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Unpaid paralegal work - should I accept? Watch

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    I'm in my second year of uni - been accepted for a paralegal job. However, the job is unpaid/voluntary and is full-time (9 am - 5 pm). I didn't get a good vibe from the firm and I found the interviewer a little unprofessional


    She seemed a bit cold...didn't respond to the small talk I made whilst waiting for interview...little to no eye contact...she also smirked when I asked her whether their would be any chance to get involved in casework (this was outlined in the job description) and seemed a bit negative. So I was very surprised when I got the job.

    I might be overreacting and thinking stupidly so I thought I'd ask on here. On the one hand, a firm asking for paralegals working on a voluntary basis (with no pay or offer of TC) sounds dodgy because I have never come across it before but on the other hand, I am desperate for legal w/e :/ What do you guys think?
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    I can't say I'm surprised to hear of a firm offering unpaid paralegal work, but I haven't heard of it first hand before.

    What sort of uni are you at/degree are you on track for? If you're at a semi-decent uni and are expecting a 2.1, I personally wouldn't stoop to that level of work, because you're simply worth more than that.

    I know it's tempting to clutch at straws when you probably have nothing vocational on your CV, but if you can get yourself on some vac schemes or even presentation days at firms in the next 6-12 months, then you'll be in good shape for future applications.

    If it was one day/afternoon every fornight you were being offered, that would be different, but a full time job without pay is taking the mickey/illegal.
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    You don't say how long the job is for. It's a summer job presumably? I would definitely check the firm out - are they real solicitors?

    Getting paralegals to work for free is certainly frowned upon.

    I'm a big one for trusting your instinct - generally your instinct is right in life - if it feels wrong it might be the wrong thing for you.

    Other than that, think what you can get out of it. Certainly the experience will be useful, and practical experience can really help you understand what law will be like, and also the real-world connection to what you are studying in law school.

    Remember you can get relevant work experience in other outlets other than law firms - look to charities - you can get voluntary roles advising clients and working alongside lawyers - I have two such roles.

    You could always give it a whirl and then abandon ship!

    (Original post by Yazooo)
    (Posted here for more replies..)

    I'm in my second year of uni - been accepted for a paralegal job. However, the job is unpaid/voluntary and is full-time (9 am - 5 pm). I didn't get a good vibe from the firm and I found the interviewer a little unprofessional


    She seemed a bit cold...didn't respond to the small talk I made whilst waiting for interview...little to no eye contact...she also smirked when I asked her whether their would be any chance to get involved in casework (this was outlined in the job description) and seemed a bit negative. So I was very surprised when I got the job.

    I might be overreacting and thinking stupidly so I thought I'd ask on here. On the one hand, a firm asking for paralegals working on a voluntary basis (with no pay or offer of TC) sounds dodgy because I have never come across it before but on the other hand, I am desperate for legal w/e :/ What do you guys think?
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    (Original post by HawkHorseRobe)
    I can't say I'm surprised to hear of a firm offering unpaid paralegal work, but I haven't heard of it first hand before.

    What sort of uni are you at/degree are you on track for? If you're at a semi-decent uni and are expecting a 2.1, I personally wouldn't stoop to that level of work, because you're simply worth more than that.

    I know it's tempting to clutch at straws when you probably have nothing vocational on your CV, but if you can get yourself on some vac schemes or even presentation days at firms in the next 6-12 months, then you'll be in good shape for future applications.

    If it was one day/afternoon every fornight you were being offered, that would be different, but a full time job without pay is taking the mickey/illegal.
    I'm at a fairly decent uni, expecting a 2.1.

    I have done 2 other legal internships at small-medium firms as well as working for CAB etc. I'm hoping that, in the event that I fail to get a training contract, I can paralegal at a firm after I graduate and work my way up towards a TC (my plan B). This is where the unpaid job I applied to may come in handy, because then I would have previous paralegal experience when applying for paralegal roles.

    Btw, if it makes any difference, I am not looking to work for corporate/city firms.

    (Original post by happyinthehaze)
    You don't say how long the job is for. It's a summer job presumably? I would definitely check the firm out - are they real solicitors?

    Getting paralegals to work for free is certainly frowned upon.

    I'm a big one for trusting your instinct - generally your instinct is right in life - if it feels wrong it might be the wrong thing for you.

    Other than that, think what you can get out of it. Certainly the experience will be useful, and practical experience can really help you understand what law will be like, and also the real-world connection to what you are studying in law school.

    Remember you can get relevant work experience in other outlets other than law firms - look to charities - you can get voluntary roles advising clients and working alongside lawyers - I have two such roles.

    You could always give it a whirl and then abandon ship!
    Thanks for the advice.

    Yeah, I too was thinking of just trying it out then abandoning if it seemed dodgy lol
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    How long is the job for? If a couple of weeks and you have nothing better to do, then you might as well. But if longer, I wouldn't touch it with a barge pole - it's hardly encouraging when a law firm is breaking the law.
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    What firm is it?


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    It is really important to place value on your skills. From what you've posted this sounds like an opportunity for the firm to take advantage of someone who needs experience in a super competitive field. If it's a voluntary position they cannot dictate to you what hours you work/when you may/may not go to lunch etc. You should be paid if it's a paralegal role. I would be saying something very different if we were talking about an informal part-time arrangement - I have done this myself and had a great experience at a criminal law firm - but they are asking you to work full-time for nothing and I think that is a joke. I did a lot of unpaid work before eventually landing a paid paralegal role and by the end of it my morale was so low because I wasn't placing any monetary value on my skills. This is important, and some employers do ask "why wasn't this person paid for that role?" when they look at your CV.

    I gained great legal experience by volunteering at legal action charities. I worked part-time in retail and volunteered at Reprieve three days per week doing casework for the death penalty team. I would recommend that route because legal action charities have established internships and generally provide incredibly supportive and rewarding experiences. I can understand why they might ask people to work for free, but not a law firm... and certainly not full-time!
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    (Original post by 50FtQueenie)
    It is really important to place value on your skills. From what you've posted this sounds like an opportunity for the firm to take advantage of someone who needs experience in a super competitive field. If it's a voluntary position they cannot dictate to you what hours you work/when you may/may not go to lunch etc. You should be paid if it's a paralegal role. I would be saying something very different if we were talking about an informal part-time arrangement - I have done this myself and had a great experience at a criminal law firm - but they are asking you to work full-time for nothing and I think that is a joke. I did a lot of unpaid work before eventually landing a paid paralegal role and by the end of it my morale was so low because I wasn't placing any monetary value on my skills. This is important, and some employers do ask "why wasn't this person paid for that role?" when they look at your CV.

    I gained great legal experience by volunteering at legal action charities. I worked part-time in retail and volunteered at Reprieve three days per week doing casework for the death penalty team. I would recommend that route because legal action charities have established internships and generally provide incredibly supportive and rewarding experiences. I can understand why they might ask people to work for free, but not a law firm... and certainly not full-time!
    Do you think so? It does make me a little resentful that it's unpaid AND full time, but they do pay for travel expenses, do you think that makes it ok? I am thinking of seeing how it goes and if it's too tiring, I may ask them to cut down to 4 days. They kept stressing that you must be available full time, 9-5.

    I have actually talked to the team at Reprieve and you're right, they seem really nice. Problem is, I already have some experience at legal NGOs and wanted to get some experience at a law firm.

    I couldn't find any information but is it illegal to make volunteers full time?
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    I think you have to value your skills at more than that. An unpaid internship is exploitative, an unpaid job is a complete joke especially full time. It also sounds like the firm are taking the mick a bit by your evaluation of their actions. I think they underhandedly want rather a lot for nothing so I wouldn't do it.
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    No. It's just exploitation - they're obviously low on money and want to hire a 'grunt' so to speak, to do their dirty work. Seen it before.
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    You're going to work in a firm and do what they tell you during the hours they tell you.

    Ok, apart from the not getting paid bit, which part is not perfect experience for a TC?

    All I see here is a lot of people waxing lyrical about exploitation and "joke" jobs. They are offering something that you might not otherwise get. You're not getting paid. That sucks. But it's not like you're scrubbing their floor. The so-called "grunt work" is exactly what you're looking for, surely.

    Personally, I would think that a travel allowance and maybe something for lunch would show good faith, but if that's not on the table - too bad. If you have no other route in, then I don't see what the big problem is. As long as it's legal work and not counting paperclips.
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    Agree with Clip here. I have done work experience for free following a first career. Yes, it can be a bit annoying but provided it gets you where you need to be It can be worth it.
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    It's also interesting how many people will drop £10k on an LLM or an unfunded LPC but are unwilling to work for free (towards an end goal)
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    Take the job. Use the experience to find something better. Then sue them afterwards for minimum wage (using your newfound paralegal skillz)
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    Yes it is unlawful. The only exception to NMW they could fall into is 'volunteer' which requires that you can come in if and when you like, but as they are setting your hours and insisting you attend during those hours, they fall outside the exception.

    The other exceptions (sandwich year, voluntary work, work shadowing) don't apply on these facts.

    But with that knowledge it is still down to you. Knowing that they are breaking the law, is it still worth something to you to get the legal experience? If yes, take the job. If no, report them at www.internaware.org (2nd page).
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    (Original post by Crumpet1)
    Yes it is unlawful. The only exception to NMW they could fall into is 'volunteer' which requires that you can come in if and when you like, but as they are setting your hours and insisting you attend during those hours, they fall outside the exception.

    The other exceptions (sandwich year, voluntary work, work shadowing) don't apply on these facts.

    But with that knowledge it is still down to you. Knowing that they are breaking the law, is it still worth something to you to get the legal experience? If yes, take the job. If no, report them at www.internaware.org (2nd page).
    I really did not know that. I have seen so MANY unpaid internships that I thought it was unusual that some firms actually paid students for vacation schemes.

    Now I feel like a criminal for accepting the job offer lol. It is a desperate situation though...I am thinking of just taking it and seeing how it goes. The fact that they pay for travel is some consolation.

    Thanks for your reply.
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    (Original post by Clip)
    You're going to work in a firm and do what they tell you during the hours they tell you.

    Ok, apart from the not getting paid bit, which part is not perfect experience for a TC?

    All I see here is a lot of people waxing lyrical about exploitation and "joke" jobs. They are offering something that you might not otherwise get. You're not getting paid. That sucks. But it's not like you're scrubbing their floor. The so-called "grunt work" is exactly what you're looking for, surely.

    Personally, I would think that a travel allowance and maybe something for lunch would show good faith, but if that's not on the table - too bad. If you have no other route in, then I don't see what the big problem is. As long as it's legal work and not counting paperclips.
    Do you think it will look bad in an interview to say I have worked as a paralegal...but for free?
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    (Original post by Yazooo)
    Do you think it will look bad in an interview to say I have worked as a paralegal...but for free?
    It will look better than "I haven't worked as a paralegal, but I would if I were paid".

    I honestly don't see the big deal. It's widely accepted that it's ok to work for Oxfam or Scope for free building up exceptionally questionable skills and experience; but it's a big no-no to work for free to get industry specific experience.

    It sucks that it's very hard for a lot of people to get into legal services - but that doesn't mean that anyone is obliged to provide jobs. Come on, how long ago was it that Pupils weren't paid? How is that much different?
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    (Original post by emmings)
    Take the job. Use the experience to find something better. Then sue them afterwards for minimum wage (using your newfound paralegal skillz)
    And then lose because you were dumb enough to take a firm of solicitors (who gave you work experience) to the ET. Get your name in the legal press for being litigious and never get another job in legal services again, ever.

    Genius.
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    I think that last one was light-hearted...:eek:

    (Original post by Clip)
    And then lose because you were dumb enough to take a firm of solicitors (who gave you work experience) to the ET. Get your name in the legal press for being litigious and never get another job in legal services again, ever.

    Genius.
 
 
 
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