Routes into Law: External Training Contract
Like many Routes to Law articles, mine starts from childhood. I spent most of my time in front of TV. Inspired by many different TV shows I went from wanting to be a dancer, nurse and other various roles. Eventually as I got older I started to get into the hard hitting US Law types shows during the summer holidays (LA Law, Boston Legal and the Practice). I was transfixed by these TV shows and motivated by its ridiculousness. I decided around the age of 13/14 that I wanted to be a lawyer. The question now was how?
I knew of one Barrister and he was a school mates father but I did not have the confidence to even speak to him. There was a programme at my school in London where a law firm would mentor students who were interested in law. I was off sick the day that they came.
My first real (other than the aforementioned TV shows) studying of law came from being able to learn GCSE law on a Saturday, yes Saturday. I was hooked. I worked hard during my GCSE’s and achieved 12 A- B grades. For my A Level’s I chose History, Psychology, English Language and Literature and you guessed it, Law.
I am the oldest of four siblings and I hadn’t thought about going to University. I started researching the steps I would need to become a lawyer. My personal statement was full of overused (but genuine) sentences about how I was going into law to help people. .
A Levels were much harder than my GCSE’s. With hindsight I should have done the expected 3 A Levels but I continued with 4 and achieved a BCCC. I got into my university of insurance, Coventry University to study my LLB and I was excited about this. It wasn’t until much later that I realised how difficult I had made it for myself.
I enjoyed university, but didn’t enjoy my degree. There were some pockets of interesting cases, any student of law will know the ones that I am referring to (snail in ginger beer case to name one). I was disappointed and disillusioned. In any case my grades at A Level and University would make that decision for me. Looking back, this is when imposter syndrome started to creep in.
My cohort were doing really well, studying hard and fully engaged in the course. I should add that I did enjoy seminars and being able to discuss aspects of the law.
After my first two years I said aloud that “I was never going to be a lawyer.” In my mind I didn’t have many options; dancer or nurse. Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to study abroad. I specified that I wanted to study law somewhere they would teach it in French, wish granted. I studied at the University of Liege in Belgium for a year and a majority of the classes were taught in French. This was as hard as it sounds but it was the best thing for me. I finally got my mojo back and felt motivated for my final year back in Coventry. I boldly declared that I will be a lawyer one day.
I went back to Coventry with a new post Erasmus glow, I was pumped and raring to go. I started looking at vacation schemes and training contracts applications. The only minor snafu was that I was going to get a 2:2. Any law firm I was looking at was all wanted a 2:1 and above. I had no choice but to change tactics.
I thought about what was important to me: working in the City, wearing suits, working in an office and working with people. I worked as a recruiter for around nine months, I started five days after my last exam (and before I was given my grades). I enjoyed the job but I kept thinking about law and being a lawyer.
I quit my job suddenly and decided to enrol to do my Legal Practice Course in Manchester starting the same September. I didn’t have a training contract or extensive legal experience. I did have several years of work experience, volunteering and youth work experience. Looking back, the LPC was a very risky decision and it was the reason why I worked really hard to make sure the risk paid off.
I knew that it would be difficult to get a training contract but once I started the LPC this was confirmed and it was harder than I thought. I attended all the events my Law School arranged and fully immersed myself in discussion about training contracts.
I passed my LPC and started to look at alternatives to training contracts. I was offered a legal assistant job at a well-known personal injury firm.
This was a really big moment, on and off for eight years before this I had been dreaming of my first job in law. The legal assistant job was key to giving me confidence to continue with my journey. I didn’t stop attending networking events and graduate events. Sometimes I just attended to make notes on what others were saying, other times I was there to speak to people who were doing the career that I wanted to do.
The year I sat down and was serious about applications was 2017. I made three targeted applications and went through the process with one of the firms. During this time I had case handling responsibilities at the firm I was working for, this provided more skills to add into my applications. I needed these extra experiences to alleviate the effects of not having the best grades.
After a gruelling assessment centre and nerve-wracking vacation scheme; I got the call to tell me that I was being offered a training contract while I was in Madrid on holiday.
Not having the best grades without mitigating circumstances does make the process difficult in my view. However, because it is difficult does not make it impossible. Attention to detail, drive, willingness to learn and making sure that every other part of your CV is glowing will help.
Fast forward a few years, I am now in my final few months of my training contract and Irwin Mitchell. It is not like Suits but it has been a long journey to get here.