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February 23 2021

How Flex Legal helped Massimiliano land a paralegal role at Freshfields

Case Studies

Guest User

Flex Blog Banner Massimiliano

We love it when Flex placements end in permanent roles!

The fantastic Massimiliano was recently put onto a Flex placement in Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s Manchester office. The placement worked out so well that he was offered a permanent role! We took the time to put some questions to Massimiliano, and get his thoughts on how he found the paralegal experience through Flex, his placement at Freshfields, and any advice he has for those currently looking for legal roles.

Could you tell us a bit about your background and education?

In my final year of secondary school, I had the opportunity to shadow a solicitor working in Turin, Italy. Having had a scientific background, I found it extremely fascinating to observe the problem-solving aspect of the solicitors’ role in solving issues that disrupted the regular operation of the client’s company. That was when my desire to study law arose. I was always attracted by international work & as I could speak several languages, I came to the UK to pursue a law degree as I believed it would give me greater opportunities to end up working on cross-jurisdictional deals. 

While I was at university, I was not sure about what area of law I wanted to work in. So, I took the time to try working in different practice areas and see which one I enjoyed the most. My first work experience was in a global commercial law firm. It was in their Shanghai office. My role was mostly related to proofreading and amending SPAs. I found particularly motivating the multi-jurisdictional elements of the work and immersing myself in another jurisdiction enabled me to better understand foreign markets and enhanced my abilities to work with overseas solicitors.

After this experience, I worked as a paralegal for an immigration and family law firm in order to ascertain whether commercial law was indeed right for me. I enjoyed assisting with clients’ interviews and the variety of the cases, however, I realised I appreciate working for corporate clients on commercial matters as it fully satisfies my desire to help clients navigate complex legal matters and solve issues that disrupt the operation of companies.  

Soon after completing this role, I graduated from the University of Strathclyde and decided to move to Manchester to complete the LLM Legal Practice (Solicitors) at BPP University. During my Masters, I consolidated my passion for commercial & corporate law by advising start-ups and SMEs clients as a Student Advisor for BPP’s Enterprise Legal Advice Clinic. 

Where did you first hear about Flex Legal?

While I was completing the LPC at BPP University, the Career Service Team had a couple of sessions with Flex Legal to introduce to students the work that the company does. I was particularly impressed by the flexibility that Flex Legal offers to students.

Flex Legal allows you to choose projects that can easily fit around your studies. In addition, due to the flexible and temporary nature of these roles, through Flex Legal you can also come in contact with various law firms operating in different sectors. This will eventually consolidate your knowledge of how law firms operate in practice and the work carried out by fee-earners. This is extremely beneficial for everyone who is interested in a career in the legal profession.

Would you recommend Flex Legal to others seeking paralegal positions?

Absolutely! And I have actually recommended it to my friends too. Flex Legal gives you the opportunity to consolidate your career ambitions regardless of what stage of your career you are in.

If you are a student who does not have a clear idea of your career progression – through Flex Legal you will get real hands-on work experience with multiple law firms in different practice areas and gain a more comprehensive understanding of how the law operates in practice. This will definitely help you decide which area of legal practice is right for you.  

Conversely, if you know exactly what area of law you want to work in, Flex Legal offers the incredible opportunity to gain practical legal experience whilst completing your studies (and not letting it negatively affect your schedule). You may even have the opportunity to work for your dream law firm!

Needless to say, this work experience will boost your CV and help you build and/or expand your personal and professional connections. This is fundamental if you want to pursue a career in the legal sector. By working with fee-earners you will understand what the job entails and what skills & attributes are necessary to be a successful paralegal and trainee. This will substantially help you in your job applications – whether you are trying to secure a training contract or a paralegal role.

Could you tell us a bit more about your placement with Freshfields?  

This placement was the first & last role I had through Flex Legal. In October 2020, I was asked to participate in a document review project. It was my first experience with this type of task. In addition, due to the pandemic, the role was conducted remotely. 

Although we were not in the office, the team at Freshfields was extremely supportive and made sure we had all the necessary materials to understand the aims of the task and how to conduct the document review. In case you needed some help or advice, everyone was always available to have a call to explore any issues you might have had. This made me realise how supportive and collaborative is the environment at Freshfields. Even though I was not in the office and it was the first time working for the firm, I felt I was part of the team.

More specifically about the task, I participated in a wide-ranging document review project involving more than 130,000 documents. Using e-discovery software, I reviewed and determined whether documents were responsive based on relevance to the issues in the case and if any type of privilege applied.

What advice would you give to those currently applying for jobs?

Do NOT give up.

I know it is frustrating, exhausting and nerve-wracking when you receive multiple rejections. I know that this will also make you doubt yourself. But it is important to remember that the legal market is incredibly competitive. I know there are multiple sources of information regarding how to secure a job and useful tips that can be found in this blog, so please make sure to read other articles too. However, there are three points that I would like to consider:

1) Self-awareness

It is extremely important that you know what your strengths & weaknesses are. Take the time to think carefully about past work experiences, exams, extracurricular activities etc. and think about what you enjoyed the most (& why), what were you naturally good at (& why) and what you did not like or did not perform so well. This last point is extremely important. Ask yourself why. This will give you a guide of what you need to improve but also what things you do not like, perhaps these should be avoided when considering what permanent role is the right one for you.

Everything I just said implies that you want to work on yourself and improve. This is a vital skill to have in the legal profession. Graduate recruiters will not expect you to be perfect and know everything, but if they see you are not willing to improve this will significantly reduce your chances of being hired.

2) Skills & Attributes

This relates more to the application process, especially when you have to write applications and/or prepare for interviews. Once you gained more self-awareness of what your strengths/weaknesses are, the next step is to consider what experiences you had that made you develop the skills you possess.

When writing applications, cover letters or preparing for interviews - do not just mention what experiences you had but try to include what you learnt from those experiences and what skills you developed/improved and how you did it. And remember that any experience is valid. It does not necessarily have to relate to law.

Just to give you an example. During the LPC, I was a Legal Interpreter for BPP’s National Legal Translation Centre. Most law firms in their applications have this question or something similar: please mention any extra-curricular activities and positions of responsibility you have held. We all know that it is coming, so why not prepare it appropriately. When this question came up, I could just say that I was a Legal Interpreter, but to take it further I briefly explained what the role involved and what I learnt from it.

For instance, by assisting with client interviews where I listened to different parties expressing numerous concepts in different languages, I analysed and digested complex information to subsequently communicate with the clients in a clear manner. I have therefore consolidated my communicational and customer-service skills. This will eventually benefit me as a trainee/paralegal because these are client-facing roles. 

An additional step would be to relate back the skills you developed to why they are necessary to the role – this will demonstrate you have a comprehensive understanding of what the job entails. Graduate recruiters need to know that you know what you are applying for.

This is just an example of how I would do it. There are infinite ways to answer these types of questions and you need to find the right one for you – the one that truly reflects who you are. But I hope this can be a starting point.

3) Research the firm

The previous two points focused more on you, but for my last point, I would like to briefly touch upon the other half of the application process – law firms.

I am sure this has been said multiple times, you need to research the firm and tailor your application to the firm you are applying to. But this is not what I want to talk about. While you are researching a firm, I want you to always keep in the back of your mind that you are researching your potential future employer. So, when you are attending open days, law fairs or any event that you will give the opportunity to come in contact with the firm – consider whether the environment, the culture and the people that work there resonate with you. I cannot stress enough how important this is.

As I mentioned beforehand, the legal sector is extremely competitive and this will, at times, lead us to settle for any role available as long as we get to work. But imagine working for an employer that does not validate you or the work you do. Imagine going to work every day but hating what you are doing and the people you are working with. You might end up hating the career that you are so passionate about. I learnt this at my own expense. Now that I am working for Freshfields, I am being valued as a member of the team and for the work that I do, which motivates me to work harder, learn new things and improve.

Although I started by saying that this section will focus on the firms, it is indeed another point about you. If you are truly certain that the culture and the work the firm does is right for you, during the application process you will naturally demonstrate this to recruiters. And this will set you apart from other candidates.

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