The journey to Trainee Solicitor


12th January 2022

For the aspiring solicitor it is the ultimate goal. From the time we enter the university setting to embark on our journey to becoming a solicitor, we start to hear the term "training contract". We quickly realise that the legal world, and this journey that we are on is an extremely competitive one, and we frantically start trying to get the wheels in motion, trying to get our foot in the door at a law firm, and preparing to attempt to obtain the elusive training contract. But how? This was my journey.

Introduction

I grew up on the small island of Barbados in the Caribbean. I moved to the UK at 18 years old to commence my law degree at the University of Reading. I graduated in the summer of 2017 with a 2:1, and started my LPC with MSc in Business in the autumn of 2017, graduating with distinction in the summer of 2018.

During my time at university, I tried to think a few steps ahead, and take advantage of any opportunities that I thought would assist me in pursing my career. For example, I got involved with extracurricular activities, applied for work experience opportunities over the summers (not necessarily all in law) and attended networking events such as career fairs, insight evenings etc. These experiences were helpful when it came time to apply for training contracts, as they allowed me the opportunity to do some networking, and to gain valuable transferable skills such as customer service, communication skills, working collectively as part of a team, time management and organisational skills.

Applying for Training Contracts

I did my first round of training contract applications when I was in my third and final year at university. I remember feeling so overwhelmed by the process. The applications were long and contained a series of challenging questions, and I found it difficult to judge what the firms were looking for. I did lots of reading and research on completing the applications, and on the firms that I was applying to, prior to completing the applications in order to get a feel for their values and what is important to them as a firm. This is also where I found my attendance of career fairs and insight evenings very helpful as it was good to be able to talk to members of the various firms to get a feel for what the firm’s culture and values were like.

My first round of applications was not successful, and ultimately I was rejected from everywhere that I applied to that year. I remember feeling very disheartened that summer, but I picked up my pen again once applications reopened, and gave it another go.

The second time around started much the same as the first, rejection after rejection, but then I received a very welcomed phone call from Blake Morgan offering me a position on their summer vacation scheme, which I had applied for at the same time I applied to them for a training contract.

Overall, the Vacation Scheme was an important opportunity to work within the firm, network and learn about the firm’s values and culture from an internal perspective, and I really enjoyed the experience.

At the end of the Vacation Scheme, I successfully completed the assessment centre and was invited to the final stage partner interview. Although the interview went well, unfortunately, I was not successful at the partner interview stage and did not secure the training contract that year.

While I was disappointed that another year had passed without securing the training contract, I was encouraged by the fact that during the interview process, I managed to secure a paralegal position with the firm, in the Professional Regulatory team, to start September 2018.

In my new paralegal role, I gained a huge amount of legal experience and was fortunate enough to have been given a lot of responsibility within the team, meaning that I was also able to develop and shape my skills in client and case management, communication, drafting, time management and organisation. It was an excellent opportunity, and by the time training contract applications reopened, I had gotten to know the firm well from an internal standpoint, and had confirmed that Blake Morgan was exactly the type of firm that I wanted to be a part of.

Once training applications reopened in late 2018 / early 2019, I once again made another round of applications. Third time lucky right? It was in my case, and I was offered a training contract with Blake Morgan to commence September 2021. During my two-year waiting period, I continued to work with the Professional Regulatory team as a paralegal, and really feel that that experience has shaped and prepared me well for my journey as a trainee.

My advice on the journey to be a Trainee Solicitor

It’s a game of perseverance. It will happen, it may take a while, but you will get there. Keep your head up, and try not to take the rejections to heart, keep persevering and obtain whatever feedback you can so you know what to work on for next time.

In the meantime, I would recommend taking whatever opportunities you can. Paralegal experience is fantastic and a good way to get insight into the legal world and to develop your skills, but equally, I think non-legal experience is a great thing to have too. For example, working in a customer service setting and learning the importance of good customer service and understanding client’s needs, and equally of managing their expectations. Prior to my paralegal experience, I did a couple of my summer internships with an offshore bank, and gained / developed many of the same skills that you need as a lawyer, but from a different perspective, and so far I have found that that experience has been invaluable to me as I embark on my legal career.

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