Published on 7th August 2017
Courtney Bryan-Isaacs graduated with a law degree in 2016 and secured his first position as a Legal Assistant, at an award winning law firm, three months ago. Ambition caught up with Courtney to find out how his first three months have been at the firm and what advice he would give to anyone interested in a career as a Legal Assistant.
How have your first 3 months been as a Legal Assistant?
My first three months have been great. At first, it was very daunting as it was my first full time job working within a law firm and as my role was a newly-created position so I didn't know what to expect.
Fortunately, when I joined the firm I was put on a two-week training programme which was a massive help as this taught me about systems that I hadn’t used before. The colleagues that trained me made sure that I was comfortable with everything that they were teaching me and subsequently followed up on this training with refresher sessions which I found very helpful.
On my second day, I was invited out for drinks by my colleagues and met a mix of people from secretaries to senior associates. This was great as I immediately felt welcomed and part of the firm.
I have managed to get involved in many things in the short amount of time that I have been here and even took part in an inter-house tournament!
What is a typical day like for you as a Legal Assistant?
Typically, I begin my day by checking my inbox and seeing whether anyone has sent over any urgent tasks that need my assistance. As this is a new role it is still a moving picture, allowing me to get involved in different kinds of work.
One day I may be running across town to get a lease signed, the next I may be asked to take minutes within a meeting, while on another day, I could be planning a trip for people in Barcelona!
Of course there are days where I have to do the more mundane tasks such as scanning documents but there are some mundane elements to most jobs so it doesn’t bother me.
As I have a law degree I get given work from admin to paralegal to trainee level so it is very varied and you do have to be on your game.
Is working for a law firm everything you thought it would be?
I had no idea what to expect but I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. I assumed I would have to hit the ground running from the moment I walked through the door on my first day but, as I said, I was initially given training and found everyone to be extremely approachable including the Partners, who I thought would be terrifying!
It has been a great experience so far, I get very interesting and challenging work which has exceeded my expectations.
What do you enjoy about working for a law firm?
I honestly believe that I could not have arrived at a better firm, particularly as someone with minimal experience. They make a conscious effort to make it an inclusive and diverse environment and people are extremely approachable.
Within my first 3-4 weeks, I sent a coffee invite to a very well respected Partner at the firm and he was more than happy to sit down, talk about my role at the firm, how I could help his team and in turn he asked about my background and my plans for the future - I can't imagine being able to do that at many other City firms.
I have also been able to get involved in various social events run by the firm such as football and gin-tasting and have signed up to be part of the firm’s mentoring programme at a community school which I find very rewarding.
What is one thing you love about your job?
Working across the corporate group is a massive part of my role. Although I am based within the Corporate Transactional team, I actually work across the whole group, so I help out with Real Estate, Media, Tax Disputes and so on.
It's the main thing I love about my job because it means I’m involved in a variety of work and through this, I am able to see whether this type of work is what I would be interested in pursuing in my career at a later stage.
How did you find searching for your first position after studying?
I found it extremely difficult as I am the first person in my family to have gone to University and the first to pursue a career in law.
I didn't have a blueprint to follow or anyone to tell me how to best go about securing a position. I was initially quite disillusioned as I had thought that having a degree would automatically get me through the door but it took a lot longer than I expected.
I was very lucky that Ambition took me on because I had met with a few recruiters previously and had unpleasant experiences.
What lessons did you learn during your job search?
The key things that I learnt are that it is essential to amass as much work experience possible in your selected field but also to get good quality work experience because those skills are what will get you noticed.
Secondly, but equally as important, being signed up to a recruitment agency that is credible and genuinely wants to further your career can be extremely helpful.
I was lucky that Jess at Ambition reached out to me otherwise I would have been clueless.
The team at Ambition helped me prepare for interviews, looked at possible jobs that may lead to permanent roles and put me forward for temporary work which enabled me to gain more experience and gave me the chance to demonstrate my quality of work, which eventually led to me securing my current role.
What advice would you give to someone looking for their first position from university?
To summarise, get as much good quality work experience as you can, network whilst you are doing that work experience (because the legal world is smaller than you think) and leave a positive lasting impression.
I would also recommend that you look for the role that is really going to allow you to grow and progress in your career.
It's hard as a graduate because you just want a job asap and after many set-backs it's easy to settle for anything. If it wasn't for Claudine at Ambition’s advice, I would have taken a job role at another firm that had less chance of progression and would have completely missed out on the role I'm in now.
Which leads me onto my final point, if you opt to sign up to a recruitment agency, choose one that genuinely has your best interests at heart and that you can trust will help you secure that role that will get you that foot in the door that all of us graduates desperately need.