We took a call yesterday from a solicitors firm somewhere in England and Wales, and the conversation went as follows:
“Hello I wonder if you can help, we’re looking for a family paralegal.”
“Yes sure, can you give me a bit more information please?”
“Yes, we would like a paralegal who’s able to assist with Legal Aid work, attend court to apply for non-molestation orders and travel to see clients.”
“Okay, and what sort of salary are you looking at paying?”
“About £16-17k we think, and it’s a fulltime permanent role.”
All sounds perfectly harmless and a fairly normal telephone call about a paralegal role. However, the conversation then took a slight turn which was not expected.
“By the way, I forgot to say that this role probably needs to be filled by a man.”
“Oh. Can you tell me why you would say that?”
“Because the paralegal will be dealing with a lot of non-molestation order applications and will have to travel to court a lot.”
As you would probably expect, our consultant was a bit taken aback by this. Firstly, as any sharp-eyed reader of this article would have spotted, this is illegal and we cannot possibly advertise vacancies looking for men to do roles because the firm think for some reason they would be better at non-molestation order applications and travelling to court a lot.
What on earth possessed a solicitors firm to ring up an agency and make such a request?
Why on earth would anyone think that a man was somehow better suited to making applications for non-molestation orders and travelling to court?
Personally, I would have thought they would be better looking for a paralegal who actually has experience of doing these, and being that there is such a shortage of anyone who has done Legal Aid work in the last 10 years, that they should be grateful with anyone at all who expresses an interest, particularly at the fairly paltry salary they’re offering for someone who is likely to need specific and fairly specialist experience.
The firm did change their mind on the man bit when challenged by our consultant and informed that there was no way we could possibly assist with such a vacancy, but it does leave the question hanging as to why a man would be preferred to a woman to do this particular role?
In fact it is a bit different to the norm, because in the past we have had phone calls from family solicitors firms who have specifically pointed us to their website and asked us to consider the make-up of their practice before sending across CV’s. It hasn’t taken long to work out that some family law firms have no men working there.
Quite why any solicitors firm or any employer would want a particular person of a particular sex to do a role rather than the best person to do the job is frankly beyond me.