How Saad went from Flex paralegal to Flex Trainee
The Flex Trainee scheme is making waves in the legal industry, and offering aspiring solicitors from historically under-represented backgrounds a new way to qualify via the in-house SQE route. For people like the sensational Saad Ali, who had previously used Flex Legal to find interim paralegal work, joining the Flex Trainee scheme was a logical next step in his legal journey.
Saad is currently enrolled as a Flex Trainee, and is on placement with Waters Corporation whilst he accrues the Qualifying Work Experience portion of his SQE qualification. We absolutely love stories like Saad’s, and have always found Saad himself to be a delight to work with. We recently caught up with Saad to hear his side of the story, and learn how it feels to go from a Flex paralegal to a Flex Trainee.
How did Saad first hear about Flex Legal?Saad first heard about us during his Bachelor of Laws studies at Manchester Metropolitan University. “Flex had a stall open with a couple of its employees representing them on that day. I was informed how, at the time, Flex was quite a recent start up that was looking to find students work experience, and the flexibility of work functioned around one’s schedule. The ball was in your court - you decide when you wanted to work and how long you wanted to work for, and if Flex had any availability to meet your requirements, they would notify you.”
This kind of interim employment model wasn’t something Saad had encountered previously. Like many students and aspiring legal professionals, he was struggling a lot with getting his foot in the door of the legal sector. It’s a classic Catch-22 situation where you need experience to secure legal jobs, but can’t get that experience without having a legal job first. “I remember making loads and loads of applications for paralegal opportunities and not hearing anything back”.
Saad applied to Flex Legal. From his pro-bono experience with Slater and Gordon, to volunteering with the Citizens Advice Witness Service, we could clearly see that he was passionate about pursuing a career in law. He was also well on his way to completing the LLM at the University of Law. We were absolutely delighted to accept his application, and welcomed him to the Flex Legal platform.
What legal work did Saad find through Flex Legal?We eventually found the right opportunity for Saad, and placed him in a fixed-term Contract Paralegal role with Summize, an exciting legal-tech company based in Manchester.
Saad got stuck right into his work at Summize. “My placement saw me working on Contract Law. With contracts becoming longer and more complex, I worked on a variety of different projects to make contracts simpler and easier to understand. This included reviewing contracts, as well as creating clauses, playbooks, and non-disclosure agreements”.
Saad’s work at Summize was impressive, and his personality proved to be a good culture fit with their team. So much so that his contract there was extended multiple times, and he secured some stellar feedback from his Summize supervisor; “Saad has settled in very nicely. He's working hard, friendly to everyone but also remains focused on the task in hand. Thank you for suggesting him to us!”
How did Saad get into the Flex Trainee scheme?Saad had now amassed in-house legal work experience, on top of his legal education and volunteering work. He was clearly ready to take that next step. “I knew the time was right to apply for training contracts but wasn’t quite sure where. I spoke to Jacob Darcy from Flex’s Client Services Team who recommended the Flex Trainee scheme. I reached out to Flex’s current trainee Maab Saifeldin who has had a similar journey to myself”.
Maab was amongst the very first cohort of Flex Trainees, and had been on the scheme for several months at that point. Like Saad, Maab had worked as a paralegal through Flex before being accepted onto the Flex Trainee scheme. Her placement on the Flex Trainee scheme was particularly high-profile, as her @lifewithmaab accounts on social media has seen her catch industry attention as a new breed of “lawfluencer”.
Maab explained to Saad her positive experiences of the scheme, and in particular how much the “readiness programme” had benefited her. Saad was convinced; “Having experienced working both in-house and in private practice, I knew I wanted to qualify via the in-house route. My time at Flex as a paralegal was wonderful and I truly enjoyed my placements, so after weighing up my options I made the easy decision to apply to Flex Trainee”.
Saad satisfied the social-mobility eligibility requirements of the scheme, and was invited to the Flex Trainee assessment centre. This is a comprehensive multi-stage screening process designed to identify the best candidates for the scheme by testing their legal know-how, professional aptitude, and character suitability. It consists of two interviews, a written legal exercise, and a practical group exercise. Fortunately, Saad aced every stage of the process, and was invited to become a Flex Trainee!
How did Saad get on with Flex Trainee's Readiness Programme?The Flex Trainee scheme is built on the same principles as the “on demand” side of Flex Legal’s business. We have always strived to facilitate perfect pairings of legal professionals with organisations, and Flex Trainee is no different. Saad is a sensational candidate, and he deserves to work with an equally sensational organisation. We scheduled an interview for Saad with a Senior Director of Waters Corporation, a leading multinational business that produces scientific instruments and software. The interview went tremendously well for both parties, and Waters were happy to take Saad on as a Flex Trainee.
Before a Flex Trainee goes on placement, they undergo a four week bespoke “Readiness Programme”. The Readiness Programme is designed to take the hard and soft skills that would normally take months to absorb in a professional workplace, and distil them down into a month’s worth of up-front training. Through a series of workshops, talks, practical exercises, and a final week of training specific to each seconded organisation, we make sure every Trainee can get off to a flying start from day one.
The Readiness Programme really helped Saad prepare for his time with Waters; “The thought of going into such a big business and being their first ever trainee was a little daunting at first - but the Readiness Programme Flex delivered definitely helped me to hit the ground running. One of the things which stands out to me from the programme was elevator pitches, which we practised so much! I remember being put on the spot early on in my placement and was told to introduce myself in a global meeting of Water’s many legal teams. Having practised it so extensively in the readiness programme, my introduction flowed out so naturally. Little things like that has definitely made a difference, and I know for sure I would have frozen if we had not practised this a lot. It would be wrong of me to not mention the amazing Sophie Gould who is the Head of Learning and Development at Flex. Sophie ran the readiness programme and helped me to understand what is expected of an inhouse trainee and how I could add value.”
How has Saad found his Flex Trainee placement with Waters?At the time of writing, Saad has been working in the Wilmslow offices of Waters for a little over half a year and is progressing well; “There is so much I am learning at the moment and so much more learning to do. The legal team at Waters are really investing in me and helping me to develop”.
“The transition from paralegal to trainee has been a lot smoother than I expected. My Flex mentors, Mary Bonsor and Louise Anderson, have been in touch on a regular basis to ensure everything is going well. The team at Waters have been amazing, they have been really supportive – encouraging questions and explaining things well by drawing on the white board and bringing in ordinary life examples to simplify information. They have also regularly provided constructive feedback on how well I am doing and how I can turn work from good to great. It’s the little things like this which makes you feel appreciated and valued which has made the switch over from a paralegal to a trainee much easier.”
When asked what his standout moment with Waters has been so far, Saad said that it had been “the variety of work I am being exposed to. Every week there is something different, the type of work is not as simple as black and white. It requires thinking that is above what the law says, in particular how to provide practical business focused advice to meet the needs of the company. Having a legal team with diverse level of experience has been a brilliant way for me to learn, discussing matters with them, seeing how they tackle issues is slowly helping me to approach tasks and think about things from beyond what the law is.”
We’re immensely proud of Saad for all of his efforts so far. Make no mistake - the Flex Trainee programme is demanding. It asks each Trainee to manage the complex demands of a professional legal environment, whilst simultaneously taking charge of their academic studies to prepare for their SQE exams. It’s a lot for anyone to manage - especially for someone who is still relatively junior in their career. Despite all of this, Saad’s drive and warm personality has shone throughout. From his initial placement with Summize, all the way through to his initial Flex Trainee interview and time on our Readiness Programme. He has always been a delight, and we couldn’t be prouder to count him amongst our Flex Trainees. The industry is watching you closely, Saad, and we can’t wait to watch you succeed!
- Saad’s LinkedIn profile - Since you’ve read all about his journey here, why not take a look at Saad’s full professional history over on his LinkedIn profile?
- Apply to be a Flex Trainee - Given the sheer number of applications we receive, the Flex Trainee scheme is competitive. However, if you’re a good fit then we encourage you to apply here!
- How The Crown Estate found their first ever legal trainee - Saad isn’t the only Flex Trainee! Read how another trainee, Ghazhal Noory, got placed with the legendary Crown Estate.