We are so proud to feature Michael Coe in our lead article this month. Michael is a Fellow of the Institute of Paralegals and a talented HR/Employment Law paralegal.
In March this year Michael was awarded the title of ‘Best HR/Employment Law Paralegal of the Year 2019’ at the National Paralegal Awards. He beat a variety of other talented paralegals to clinch the award.
We wanted to speak to Michael Coe about his decision to turn to the legal profession, why he felt the IoP membership was a good step to aid his career and what the future holds for him. He also provided us with some fantastic advice for recent graduates looking to start their career as Paralegals and some insights from the premier awards for Paralegals where he become the first one to win the Best Employment Law/ HR Paralegal Award.
It is the work of Michael, and the many, many thousands of paralegals like him, which is quietly but diligently building the paralegal brand. Large public shows of recognition (invited onto this committee, consulted on that report) are great, but ultimately it is the existence of thousands of quality trusted and respected advisors like Michael who will win paralegals long overdue recognition.
For those of you wanting more of a work/life balance this article should prove to be encouraging.
Interview with fellow member of the IoP, Michael Coe F.Inst.Pa
Can you please give us a short overview of your career so far?
In 2011, I opened my own HR and Training business offering outsourced services to SMES’ who did not have onsite specialist support. As my career, as an independent Consultant grew, I was faced with very complex cases.
I am very proud to be a Fellow Member of the IOP and to be recognised by my Peers as an award winning Employment Law/ HR Paralegal in 2019.
What is your background and how did you become interested in working as a Paralegal?
I had been working as an independent HR Consultant in my own business for some years, before embarking on studying for my Advanced Award in Employment Law at Level 7.
After my studies, I contacted my Employment Law Tutor and asked her what options were now open to me with my new qualification.
She directed me to the Institute of Paralegals. After reading the IOP website, I became excited to learn that I could work in the Legal profession, offering my clients and the Public legal services.
I had always wanted to work in the legal profession, but felt that in my younger days, my career choices would hold me back. However, this has not been the case and I am now a qualified and recognised Paralegal working in the legal sector.
What was your professional background before becoming a Paralegal?
Unlike the majority of Paralegals working in the legal sector, I did not go via the traditional route of working in a legal department or for a Solicitors Office.
I chose instead to work in the FMCG markets and then with the Veterinary Industry, offering outsourced HR and Training services as an independent Consultant.
As a Fellow member, you have access to a wide range of benefits including access to guidance and practice notes, a daily legal updater and many more to help you in your profession. Can you tell us about your experience using the services? Would you recommend it?
The IOP resources are very informative and have been essential for my Paralegal career to date. As a Paralegal it is essential to keep up to date with current legislation and learn about new cases.
The daily updater is really useful and educational and also keeps me in the loop with current case Law. It’s suitable for all Practising Paralegals who work in various sectors.
The practice notes and guidance have been very useful for assisting me to set up my own Paralegal Law Firm.
I also blog on the IOP Linked in area for Paralegals working within Employment Law. Members of this group have grown and individuals come from a wide variety of industry sectors.
Do you think that your membership with the IoP helped you when you were looking for a role/position/clients?
Membership of the IOP has certainly raised my Professional and Personal profile within the Legal sector.
My clients have the satisfaction that I am a Professional Paralegal working in the non - regulated sector but I am self -regulated by the IOP and PPR.org.
New clients have been impressed that I am a ‘Fellow’ Member of the IOP. It has given them the confidence to work with me to solve their complex cases.
How did you hear about IoP?
My Employment Law Tutor was very helpful and directed myself to the Institute of Paralegals. I then visited the IOP website and decided a legal career was definitely for me.
What made you decide that you wanted to become a member and how did you find your membership so far?
I decided to become a member of the IOP to pursue my legal ambition to become a practising Paralegal. This was a career change for myself and I wanted to belong to a reputable institute which had long term standing in the profession.
My membership has been really beneficial, and I have had lots of opportunities to bring my new career to life.
In 2018, I attended the PPR’s Conference where I was introduced to individual Paralegals working in all areas of the legal sector. The day was filled with plenty of opportunities to learn from specialist legal professionals in classroom environments.
Then in 2019, I attended LegalEx show at Excel London for two days, where I absorbed more information and attended talks by exhibitors around, Marketing, increasing clients and setting up a legal practice.
It was great for CPD and CPD certificates were issued by the event organisers to show continuing professional development.
As an-award winning paralegal, what do you think makes a great Paralegal?
A great Paralegal has to be qualified in their field of expertise and must keep up to date with their legal knowledge. In today’s legal sector, Paralegals must also excel in Customer expectations by offering more than is expected of them.
Clients want a great Paralegal to be personable and approachable and confident in giving legal advice to solve their problem at hand.
How did you find the application for Best Employment Law /HR Paralegal?
The Application for Best Employment Law /HR Paralegal was very straight forward in terms of process via the PPR.org website. The Application really made me think about my career to date and how my clients perceived my work. I also became aware of how far I had come in my Profession and the value I add as the 4th Arm of the Law. I recommend everyone to apply for 2020!
Can you tell us a bit about the night itself?
It was such a special night and the Mayfair hotel’s ‘Crystal Room’ was alive with excitement and beautifully decorated. The Champagne reception was a brilliant opportunity to mix and mingle with other paralegals from all over the country including my Peers.
On the evening, I was excited to have achieved reaching the finals of the first National Paralegal Awards. The other entries in my category for ‘Best Employment Law / HR Paralegal’ were of a very high standard.
At my table, I was seated with the award-winning Intellectual Property Paralegal amongst other finalists. When my category came up I was nervous, then, it was announced that I had won this prestigious award, I could not believe it. I was so proud and congratulated the others in my category, we were all Winners!
How did your colleagues/friends react?
My colleagues and friends were absolutely delighted for me and said that I had worked very hard over the years. They were pleased that I had been recognised for all my work and dedication to my career. I didn’t get to bed until 3am after the awards, as I was texting and emailing everyone about my night.
What advice would you give a Paralegal who is just starting their career?
My advice to all Paralegals just starting out in their career, is to aim high professionally, offer excellent customer service, to exceed clients’ expectations and continue learning on the job. The job opportunities for Paralegals are plentiful as the Legal sector is growing due to reform.
Many Paralegals study and go onto become Solicitors in their law firms or work in the Voluntary sectors, helping society in general. It is important for Paralegals to be focused on their career direction and ambitions, early on.
And finally, what do you like most about your profession?
I really like being able to solve my clients complex legal cases as an Employment Law Paralegal. I believe that everyone in society has the right to legal advice and support.
Being a Professional Paralegal in the non-regulated sector enables me to assist individuals who may not be able to gain legal advice in the conventional manner.
The people in the legal sector are also friendly and helpful, which makes for great networking too!
Thank you, Michael for taking the time to speak to us and we wish you all the best in your career.
If you are inspired by Michael’s story and are interested in becoming a Paralegal and a member of the IoP, please take a look at our website. To find out more about our Membership Benefits, Membership grades and the associated fees and how we can help you with your career, take a look at our website or contact us at [email protected] or on 0144 2508 205.