Skills to take you from student to paralegal

Have you been wondering what degree skills you’ll actually use when you work in a law firm? Kelsey is a paralegal in the corporate team in Shoosmiths’ Solent office, where she has worked for 7 months, after graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2021. Here she shares some key skills that she learnt during her degree which have set her up for a real-world career in law.

Throughout my time studying law at the University of Portsmouth, I experienced a challenging yet inclusive culture which, alongside learning the fundamental subjects for a qualifying law degree, allowed me to graduate with the professional skills necessary to obtain post-graduate employment at a national firm. The combination of traditional subjects and the less traditional, practical modules provided for the development of both my legal knowledge and employability skills which I have found to be invaluable within my corporate role at Shoosmiths.

One of the most useful skills that I have taken away from university is the ability to present – something which I found to be incredibly daunting as a first-year student! In our ‘Art of Persuasion’ module, I distinctly remember suffering my way through a speech and wondering how on earth I would handle being an advocate – evidently, I dropped the barrister dream promptly after that. Many opportunities arose to develop and build upon this skill which included mooting, mock trials and presenting our third-year projects and dissertation ideas. The ability to articulate an idea is useful not only as a paralegal, but also for training contract assessment centres. Often the topic is unseen which adds an additional element of pressure, so it is useful to have been guided so frequently at undergraduate level.

Another essential skill that I have utilised across both my real estate and corporate experience is the ability to undertake legal research. In practice, paralegals are often tasked with legal research in order to support legal advisors, for which we are expected to take ownership and ensure that our findings are accurate and reliable. The university provided many opportunities and guidance to support this; for example, the LexisNexis research certificates and a Legal Writing and Research module. Although I cannot say that I have used OSCOLA referencing since graduating, the ability to navigate legislation and Practical Law search engines have certainly come in handy.

As well as law fairs, we received multiple opportunities throughout the course to converse with employers and gain an insight into what is expected of a successful candidate, which I have found to be incredibly useful when writing both paralegal and training contract applications. In such a competitive industry, I feel that this level of engagement is essential to success following university, as it is much easier to write a convincing application once you have prior experience with the employers of the companies and firms that you plan to apply to.

Finally, I believe that the most important skill you can take away from studying law is perseverance. Ultimately, you only get out what you put into your studies and the ability to keep going when the course is tough is a skill in itself. There is nothing worse than being unhappy with a coursework grade or a speech, and similarly your first attempt at drafting in practice will likely be returned to you covered in red pen! However, understanding that learning is a process much like university is key to success as a junior and beyond.


This information is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. Please contact us for specific advice on your circumstances. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.



Read the latest articles and commentary from Shoosmiths or you can explore our full insights library.