Name – Jo (requested surname to be withheld)
Current Occupation (and Title, if relevant) – Solicitor
1. Why did you decide you wanted to be a solicitor?
I undertook an undergraduate law degree with a view to enrolling with the police within their accelerated graduate scheme, over the three years I considered training to be a solicitor and completed the LPC.
2. What academic route did you take to qualify as a solicitor? Would you do it differently if you had your time again?
I initially took art and psychology A-Levels with a view to becoming a designer or criminal psychologist, one psychology module involved law and this is where my interest in the law started. I took a year to work, followed by a year travelling before commencing my degree. This suited me very well as I was unsure what I wanted to do, but would recommend that if you know which direction you want to go, then completing your degree before doing any travel would be the better way to go as re-entering the education system after 3 years was difficult. I completed the LPC part-time, whilst working as a legal assistant. I found that ultimately that gave me the edge over other applicants who had gone straight through the education system and completed the LPC full time, so it is a question of getting the right balance.
3. How did you find it securing a training contract/articles?
Very difficult; many places recruit 2 – 3 years in advance and want at least 2:1 qualification at degree level, other firms advertise for paralegal, legal assistant roles with a view to obtaining a training contract after 12 months or so. You will find that once employed there are several others already there all trying to gain the elusive training contract, usually 12 applicants for just 2 places and therefore you have to wait another 12 months for the next intake, which you may not necessarily get.
4. What sort of firm did you do your training contract/articles with?
A very small boutique property firm. There were only 12 employees in total and only I was in the position of gaining a training contract. Again I was employed as a paralegal initially and was given a training contract after 4 months. However, this was over 18 months after finishing my LPC and I had been applying for training contracts since my second year of my degree (3 years in total).
5. What sort of law did you practise after qualifying as a solicitor?
Initially commercial property and property finance, I have moved slightly and now deal with non-contentious contract, construction and procurement matters.
6. What legal jobs have you had since qualifying?
Upon qualifying I moved to a top 50 firm as an assistant solicitor and was made redundant after 18 months due to the market. I have since gained employment as a solicitor within local government, which is my current role.
7. What’s the best thing and the worst thing about being a solicitor for you?
Deadlines and the pressure therefrom and the volume of work which are the worst aspect of the job, in private practice you have this, together with the working hours involved where 12 hour days tend to be the norm. The best thing is qualifying, years of education and training to eventually be classed as a solicitor. Regardless of what type of law your specialise in there is enormous job satisfaction when you complete a deal (or successfully prosecute someone, win a case etc).
8. Would you consider you are in a career for life or do you think you might want to try something different at some stage? If so, what?
I have had several friends who after 10 years of qualification and working as a solicitor then decide that they wish to re-train into something they have always wanted to do (journalist, recruitment consultant etc). But then after some time of re-training or trying to find a suitable position with no experience in the new area, they have ultimately reverted to being a solicitor again as they have realised that although there is pressure, once you are qualified you do have a job for life, they have come back to it with new vigour. I do not plan to change my career at all, having worked so hard to get here.
9. What advice would you give to law students and trainee solicitors today? Is there anything else you would like to add?
Obtaining a training contract can be very difficult, on many occasions and for smaller firms it can be case of who you know rather than what you know. The good news is that once you are qualified as a solicitor, it doesn’t really matter what grades you obtained at GCSE, A Level or degree, it is purely based on what type of experience you have had and how hard you work. As long as you continue to push yourselves you will do well.