Last year, we caught up with Legal PA, Aaron Bailey, one of the PA of the Year finalists in 2021. In this Q&A you can find out about Aarons’s journey to becoming a Legal PA, the incredible work he has done for the LGBTQ+ community, and his experience of being a finalist at the SecsintheCity PA of the Year Awards.
How did you become a Legal PA?
I became a Legal PA by pure coincidence and opportunity – I used to be an actor and simultaneously worked a variety of temp contracts, amassing quite a wealth of clerical support experience along the way. During my first week on assignment as a receptionist at a French boutique firm, one of the secretaries was leaving but a replacement was yet to be recruited, so I offered my skills for the interim until they hired a new secretary. Four months later, a new secretary was hired, and my contract had come to an end (I wasn’t kept on as I don’t speak French). Happy to go back to looking for reception/admin support roles, I reached out to recruiters who were excited by my newly acquired secretarial experience, and exclusively put me forward for secretarial/PA roles and I have been a Legal PA since then.
What can you tell us about your role at Freshfields?
My role at Freshfields isn’t the typical Legal PA role, as I take on quite a lot of extracurricular – I mentor students on several work experience schemes, I’m a committee member of the London office’s Halo Network (a network for LGBTQIA+ colleagues), I’ve chaired the social committee for several teams and I have also previously run the firm’s Sailing Club. For the official aspect of my role, I support ten mixed level solicitors in the Financial Institutions Disputes Group (FIDG), providing support wherever I can to enable my solicitors to do their job effectively.
What do you love about being an Legal PA?
The thing I love about a Legal PA, is the first-hand exposure to high-profile matters. Getting to see the ‘behind the scenes’ of how solicitors operate and seeing how your contributions have a huge impact on the work they do, are by far the most rewarding parts of being a Legal PA.
In your nomination you talk about the initiatives you both lead and are a part of. Can you tell us a bit more about these?
One of the most interesting initiatives I have been a part of, was the Restructuring & Insolvency group’s ‘Pipeline project’ – this is a market monitoring exercise in which my role was to do research on entities flagged as potentially facing financial crisis, compiling extensive reports based on this research and drafting pitches for these entities once sufficient data had been obtained. From my contribution on this initiative, we secured four huge mandates for the firm.
Another initiative I am particularly proud of, is the Aspiring Professionals Programme for which I provide one to one mentorship to a college student, helping them prepare for the university application process, provide insight into the operation of a law firm and give job application coaching.
How did you find the PA of the Year Awards interview process?
I found the PA of the Year Awards interview process to be very relaxed and it was a pleasure meeting the panel – again, I must apologise for being so full of cold!
Do you have any interesting or funny stories from your time as a Legal PA?
During my time as a Legal PA there are many funny stories I could share – one that always comes to mind is working for a very particular Associate. This Associate was a big fan of printing and liked having all of his work laid out in front of him hardcopy and would often use the floor as an extension of his working space. Working late one evening, I walked into his office to return some work we had been working on back and forth throughout the day, and I had not anticipated that he would still have his paperwork laid out across the floor. Suddenly, I slipped, both legs in the air, and I landed on the floor with a loud thud and as I lay there, I thought “Is this what I signed up for?”.
It would be amazing if you could tell us in your own words why PAs are so essential to the organisations and individuals they work for.
I believe PAs are so essential to organisations and the individuals they work for because, whilst lawyers are legal specialists, I find them not to be admin specialists. PAs alleviate the admin burden from those who they support, so then lawyers can focus on their job, which is to provide a great service to their clients and generate revenue for the firm. Without solid PA support, this could be somewhat impossible to do.
What advice would you give to other Personal Assistants hoping to enter the 2022 PA of the Year Awards?
I would advise other PAs hoping to enter the 2022 PA of the Year Awards, to do it! Even if you have to nominate yourself, there’s still validity in doing so. The award gives recognition to what can sometimes be a thankless and overlooked role.
If you are a Personal Assistant who deserves recognition, or if you know someone who is exceptional, please submit a nomination for this year's awards here.