“20 Questions with…Natalia Skonieczka”

Natalia Skonieczka | Paralegal at Brodies LLP

Our next guest is Natalia Skonieczka. Natalia undertook her LLB at Napier and went on to complete the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice at the University of Edinburgh. In her third year, Natalia bravely ventured to San Diego State University studying Criminal Justice and Law in Society in America. Currently, Natalia is working as a Paralegal with Brodies LLP. Natalia has shared her journey hoping to inspire future law students considering a career as a paralegal.

1. Tell us a bit about your background. What university did you attend? Did you take a year abroad? What were your favourite/worst subjects in university? Did you participate in any societies?

I moved from Poland to Scotland at the age of ten and grew up in Dumfries. After high school, I studied HNC Legal Services at Edinburgh College.

I then went on to study the LLB at Edinburgh Napier University – the best four years of my life!  My favourite subjects were EU law, company law, and international law. And of course, any modules led by Richard*. Throughout my four years, I was a keen participant of the Edinburgh Napier Law & Mooting Society. In my third year, I was the Vice President of Mooting and then in fourth year, the Vice President of the Society.

2. You participated in a student exchange programme with San Diego State University in your third year; what was that experience like for you? Would you recommend studying abroad to other students?

Living in California has always been on my bucket list and living the American college dream was quite the experience. I was enrolled in the Criminal Justice course and enjoyed learning about criminal law and law in society in America.

In the beginning, I wasn’t sure if I should go as none of my friends wanted to go with me. Going solo actually made me interact with people more than I would otherwise, as I knew that I would be stuck in America for a whole semester with no friends. I made life-long friends from all over the world, with who I keep in touch regularly to this day.

Participating in a study exchange programme is not only great for meeting friends and having fun but also useful when applying for jobs and in interviews. It is all about those transferrable skills.

My advice to anyone reading this: DO IT! You will not regret it.

3. What made you choose to pursue a career in the legal profession?

I have always enjoyed problem-solving, reading, and research. In high school, I was not sure what I wanted to do and so I shadowed a solicitor in a local law firm. I really admired how knowledgeable he was and decided that I would like to pursue a career in law.

4. You completed your Diploma in Professional Legal Practice at the University of Edinburgh; how did you find the course? How does studying the Diploma compare to studying the LLB? Would you recommend applying to the University of Edinburgh?

Compared to the LLB, the Diploma is a very practical course. It is also quite challenging and time-consuming

There is a lot to prepare every week for each module so being organised and knowing how to manage your time is key.

I think that studying the Diploma at the University of Edinburgh has prepared me for working in a law firm. I find myself using notes from lectures for reference. So, yes I would recommend it!

5. When applying for roles after graduation, how did you find the process? Did you already have a lot of experience before applying?

I found the process extremely tough and stressful. I completed an internship during my third year and I did some work shadowing in between.

6. Did you always know you wanted to be a Paralegal in your career? Do you think enough was done to address the alternative career options available in the legal profession? Do you have any ideas on how more awareness can be given to students?

Definitely not! It just happened and I am glad it did.  I believe that it would be beneficial to provide information to students about alternative options. Just like we are given plenty of information about traineeships, we should also be given plenty of information about other options.

7. What advice would you give yourself as a law student looking back now?

Continuously maintain good notes throughout the semester, it saves so much time when it comes to exams! 

8. What does your role as a Paralegal at Brodies LLP look like day-to-day? Do you get to work with partners or have any client contact?

Paralegals are given a lot of responsibility over own matters so this involves a great deal of direct client contact. All matters are supervised by a partner so you work with them every day. The partners at Brodies are very approachable, you can ask them anything.

9. What is the most rewarding part of your role?

When working on executory administration, you work with people who are going through the loss of a loved one. It is rewarding to be able to assist them at such a difficult time and explain the legal process to them.

10. What is your work/life balance like? Do you find that your workload has increased or decreased since the pandemic?

The work is steady, and I have not found myself working past 5pm. I believe that if you organise yourself appropriately, you can always manage your workload.

11. What is the firm culture like at Brodies LLP? Do you see yourself working here for the foreseeable future?

Brodies lives by its core values of courage, character, care, collaboration, and collegiate. These values are supported by the whole firm and create a supportive and enjoyable work environment. It is a great place to work!  

12. With mental health awareness becoming more of a priority for law students and subsequently law firms; do you think there is an element of recognition and adequate help at Brodies LLP for their employees?

Brodies has launched a platform and employee assistance program which is designed to help with mental, financial, and physical well-being.

13. In your opinion, what are the most important skills required to be a successful Paralegal?

Self-motivated, ability to prioritise work, and great communication skills.

14. You started as a Paralegal with Brodies in July 2021; have you been able to work in the office or are you based primarily at home?

I am currently based at home and have been in the office once. We are allowed to work in the office as much as we want but it is not yet mandatory.

15. How do you feel about the future of the legal profession? Do you think dealing with clients will become more virtual permanently?

Yes! Meetings through Microsoft Teams save journey time for both parties.

16. How do you stay commercially aware with current events and what would you recommend for students?

Reading the news is important. I know how hard it is to keep up with everything that goes on but maybe finding a news podcast that summarises what is happening is a good idea.

17. How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Ambitious, enthusiastic, and organised.

18. What is your proudest achievement?

Finishing university and getting a job as a paralegal!

19. What is your favourite pastime/hobby you like to do in your spare time? Are you watching a Television series at the moment?

I enjoy going to the gym, long walks and cooking.

I am currently watching: The Fall, The Walking Dead, Unsolved Mysteries, Turning Point – 9/11 and the War on Terror.

20. If you could write a book/film about your life, what would the title be and why?

‘A journey around the globe with Natalia Skonieczka’

 

*Dr Richard Whitecross, Professor of Law at Edinburgh Napier University.

Interviewed by Sean Doig (President 2021/22). We would like to thank Natalia Skonieczka for taking the time out of her busy schedule to participate in the interview for the Law Review. If you would like to participate in an interview with the Law Review, please do not hesitate to contact us at ednapier.lawreview@gmail.com.

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