Paralegal of the Year Finalist Emma MacKenzie
Published March 3, 2020
The second finalist for the Paralegal of the Year Award is Emma MacKenzie from Gilson Gray. Our own Louise Waddell (Business Development Manager for Edinburgh, East Lothian and Fife) caught up with Emma to find out more about her journey as a paralegal:
Emma began her career in the 90’s when the role of the paralegal was still developing. At that point, most firms had well defined roles for the Legal Secretary and for the Solicitor, but the Paralegal role was less formally documented. Her first paralegal job was at Morton Fraser where she was given the chance to work out where the paralegal sat in conveyancing department and what that post would look like.
Fast forward a few years and Emma is now the Senior Paralegal at Gilson Gray. She joined as Gilson Gray were setting up their residential arm and has been instrumental in developing how the department now runs. On a day-to-day she manages her own case load, but since her promotion to senior paralegal, she now has a Team Leader position and sits on the management team.
With the ambitious growth that Gilson Gray has displayed since it formed less than 6 years ago, Emma has been influential in developing where the paralegal team sits in delivering top quality, cost effective residential conveyancing. With one foot in operations and another in management, she is now working on putting together a defined training program for paralegals joining Gilson Gray. This will give junior paralegals a structure to work through a defined career ladder much like their fully qualified colleagues. She is also very involved in developing the digital side of their practice, working closely with their case management provider to develop a system that works for them.
Asked what her favorite part of the role was, Emma said it was still working directly with clients, particularly first-time buyers. ‘Generally, they don’t really know what they are doing and although there is more work involved in helping them through the process of buying their first property, there is huge satisfaction in making the call to let them know when to pick up their keys – often getting screams of delight down the phone!’
Having been practicing for more than 20 years, Emma has seen a lot change. One of the biggest changes is how much is done electronically, and she admits she would be lost without email! It does also mean that the amount of face-to-face time with clients is less, with so much being done via email and telephone. Another big change is the increase in compliance and the amount of time that is spent on money laundering checks.
Asked what tips she would give to paralegals starting their career, Emma said, without hesitation, ‘Pick your firm with care. Pick somewhere that will invest in your career, that will train you and will provide you with opportunities to climb a career ladder. Find somewhere that is forward looking that gives you that room to grow.’ You can guess which firm she picked out as a shining example of this…!
Outside of work, Emma is a keen runner and cyclist, both of which are easy activities to squeeze around looking after her two girls.