Q&A with Breanna Worton: Legal PA of the Year Finalist

Published on: 30 Jun 2022

Last year, we caught up with Legal PA, Breanna Worton, one of the PA of the Year finalists in 2021. In this Q&A you can find out about Breanna’s journey to coming a Legal PA, the incredible work she has done in her role at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, and her experience of being a finalist at the SecsintheCity PA of the Year Awards.

PAOTY Q&A Breanna Worton Headshot

How did you become a Legal PA?

At secondary school, I remember having completed my first year of sixth form and telling my parents how much I hated it. I didn't want to be in a school environment anymore and was just eager to start my career.  It was my dear mum that gave me a "get real" moment and told me I was naturally good at organising and arranging people.  This skill naturally must have come from bossing my little brother about!  Because of this advice, I spent a whole evening looking at local colleges and what courses they offered, when I saw ILEX City & guilds legal secretarial course – my eyes widened.  I read about the course and it just sounded perfect, I googled and searched for different jobs and checked out job specs and what you would wear in the corporate environment, all of it sounded really exciting so I enrolled!

It was a 2 year course, I completed it and got my first (career focused) job in 2012, and from then on it's just got better!

What can you tell us about your role at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer?

I've been with the firm since 2019 and first started working for my current team just as the UK went into lockdown.  This meant I had to build relationships with my stakeholders in a virtual environment.  Fortunately for me, I was able to show off my tech skills very early on.

My role is incredibly varied.  I work for 7 amazing Practice Group Managers who challenge and inspire me in so many different ways.  I feel extremely valued and respected in my role. 

My PGMs give me the opportunity to be the best EA I can be; I represent them on a daily basis by being a role model to other assistants, draft/send emails on their behalf, be fully involved in their projects where I join meetings, provide feedback and contribute to the work from an assistant's perspective, remind them of deadlines and proactively chase things up so they don't have to.  Extensive diary management feels like an understatement because between them they manage around 185 assistants, liaise with the fee earners/partners in their practices whilst keeping on top of their day to day tasks – it really is a busy, fast paced environment!

What do you love about being a Legal PA?

I naturally love helping people and giving ideas on how to improve things, creating and organising is my thing, I am the annoying person that goes on holiday and finds spelling mistakes in the food menus… I'm sure many assistants can relate to that one!  My family always come to me for help with documents whether it's formatting or spell checking.  I think I've created a CV for most of my close relatives!  There is something addictive about creating a beautifully presented, formatted document and seeing the impressed look on someone's face.  I live for it!  On top of that the skills we use in our corporate world we can apply to our personal lives, for example I have Excel spreadsheets for my personal banking, budgeting for Christmas, Birthdays, check lists so we don't forget anyone etc.  The fact that we can combine our skills to benefit us in both home life and work life is brilliant.  What's not to love?

Your nomination opened with ‘Breanna is a force of nature.’ How does it feel to receive recognition like that?

We have thousands of words in the English language and I'm still struggling to find the right ones to use.  I laughed and it brought tears to my eyes.  I'm passionate about my career and strive to be the best (a little healthy competition never hurt anyone).  It really is the best feeling to hear that your stakeholders recognise how hard you are working.  I will remember this moment forever.

How did you find the PA of the Year Awards interview process?

The interview process was great!  I was put at ease right from the beginning which made the interview really enjoyable and fun.  It was just as well it was scheduled for 30 minutes because I could have talked for much longer!

Do you have any interesting or funny stories from your time as a Legal PA?

I used to work for an individual who was head of finance, he was a fabulous person but very 'to the point'.  He was telling me how he was struggling for time and didn't know what to work on next… we carried on talking and I let him de-stress.  To help him, I decided to put together a presentation for a meeting he was hosting for a charity event that had come to an end.  I added speaker notes along with pictures from the event and sent it over to him.  I remember seeing him run out of his office and say "is this the best you can do?  Because it's absolutely incredible!". 

The first 7 words of that sentence terrified me, until he laughed out the next 4.  He was more relieved than anything and was so happy and shocked that I had just done this out of the blue.  It's a fond memory and I often laugh when I think about his reaction, moments like that is why I love my job.

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.

Assistants are secret heroes behind the scenes.  We spend endless hours making our bosses look good, protecting their time, anticipating their needs and driving their projects/day to day tasks forward. 

We know our bosses so well that we see a small amount of information and know what our boss is going to ask us before they ask it. 

We are advocates for our bosses' work, someone our boss can trust and talk to on a personal level as well as a corporate level and a point of contact for everything they are involved in.

What advice would you give to other Personal Assistants hoping to enter the 2022 PA of the Year Awards?

Keep shining and doing the best you possibly can.  Volunteer for tasks outside of your own role, help others and find individuals that inspire you, learn from them and pass that knowledge on. 

Write down your achievements as and when they happen and remember your hard work is appreciated, even if your stakeholders do not always voice it.

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.

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