How I became a trainee solicitor

My reasons for considering a career in the law may not be as inspirational as some. The idea was first put into my head by several of my teachers at secondary school commenting that my argumentative nature would suit the profession. This opinion was echoed by my family members and I am sure my long suffering fiancée wouldn’t disagree either.

I decided to explore this career option during my year 10 work experience. I spent two weeks at a firm in my hometown and thoroughly enjoyed my time there. Although the work was not overly legal I gained a real insight into how a practice runs on a day-to-day basis and, from then on, a legal career was my focus.

My path toward family law

I studied my LLB at Keele Univeristy and the three years flew by. Before I knew it, it was April 2012 and I was about to sit my finals. At this point, I honestly hadn’t given a massive amount of thought to training contracts. I had managed to secure a place on the LPC to start September 2012 but, after a lot of thought and consideration, decided that it would be best to defer the LPC for a year. This would give me the chance to earn some money to help pay for the LPC and to re-motivate myself. Third year really took its toll on my enthusiasm for the law!

My reason for not applying for training contracts was simply that I didn’t know what I wanted. There are so many different firm structures and areas of law that I didn’t see how I could tie myself down or make a decision without knowing more about what was out there. The law you learn at University is very different to the LPC or practice. It wasn’t until my year out working that I started to get more of an idea of the kind of solicitor I wanted to be. It was more a process of elimination than a ‘eureka moment’ but with each different area of law I experienced I could definitively say that it wasn’t for me.

Throughout University I was drawn to Family Law, choosing modules which complimented this area. However, it wasn’t until I started the LPC that I truly realised that this was the area for me.

 

When I first started the LPC..

I didn’t know what to expect. I had been told so many contradictory things by former LPC students. The jump from studying my LLB to the LPC was huge; the style of work, teaching and learning is completely different. It was no longer about how much case law you can regurgitate and so much more to do with your application of the law to facts. I was relieved, although it was an extremely intense nine months. I really felt like I was becoming a legal professional. I felt so much more prepared for starting a job in the legal sector than I did when I started.

It was during the second term of my LPC that I decided family law would be my focus. I took the family law module and I finally found a subject where everything made complete sense! All the other LPC subjects had been fairly easy to study but Family Law just clicked. This now meant that I could really focus my attention on the right kind of firm and I found that my applications had improved one hundred fold! It is so much easier to convince someone that you are right for their firm when you truly believe in what you are saying!

 

My transition into trainee life was fairly straightforward and quick.

I finished the LPC in June 2014 and started a job at a legal aid firm immediately. During my time there, I saw the advertisement for a trainee position at Stowe Family Law and sent my CV and a covering letter off, no application forms with trick questions. I was called for an interview shortly after and then attended the Harrogate office for a trial against another candidate and within a month I started.

Throughout my whole trial I questioned everything I did, even things that were second nature to me in my previous job. I think that is just the nature of the sector. We are taught from the moment that we start our LLBs, even before that when we are applying to universities, that we have to be the best.

If you were a larger fish in small pond, like I was at secondary school, it is quite an adjustment being surrounded by thousands of people just as clever and just as experienced as you are. I found that I got into the habit of constantly comparing myself to those around me. What I had learnt by the time I got my training contract though, was that this is pointless. Landing a training contract can be just as much to do with luck as ability. I very easily could have missed the advertisement for my training contract, or had a job not conveniently around the corner and not been able to sneak off for my interview in my lunch break.

What differentiates one law student from another is very often minimal and sometimes it can just come down to timing of applications or advertisements. Many law firms won’t just look at experience and ability but will look at your personality. Finding a trainee that will not only fit in with colleagues but will also fit in with the firm ethos is important to employers. They want to find a candidate that they know will approach things in the same way they would, so it is important to research firms’ reputations. If they are known to take an aggressive approach, it’s important to ask yourself whether this is the type of solicitor you want and can be. Work experience is an excellent way of gauging what a firm is like as a website will only show you so much. Actually spending a week in the environment will often show you whether you would be a good fit.

The most important thing to do though is persevere. Not many of my LPC class had training contracts when we started the LPC and I know many now that still don’t have them. It’s very hard not to give up and I had many wobbles along the way but as soon as I had a clear vision in my head of what I wanted it all became a lot easier. I was more motivated, I had more focus on what  I was aiming for and more importantly I had the confidence that it was the right move for me.

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