy. This will be something useful and not involve darkened cellars or admin work.

This could be a generational thing, or just human nature, but as I get older and further away from my time as a paralegal, law graduate and indeed a trainee solicitor, I find non-qualified fee earners looking to get ahead more and more unreliable.

I almost grown inwardly whenever anyone posts such a legal job vacancy with us for a paralegal. I know instinctively that I will advertise the post, run it past potential paralegal level candidates on our books already, I will field countless enquiries from utterly rubbish applicants, sift through 100s of irrelevant CVs full of subjective waffle but no experience and the firm will still choose to interview the most unreliable candidates from the CVs we send over.

These candidates will apply for the vacancy, and no sooner than we get to interview stage they will immediately a) vanish, b) miraculously find another job or c) just decline the chance to interview. It doesn’t matter on the level of salary, the location or the type of work.

It just seems that some people just do not want to progress their legal careers and choose instead to remain forever on the outside. Why? Is it nerves? A general lack of effort? A feeling that everything should be handed to them on a platter?

I can almost guarantee that a proportion of these candidates will then contact us again in a few months looking for work.

Has it always been like this? Probably. This is partly why I never feel sorry for anyone who is looking for a legal job at this level. Apart from a very few exceptions most people do not progress in a legal career because of decisions they have made themselves from the age of 18 through to the present day. Whether this is because their academics are poor or whether it is because they have chosen to spend every summer during their degree working as a barmaid, they have effectively determined where they have ended up. No-one else has.

So I very much doubt it is a generational thing – more a human issue. Some people strive to get ahead, others simply can’t be bothered. Before ringing any agencies up and asking for work – think carefully. Which type of potential paralegal are you? If you are not prepared to move heaven and earth to get a decent job please do not contact us. Try one of our competitors….

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment and author of the Legal Recruitment Blog –

Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 20 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at You can contact Jonathan at