Legal PA of the Year - Joanne Wilson, Legal PA at Hall Brown Family Law

Last November, Joanne Wilson was named Legal PA of the Year at SecsintheCity’s PA of the Year Awards 2019. Joanne is a Fellowship Member of the Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs.

After the ceremony, SecsintheCity caught up with Joanne to learn more about her career to date and her current role at Hall Brown Family Law, plus the advice she has for aspiring Legal PAs.

How did you become a Legal PA?

I became a Legal PA quite by accident – but a very happy one. I had no idea what I wanted to do when I left school and back in the 1980s there was a government funded/subsidised scheme very similar to an apprenticeship called a “Youth Training Scheme” which placed school leavers in jobs on a very low subsidised wage. My mum was one of the YTS tutors, so after two weeks’ training on basic office skills with her, I was fortunate enough to be placed with a firm of high street solicitors not too far from home. I stayed training on the scheme with this firm for just under a year before I left at the age of 17 to join a large Manchester City Centre firm as PA to a Partner – this is the firm where I stayed for 28 years before leaving to embark on my present role at Hall Brown Family Law.

Legal Secretary Vacancies January 2020

Here is a selection of vacancies from our Legal Secretary Jobs Board this month:

Conveyancing Legal Secretary – G2 Legal Limited

Location: Nottingham

Salary: Competitive  

A highly-regarded, regional firm are looking for an experienced legal secretary to join their Conveyancing Team in West Bridgford.

View the full job description here:  

Legal PA – Criminal – Owen Reed  

Location: Central London

Salary: £35,000 - £37,000

Owen Reed are recruiting for a Legal PA to join a top London law firm.  The Legal PA will work within the Criminal team.

The Legal PA will report to the PA Team Leader and Secretarial Services Manager.  The Legal PA will provide the first and main point of contact for fee earners to help them do their work efficiently and well.

View the full job description here:  

Conveyancing Legal Secretary – Guillaumes LLP

Location: Weybridge

Salary: £22,000 - £26,000

New Year, New Skills

The start of a new year is the perfect time to think about the skills you would like to acquire to advance your career. It provides you with a fresh start, which can give you clarity about what you want to achieve. Whether you are new to the profession or you have been working as a Legal Secretary for many years, there are always skills you can develop to improve the quality of your work.

In line with our article on continuing professional development, we have produced a list of five skills that you could consider honing this year:

The Importance of Continuing Professional Development

2020 has arrived and it’s a great time to have a think about the ways in which you can develop yourself professionally this year. The new year offers a clean slate where you can see things clearly and focus on improving your professional working life.

In order to be a competent and efficient Legal Secretary, you need to have impeccable skills. There are many different areas which you could consider improving, including your secretarial, legal or IT skills. Our New Year, New Skills article can give you some guidance with this. Whether you are new to the profession or you are an experienced Legal Secretary, there are always ways in which you can improve to be better at your job.

Law Making in 2020

This month we will consider the Queen’s speech which took place towards the end of 2019 and what new laws we might expect to see in 2020.

The Queen usually only attends Parliament on ceremonial occasions. Last year, she was present at the State Opening of Parliament, where the start of the parliamentary year was marked. At the state opening, the Queen read out her speech from the throne in the House of Lords Chamber. To be more precise, the speech was not actually the Queen’s own words; it had been prepared for her by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. The Queen’s speech normally happens once a year, but the last one happened in June 2017 because the Prime Minister at that time, Theresa May, wanted a two-year parliamentary session.

In the Queen’s speech, 26 bills were set out by the government. These bills included proposals to create seven pieces of Brexit-related legislation; seven criminal justice bills; plans for an independent NHS investigations body; an environment bill which set legally binding “improvement targets”; proposed reforms to the divorce laws; and changes in employment law to require waiting staff to be given “all tips”.

ILSPA’s Royal Courts of Justice Tour

ILSPA’s tour of the Royal Courts of Justice has always been a popular and interesting element of our Legal Secretaries Diploma course. Over the years hundreds of Students have benefited from attending a unique and specifically tailored tour from our Patron and former evening class tutor, Amanda Hamilton. Our guided tour is created to help Students put their learning material into perspective and really understand the court system and processes they are being taught.

As of 2020, our tour will now take place once a month on a Wednesday. We have just announced a new list of dates, which you can view on the Royal Courts of Justice tour page located in the Student Resources section of our online Student and Member area.

The day begins with a structured tour of the wider area of “Legal London”. This is the wonderful maze of buildings, gardens and courtyards surrounding the Royal Courts of Justice – including one of the oldest buildings in London, dating back to 1185. It also contains a fountain which was dedicated to Amanda Hamilton’s grandfather. She refers to it as her “family fountain”.

Can a Contract be Created by Email?

The law of contract has slowly been developing in line with changes in the way people enter into contracts and use technology to communicate. One recent example of these changes is how the law treats a contract made by email. Some have argued that an exchange of informal emails would not be enough to create a formal legal relationship, but they are sadly mistaken based on recent case law developments.

If we first take a step backwards and review how contracts are formed, there are four main elements to creating a legally binding relationship (i.e. a contract): 1) there must be an offer; 2) that offer must be accepted; 3) there must be “consideration” (something of value exchanged); and 4) the parties must intend to enter into a contract. There is no general requirement that a contract must be in writing bar a few exceptions, such as the purchase of land. Nor is there any restriction on reaching a contractual agreement by email. In fact, in the case of Nicholas Prestige Homes v Neal (2010), the Court of Appeal provided a precedent confirming that all the elements needed to create a contract could be satisfied by an exchange of emails.

How to Create a Legal Cover Letter

The legal sector is highly competitive so securing an interview requires a strong CV and a cover letter that grabs the employer’s attention. This article by Simply Law Jobs set out how to write an impressive and interesting cover letter to help you stand out from the crowd.

What should a cover letter do?

The aim of a legal cover letter is to firstly show off your legal knowledge and secondly demonstrate that you have conducted thorough research into the company you are applying to. You should always write a new cover letter for each role that you apply for.

It should highlight your key skills, experience and general personality to show why you are a good fit for the company and the role. Take a look at the company website to help you see what their aims and company ethos is to help you show this.

It should also emphasise why you want to work for the company in question and why the role appeals to you.


How to Round Up 2019 for a Great Start to 2020

December is here and Christmas and the new year are just around the corner. Hopefully, you are all looking forward to a well-earned rest over the holiday period, but there are still a few weeks left to work through before we can put our feet up. The end of the year can be a busy and rather hectic time for law firms. It can be hard to think about the little things that may need doing. Here are a few tips to really help you round up the year and set yourself up for 2020 while you’re at it.

Take a look at your CPD

Continuing professional development is just as important for Legal Secretaries as it is for fee earners. Many of you will have been working on various things this year which count as CPD, so now is the time to take stock and submit your CPD application (if you haven’t done so already). It is great to get this ticked off before the end of the year rather than letting it roll over. Doing so allows you to see where any areas in your professional development need improvement so you can add these to next year’s CPD goals.

Get organised

ILSPA’s New Online Webinar Classes

The Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs is delighted to be offering new online webinar classes, which start on Tuesday 7 January 2020. Webinars have become a very popular form of learning due to the growth of virtual communication.

ILSPA now provides three study method options for our Legal Secretaries Diploma course. You can study through evening classes in London, online webinar classes or online via distance learning.

The beauty of our new option is that you can study our course from the comfort of your own home as well as being taught by one of our tutors. Our online webinar classes enable you to have an interactive experience, where you can communicate with your tutor and be part of a group of Students. It is a great blend of our evening classes and our distance learning courses.

Our online webinar classes are the perfect option for someone who is thinking about studying our distance learning course but doesn’t want to miss out on having a tutor. It is also beneficial for those who are unable to attend the evening class as they live outside London or overseas. With the ability to login to our classes from wherever you are, you have access to a very beneficial and flexible form of study.