Being a paralegal: the worst bits

Our paralegal health check survey received responses from over 1,000 people and many of them had strong opinions. Here are some selected responses on the worst bits of paralegal life.

It’s worth recalling that the majority (67 per cent) of those who responded to our survey said their overall experience of paralegalling was a positive one, so this is only one side of the story. You should also read Being a paralegal: the best bits

The work

“Doing better work than trainees and not being a trainee.”

“Sorting records at my current firm.”

“Being asked to print documents and place them in a folder.”

“‘Can you tidy my cupboard for me?'”

“Preparing bundles, document review”

“Rarely getting to directly speak to clients”

“My current role has been very secretarial, there is no room to learn new skills.”

“Being asked to complete admin work that a fee earner’s PA should be doing – particularly when they are paid so much more than paralegals”

“Sometimes it’s been challenging and stressful, not being mollycoddled and given proper explanations at the beginning of tasks and being thrown into the deep end. Occasional secretarial tasks; but I think your approach should be to just muck in when needed. Things like billing and matter management could be explained better and even how to use the printers, for example.”


“Being treated as administration staff and not being trusted with tasks such as drafting.”

“Matching up document numbers with online documents and transferring these to a spreadsheet.”

“When I had to be a makeshift PA for my former boss. My days were spent managing her diary, and taking dictation.”

“Endless filing of leases at the land registry. Mindnumbingly boring.”

“The lack of legal work and amount of very admin-oriented work”

“Performing menial administrative jobs.”

“A whole day of arranging meetings/diaries of solicitors in department and filing.”

“Booking meeting rooms for fee earners, doing photocopying, editing word documents for formatting”

“Going for a paralegal job and finding out on the first day I would be working in a call centre, cold calling members of the public about road traffic accidents and persuading them to make a PI claim, for all occupants in their car including babies. My pay was £14,000 per annum.”

“Being asked to do large tasks in impossible time frames”

“Manually taking of tiny redactions, photocopying and putting the redactions in exactly the same place again for a large number of documents – was very tempted to hand in my notice there and then.”

“Buying Kit Kats for a partner”

“All of the times when I might as well have been a filing chimp.”

The hours

“Working 80-90 hour weeks consecutively with inadequate supervision.”

“Staying until 3am typing out narratives for a costs submission.”

“Generally the very late nights that result in no sleep for a couple of days (often similar to those in more senior positions).”

“Being required to work 80 hours per week consistently with no recognition from the firm or its paralegal manager system.”

“Working 35 hours straight on completion”

“Not being able to take off a weekend in 9 consecutive weeks and consistently working all-nighters to the point of collapse.”

“Being expected to work past midnight on a weekly basis with no guarantee of progression”

“Not being able to spend any time with my family, who were visiting from abroad, as I was working overtime every night of the week (I worked together with a trainee until 3am every night). It was most unfortunate.”

“Long hours on consecutive days”

The pay

“Salary very demoralising.”

“In all honesty, the salary. Paralegal salaries tend to vary wildly, not only between practice areas of law but also within the same practice area.”

“Being expected to take on extra work without any chance of a pay increase.”

“I feel I work to a similar level as qualified solicitors, bill similar amounts and often put in long hours, but do not get paid as much as a qualified solicitors.”

“Being asked to take on more responsibility with no pay increase.”

“Not having enough supervision and being paid less than trainees for doing to the same work.”

“Being offered £14,000 salary to run a caseload of 150 files.”

“A paralegal does all the work of a qualified solicitor for half the pay.”

Lack of respect

“Being referred to as part of the ‘minions’ during a meeting.”

“Occasionally getting treated like a second class citizen.”

“At a ‘team bonding’ day at the races, one of the partners made me hold an ice bucket for him and then asked me to our the drinks for him and another partner”

“Facing backlash for asking questions at a previous firm, doing dogsbody jobs when low on capacity due to more interesting tasks”

“Being treated like an idiot by highly paid counsel”

“Being shamed for small errors by an associate in front of other associates.”

“Been treated like nobody in a magic circle law firm.”

“The lack of respect in the firm for paralegals more generally, that we are seen as the lowest part of the business by some and have a bad reputation.”

“Even if you are supported by your colleagues you are often treated without respect by solicitors on the other side who will back down once they receive the same response from a qualified signature.”

“Being spoken to rudely and/or condescendingly by junior solicitors of less experience during a transaction. Normally this was just because they believed that they were better than me as they were going through or just through a training contract. It was always uncalled for and they were always found out. Yes they may have been qualified or close to it, but I had 5+ years experience of working on those sorts of transactions.”

“Being spoken to in a rude way by senior partners.”

“The way some paras are treated by solicitors (usually not partners). A lot of solicitors don’t understand that paras aren’t morons who couldn’t get a TC but are lawyers filling a time gap in a ridiculously expensive city.”

“Being shouted at for taking too long producing bundles, senior fee-earners have no idea how long it can take.”

“Being treated like something the qualified lawyers have trodden in. Until they need their backside hauling out of the fire in a rush.”

“Being shouted at by my supervisor and told I should read GCSE grammar books.”

“Being patronised by lawyers just because I happen to be a paralegal.”

“Buying coffee for the principal (my first paralegalling experience).”

Lack of recognition

“Working really hard with no recognition”

“The fact that I do more in my day-to-day than a trainee, I work longer hours and get paid about £6-9k less. Also, as I worked up to the role from an essential foot in the door, I get paid around £3k less than the externally hired paralegals in the team.”

“Being made to feel like no better than a legal secretary despite holding a law degree and eight years’ experience as a fee-earner paralegal with my own hefty caseload.”

“The suggestion/expectation that paralegals are there to help everyone irrespective of workload.”

“Feeling on the periphery of the team and not fully included.”

“Being undervalued in one or two law firms.”

“Being thought of as less important than a solicitor even though we do the same level of work.”

“Overall no recognition for the hard work provided.”

“Lawyers being generally ignorant of my abilities (meagre though they may be)”

“Being snapped at by people several years younger than me because they’ve had a bad day.”

“Being undervalued, not invited to socials.”


“Working on a day to day basis in a firm where you know you have very little to zero chance of progression would slowly eat away at the most optimistic person’s soul.”

“Repeatedly being told I am better than most trainees in terms of my work product and yet being stunted in career progression”

“Inability to progress any higher than a senior paralegal role without gaining a training contract.”

“Being unsuccessful on my assessment day for a training contract at the firm.”

“It’s the constant feeling that, no matter how hard I work, I’m banging my head on the ceiling and can’t make any real progress with my career. The majority of my friends from university have been promoted, given pay rises and pats on the back for doing well in their various lines of work. I worked just as hard as them for my degree and invested heavily (both financially and in terms of effort) in my post-graduate legal studies, but the pay and career gap seems to be widening every time we meet up for dinner. In my experience, paralegals are not made to feel valued and are often hard done by when it comes to pay and career prospects versus the contribution they make to the business.”

Training contract unfairness

“Realising how ineffective the trainee recruitment process can be.”

“My firm allegedly decides who is awarded a TC based upon points scored on an assessment day. I have discovered that I scored more favourably than a counterpart but he was offered the TC over me. There is no consistency and no transparency. HR make the decisions and they do what they want to do based upon who their favourites are that year. Several TCs have been offered via the back door to people who haven’t even bothered to apply. For everyone else, whether you get one is absolute lottery.”

“Experiencing another paralegal who started at the firm after me being made a trainee solicitor without any sort of consultation with me about the opportunities.”

“Our mid-level business services team do not appear to want to acknowledge that the majority of their paralegals do not wish to be career paralegals, and they place pressure on line managers to keep only those who they think will fit that role.”

“Being told I was being given a training contract and then the offer not following through.”

“I was encouraged and verbally promised a training contract, which was then given to an external candidate at the last hour, and told to apply again.”

Taking the blame for others

“Being blamed for more senior staff’s mistakes, being paid minimum wage for work that deserves much higher pay considering half of it goes to travel expenses, being treated like you’re less than experienced simply because your title is ‘paralegal’ even if you know more than the NQs, being belittled for small rectifiable mistakes on your first try at something completely new to you.”

“Being the scapegoat for others.”

“Being shouted at despite having done the correct thing, as instructed by a partner.”

“Having a chair thrown in my general direction due to a partner’s ‘cock up’ which I had to take the blame for.”

“A very unfriendly supervisor who constantly blamed me for things they later located on their desk… oh and coughing persistently in my direction to prompt an offer of a drink.”

“Being told a 1pm to paginate a bundle of three lever-arch files with a deadline to serve them that day, noticing an issue with the bundles on completion of the pagination, time running out, therefore requiring me to start again. Fee earner blaming me for too much of a relaxed attitude and the implications that follow if not served being enough to give me a written warning, and the fee earner that I protected from the mess up also joining in to protect themselves.”

“Being asked to lie to clients to cover for my supervisor’s incompetence”

Lawyer 2B’s paralegal healthcheck

Lack of support

“Working in a firm in Manchester city centre, with very little experience and knowledge, I was left to sink with little to no guidance or assistance. I was expected to be a qualified solicitor. I worked there for six months and it nearly put me off a career in law for good.”

“General lack of formal training on technical matters.”

“When you express that you are keen to learn new things and gain more quality experience – only to hear from the lawyers you worked with that they do not care about your development or career progression.”

“I don’t get enough feedback, so I don’t know how to improve my work.”

“Feeling out of my depth.”

“Over-estimation of my abilities. Not enough context or explanation of tasks and work.”

“The responsibility of a large caseload. Teaching myself how to do things.”

“Solicitors expected me to have the same knowledge as them despite being young and inexperienced.”

“Sometimes people expect too much without giving the relevant support.”


“The team can sometimes rely too much on paralegals (because we stay put, unlike rotating trainees) and create an unhealthy working environment where we put more in then we will ever receive back from the firm in terms of career progression, recognition within the firm and pay. This is a very frustrating cycle to be caught up in and can create a paralegal group that at times resents the firm.”

“Having a line manager who ‘manages paralegals’ and has no concept of what actually happens in the team.”

“Trying to get up to speed.”

“Being expected to bill the same number of hours as less experienced (but qualified) colleagues who earn a lot more than me.”

“Typecast into a particular area of law – it’s very difficult to gain paralegal experience in a new area of law without prior experience of that area of law.”

“Occasional boredom.”

“Inappropriate and unprofessional behaviour by certain members of staff”

“Not getting any feedback for training contract application at the firm I work at.”

“The smug look on someone’s face when they talk about how hard their training contract was.”

“Getting locked in a prison in the legal visiting area with my client after the legal visits had ended.”

“Dealing with often emotionally delicate clients.”

“Being asked to call around companies suspected as being escort agencies to try to book a prostitute so that I could then prepare a witness statement to that effect to show the court (I refused to do it and the partner refused to instruct an enquiry agent so we’ll never know if they were actually prostitutes or not).”