Karen Watson

Through the eyes of Karen Watson. Life as a Legal PA.

Published on 20th June 2016

Karen Watson is currently a Legal PA at CMS and has a background in Banking & Finance and Personal Injury.
Here she shares with us her typical day and her recent experience of the employment market.

1) What do you enjoy most about your role as a Legal PA?

I really enjoy the day to day role of a Legal PA – it can be so dramatically different! I love being organised, it makes me happy. I like lots of aspects of my role and feel it matches my personality. I thrive on an urgent task especially when it needs my dedicated attention. I like that the fee earners need my support and that I can help them to succeed. My day is full of mini accomplishments. 

2) Is there anything that surprised you about your job when you first started?

In my current role at CMS it is the astronomical amount of work the lawyers here get through in a day. Their work ethic is phenomenal! They do work long hours but they also allow the support staff a good work/life balance. After working with lawyers all my career this is my first role in a top ten global law firm and the quality of work and dedication to clients is outstanding. It makes me proud to work and support my fee earners and CMS. 

3) Can you describe a typical ‘day in the life’ of a Legal PA?

There is no typical day for me. I started this position by ensuring that I adapted the way I work to fit in to the working style of my fee earners. I have needed to make some tweaks because I am there to support them and fundamentally to fit in with their working style. 

I have fee earners that use email for majority of communication with me, others who use the firm’s internal IT messaging systems and some who love a Post-it note. 

If the fee earners have had a particularly long day then I will come into a variety of tasks such as dictation, billing updates, documents to amend and diary changes. I prioritise the work according to urgency and often I will have to use my initiative to ensure I am supporting fee earners in the best way possible. I do this by keeping abreast of the client work and ensuring I have some sort of 'face time' with each fee earner individually so I am aware of the week’s priorities.

Throughout the day priorities will change and the mini accomplishments of the tasks completed provide me with job satisfaction.

4) How do you motivate yourself on a daily basis?

I am a person who has lists and I am motivated by the accomplishments of completing tasks off a list. Part of the Legal PA job can be to work on heavy documents that require long periods of dedication.  To ensure I stay focused I reward myself at certain page numbers with a drink or a quick 'nice task' be it a diary amend before refocussing. Other than that – chocolate will always ensure I am motivated! 

5) What’s the most unusual request you’ve had as a PA?

Sewing up a fee earners trousers whilst they were still wearing them was a more unusual request! 

6) What lessons did you learn in your recent job hunt?

Being permanent is not the be all and end all in the world. After 19 years of only having had two jobs, I have really enjoyed working on a contract basis at CMS. The market has really moved on in the last 10 years and clients want you in at the firm, whether that be on a temporary, contract or permanent basis, to add value in a role no matter how long you are there. I’ve learnt that flexibility is the most important thing. 

7) Is it true that looking for a job is a full time job in itself?

It can be – but if you can have consultants like Sam and Claudine it doesn’t have to be. However, it can be time consuming. By working with the team at Ambition who took the time to understand my job search, motivators and goals, we have together added to my CV by undertaking temporary roles in very different firms that have allowed me to build on my skills. 

Sam and Claudine worked with me to understand the areas I could build on with temporary roles such as IT systems the firms used. This ensured I was able to hit the ground running at CMS. 

8) How do you think temporary work benefited you in your job search?

Temporary work has given me so much in terms of skills and confidence as well as employability. For future employers it shows I have flexibility and the ability to work outside of my comfort zone. For my job search it gave me more confidence in interviews and I have seen so many different IT systems that I am not fazed by any.

9) What words of advice would you give someone facing redundancy?

It is not the end of the world. Firstly take stock and secondly go for it! Do not use redundancy as a negative thing. For me, it was daunting at first but it has allowed me to stretch my own capacity in terms of the type of firm and role I can work in as well as my own personal growth. The Karen now would be telling the Karen then to keep your options open and see where and what you could be doing. Definitely speak to market experts like Ambition.

At Ambition we focus on building long-term relationships with all our candidates. Through the eyes of... showcases the career journeys of some of the Business Support candidates we have worked with over the years.

Karen Watson is currently a Legal PA at CMS and has a background in Banking & Finance and Personal Injury.  Here she shares with us her typical day and her recent experience of the employment market.