Name: Balbir Paul
Degree and university: University of Wolverhampton. I studied my LLB law degree for three years and also studied Ilex and became a Member of the Institute of Legal Executives when I was 25 years old. I continued to study Ilex and gained employment in a law firm and was offered a permanent position as a paralegal. I then went back to university to study a Postgraduate Diploma which was the Legal Practice Course (LPC) in order to become a Solicitor. I continued to work in a firm as a conveyancer with my own workload being supervised by my supervisor. I worked whilst I built up my experience for five years dealing with my own case loads and went on to build my portfolio of experience and I sat the examinations and successfully completed the course. I was then able to apply for my Fellowship of the Institute of Legal Executives with the wealth of experience I had attained over the years.
Why did you decide on a career in law? I was inspired by my experience in a law firm, I had an ambition to become a solicitor at the age of 16 when I worked at this firm. I joined what was then a Youth Training scheme and I was offered the job of administrator, typing letters for the lawyers. I developed my knowledge of how practical procedures were carried out, and was able to follow cases through to their completion.
I then left my place of employment to continue my professional development in order to undertake the LLB Law degree, ILEX, and thereafter the Legal Practice Postgraduate Diploma. I then went on to apply to firms for experience, and joined an agency whereby I assisted various firms as a paralegal.
What did the application process involve? Once I joined an agency I was interviewed and was offered a placement at several firms as a paralegal, and then was offered a permanent position in 2003 at a leading Black Country Firm, Waldron’s Solicitors, when I was offered the opportunity to undertake a Training Contract for two years. My seats involved mainly Criminal Litigation, Commercial property, civil litigation and Probate. I was then required to complete the professional skills course, which I did successfully. I then qualified as a Solicitor, and a Fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives in January 2007, and was then employed as a Criminal litigator, until I left Waldron’s in September 2007.
I would certainly advise that you make sure you re-read your application form before the interview and think about the questions which may be asked. Being prepared means that you are more likely to give clear, well-structured answers. When answering questions that ask you to draw on past experiences, use examples that will allow you to give evidence of key competencies, such as leadership skills, and problem-solving. Make sure to keep your answers focused on the question posed – don’t go off on a tangent and provide information that is not relevant.
What are you doing now? At present I am employed by a firm in the Black Country that specialises in Criminal Defence work. This firm is called HGH Criminal Defence Solicitors. I am employed mainly as a Trial Advocate in the Magistrates’ Courts around the country. I work alongside very hard working Lawyers who are on call out 24 hours a day in case someone requires our assistance at the police station. The work that I undertake at the Magistrates’ courts ranges from defending clients being alleged to have been charged with Summary offences such as Road traffic offences, Common assaults, to Either Way offences which are offences that can be dealt with at the Crown Court for example Theft, Handling Stolen Goods, S47 Assaults, Burglary.
What do you most enjoy about what you do and are there any downsides? I enjoy Advocacy the most because that’s what I do best. I enjoy trials where issues are not easily resolved, and I enjoy challenging evidence that gives rise to unlawful arrests, inadmissible interviews under S78 PACE, or any other procedural breach. I enjoy securing acquittals for my clients which gives me great job satisfaction when I know justice has been served. I enjoy meeting people of different walks of life.
The only downside to what I do is seeing my client being incarcerated, being sent to custody for a period of time.
What skills do you think you need to succeed? The most important strength that you need as a successful Solicitor is to have good communication skills, and excellent client care skills. A crucial skill for all lawyers is the ability to solve problems. A good lawyer won’t just spot potential problems, but will also offer a solution. The starting point for any solution needs to be a thorough understanding of a client’s concerns, objectives and resources. An employer will expect a candidate to show that, when faced with a problem, they can think practically, and give a sensible and effective solution.
Trainees must have the ability to build strong working relationships with their colleagues and – most crucially – clients. Recruiters need to see a demonstration of the people skills required to build these relationships and work effectively within the firm. When working within a business where clients are one of our highest priorities, we need to ensure that we understand every aspect of their business before we are able to provide them with the most relevant legal advice’
What advice would you give graduates wishing to enter the legal sector? My advice would be to continue with education, and don’t give up! There were times when I thought about giving up when studying became impossible when I had my children; being a mother of three and a wife was very difficult, but I overcame all the hurdles that life threw at me whilst trying to fulfil my ambition. I will never forget those last minute assessments and sleepless nights, but I can assure you that it is worth every moment.
There are great opportunities out there that you don’t want to miss out on. I would advise you to look, listen and learn, and to obtain as much experience as you possibly can. Take every opportunity you have to learn from a qualified lawyer to give you a feel as to what to expect when going into practice. My experience gave me an insight as to what to expect and I was then confident in the position I chose to qualify in as it is difficult to change into another area once you have been trained to specialise in a particular area.
Is there anything you wish to add? I have been able to follow my ambition to become a solicitor since the age of sixteen and have made my dream a reality. To those graduates who are considering a career in law, I wish you all the success in your chosen career.