“We are providing a legal service, but still need to maintain compassion and empathy whilst maintaining clear professional boundaries”
Telephone: 01392 286777
Name: Bernadette Chelvanayagam
Job title: Paralegal
How did you get into working in law?
I didn’t study law at university, but after I’d graduated I started a conversion course and began working towards my GDL (Graduate Diploma in Law). After many years of working in training and facilitation, I decided to change careers, completed my GDL and got my first Paralegal role shortly afterwards.
What is the biggest misconception people have about your job?
Other people think we make a lot of money. However the majority of our clients in housing are legal aided, and from lower socio-economic backgrounds. My personal misconception is that we are able to help more people than we do – this is because the cases are complex, and we are a small team and the need is great. We can signpost people in the right direction, but again there is often not enough help out there for people.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your job?
The fast-paced nature of the job, especially as many of our clients are vulnerable, with poor mental health or other intersecting issues, so managing expectations is both crucial and challenging.
What qualities or attributes do you think you need to work in law?
Attention to detail, solution-focused approach to problem solving, multi-tasker, team player, good work ethic.
Why did you choose a career in law?
I have always wanted to work in law but, being a single parent of two, I wanted to wait until my children were a bit older to focus on studying and working in law, which I correctly perceived as being a high maintenance job!
What would you say to someone considering a career in law?
Get as much work experience under your belt as possible.
What is your top legal tip that everyone should know?
Everyone has a right to access to justice. Citizens Advice are a great first point of contact for any questions you may have.