I am a 26 year old housing law Paralegal earning £24,300 pa.
My working hours vary from 8.45am to 5pm and 11.45am to 8pm. I usually get up before dawn to make the slog on public transport to work, arriving 30 minutes early to catch up on notes I didn’t manage to type up the night before. I am then available to assist new clients for half a day and run my existing caseload for the other half. I do housing law and so I help to defend possession proceedings, assist homeless clients and try to prevent unlawful evictions.
I work under a Civil Legal Advice contract with the Legal Aid Agency. This means all our clients contact us over the phone and all casework is conducted over the phone. My clients are predominately vulnerable members of society and most have a disability of some sort and all are eligible for legal aid. My work is very rewarding and I love what I do, but it is so much hard work. With vulnerable clients come demanding clients, especially when their home is at risk. As a phone-based service, this also throws up a number of problems as it is so much harder to build trust and relationships, but we manage. Getting a phone call from a client to say the hearing was successful and they are not being evicted, or a letter from a council to say that they have accepted they have a duty to accommodate our client, makes it all worth while.
I took out a large bank loan to fund my Legal Practice Course (which you have to do to become a Solicitor). My parents are working class (my mum has actually been made redundant) so there was no financial support from home. I now have to repay back my loan at such high monthly installments that I afford only necessities and cannot afford to apply for a training contract within the next four years as I would earn a lot less than I do now (around £16,500). To take this cut would mean that I risk bankruptcy. By the time I get paid on a Wednesday, my bank account is empty.
I am worried about the cuts to legal aid because I may face redundancy. If I lose my job I will eventually be made bankrupt as few other paralegal jobs pay this much. This will stop me from ever qualifying as a legal aid Solicitor.