#sheffvista 102 Dr Nadia Charest, Legal Assistant

Each Friday we post a new v i s t a profile, a career beyond the academy story (use the tags at the bottom of the post to find the entire list). These posts accompany our curated events to support post-PhD career transitions, v i s t a mentoring, and also #sheffvista on Twitter.

Job title and company: Legal Assistant at Cabinet Prévost Lussier Inc., Canada

Approximate salary range for your type of role: Whatever you can negotiate, but usually between 31,000$ and 40,000 $CAD per annum (I am in the 35,000 $CAD range)

To be perfectly honest, the road leading to where I am sitting now was not a particularly easy one. I was never particularly interested in staying in academia, however I had always dreamed big for how I wanted to continue nurturing my research post doctoral degree. Destiny, however, had other plans for me.

Returning home to Canada was met with the difficulty of finding a job. The recession made any potential jobs available prior to my PhD almost non-existent without fantastic contacts within Canada. As such, I pushed aside my disappointment and fell back on my non-academic work experience. I eventually found a job (which I stayed at for about a year but with no advancement opportunities, I grew bored), which led to another job, which led to another job and finally to this job.

Nowadays, I am a legal assistant for a Notary (or Solicitors for you, my English friends) firm. My job title sits above administrative assistant (my previous role in the company), but below paralegal. My main role is writing up annual updates for the Corporate and Trust Record Books of individual Corporations and/or Trusts for our clients. What does that mean? It means that I am responsible for making sure that I ask accountants for the financial statements of an approximate 181 Trusts and 200 Corporate books at the end of each of their financial year in order to assess what dividends (if any) were paid out, to who, when and under what share class. By Quebec and Canadian law, these details must be noted and signed for annually in the Record Book. The picture below shows a little bit what my desk looks like when dealing with the updates for a client’s full corporate structure.


I am also responsible for invoicing the clients once their updates have been made. Otherwise, I work on smaller files (as I am still learning the paralegal side of things); usually for Anglophone clients. I mention the language factor as the majority of my colleagues (we are an office of seven… including my two bosses!) are Francophone with limited English. In other words, I translate legal documents (from the French), do English correspondence verification for my colleagues, and do most of the liaising with our Anglo affiliates (e.g. Banks, Lawyers, etc).

Transferring from academia to my current job wasn’t all that difficult. The hardest part was accepting that my aspiration to be an Archaeologist was not to be. But once I weighed the pros of having a stable income and working “regular” hours against the probable seasonal work and long work days that accompany doing field Archaeology and/or being an academic, acceptance was inevitable. The change in direction also allowed me to fulfil another dream – to be a mum – without battling feelings of guilty (which I know I would have felt!) for being an absent parent in order to fulfil my professional dreams. Also, in my new job, I am always learning and being challenged. For me, that is key to job fulfilment!

My doctoral studies have provided me with many transferable skills that have helped me in my current role. Notably my organisational skills, communication skills (after all, it is all about how you ask for something that makes it attainable or not) and my ability to handle stressful situations (and people!). Also, perseverance. It is also through perseverance that I am slowly returning to Archaeology. Seven years post degree and I am dipping my toes back in the waters; venturing down the publications road.

What are my words of wisdom to researchers leaving academia? Accept your new role and play to your strengths! Trust that life will lead you to where you are meant to be.

#whatwillbewillbe #acceptance #nevergiveup #newdreams

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