The career advice I would give my 2012 self
This week, the trainee solicitor blog team caught up with Elizabeth Robertson, a first year trainee in the commercial real estate team. Elizabeth provides useful tips for individuals seeking a training contract or trying to gain legal experience.
If you are at the stage of your career where you are applying for work experience, or training contracts or paralegal work, it can all seem daunting.
I started my training contract in September this year, but before this I worked at Cripps Pemberton Greenish as a paralegal for 2 years. However, I certainly did not step straight out of university into a legal job.
There was an unspoken understanding at university that in order to be successful you should follow the ‘perfect path’ to qualification as a solicitor. You graduate with an undergraduate degree, move onto the GDL and LPC and then straight onto a training contract. Sometimes you are so blinded by that thought, you don’t stop to consider what other options there are.
There are a few things I have learned since then which I hope will benefit you if you are in the same position I was in, in 2012 during the penultimate year of my law degree.
What I wish I had known
Think carefully about which firms you are applying to, and why exactly you want to work for them. By doing this, your applications will immediately stand-out above others, and more importantly, you are doing yourself a favour by submitting high quality applications to places you’d enjoy working at.
For example, I chose Cripps Pemberton Greenish because of its excellent reputation (especially in real estate, which is something that interests me), the people and the expertise it has and also the opportunity to be involved with the highest quality clients and matters whilst always keeping a good work life balance.
Look for and take up any opportunities you can along the way. This includes everything from legal work, non-legal work, volunteering and everything in between.
I have worked with horses, in shops, in finance and in law and I can safely say I’ve taken something valuable away from each of those roles. Waking up at 5am to visit horses in minus temperatures was certainly character building, and it was always a good ‘ice breaker’ in interviews to have something different and unique on the CV.
Know your options
Something I only discovered since working at Cripps Pemberton Greenish is that there are so many different paths you can take to become a lawyer, other than a training contract. For example, CILEX is a very well known, respected and established route which is not all that dissimilar from the more familiar training contract.
Legal apprenticeships are also becoming more popular. They give you an opportunity to study towards a degree and get practical legal experience at the same time by working at a law firm part time. Having this blend of law in practice and law in theory provides a good opportunity to contextualise and consolidate what you are learning.
The Solicitors Qualifying Exam
Of course, the GDL to LPC to training contract route may well not apply to some of you, depending on whether you will fall into the new regime for qualification under the Solicitors Qualifying Exam which is expected to replace the existing system entirely by 2020.
Whichever path you end up on, there is no “right” way to become a lawyer. In fact, work experience gathered along the way (legal or not) will equip you well for a career in legal practice.