Zoe Gibson, 28
Zoe works for the Windermere office of Hayton Winkley, a solicitors firm in Cumbria. She joined the firm as an office junior and has worked her way up to become a certified paralegal.
What do you do in your current job?
I assist a partner in the firm of solicitors in connection with clients buying, selling, mortgaging and re-mortgaging property – most areas of domestic conveyancing.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy all aspects of the work I do and find it interesting. It is satisfying when you complete a case, and make the clients happy as a result, following the completion.
What is the most challenging part?
The ever changing world of conveyancing. You can spend a good deal of time preparing letters and documents, and then one phone call, fax or e-mail can alter everything you have prepared. There are lots of deadlines to meet and it can be quite stressful, but also very satisfying when matters complete and clients are happy. Also there is a great deal of responsibility involved in the job.
What advice do you have for readers considering a career as a paralegal?
It is not necessary to go to university to become a paralegal. I have GCSEs, RSA qualifications, NVQs and a vocational legal studies certificate level II. I obtained the last mentioned certificate by way of a long-distance Institute of Legal Executives paralegal training course involving coursework – with no exams. My acceptance into the Institute of Paralegals, in March 2006, and the issuing of my Institute of Paralegals Practising Certificate, was based on my existing qualifications and on my present practising abilities.
You need to be a good "people person", to be responsible, trustworthy, have excellent spoken and written communication skills, be patient, tactful and able to work with all kinds of client. Paying careful attention to detail is important, as is having good research skills. You also need to be well organised, able to meet deadlines – sometimes under pressure – and above all respect confidential information. Computer and administration skills are also important. I started working as an office junior in the firm where I still work, and worked my way up from there to my present role. I now have the option to proceed further, by training as a legal executive and then as a solicitor, if I so wish.