The Importance Of Keeping An Open Mind

8 November, 2019

The majority of lawyers decide to pursue a career in law very early on in their education. A-levels are carefully chosen in order to study law at university. Shortly into the degree, the law student decides whether they want to become a solicitor or barrister. They then have to think about what areas of law they want to experience during a training contract or pupillage and what area of law they ultimately want to specialise in, and module electives are usually chosen based on the decisions made. But should we make up our minds so early on in our time in the legal world?

At school, when I first decided to pursue a career in law, I initially thought that I would end up working as a criminal lawyer. I suppose that it was the only area of law that I knew about and that was only from what I had seen on the TV or from reading newspapers; I didn’t have any lawyers in my family. So when I decided to undertake my first legal work experience, criminal law was what I opted for.

Shadowing a criminal barrister, I was able to see what working in criminal law was really like. And I was shocked to see that the realities of working in criminal law were very different from the picture that I had dreamt up. I remember being concerned that I had made the wrong decision by choosing law as a career, but after speaking with a career adviser, I decided to contact local law firms to obtain work experience in different areas of law.

I went on to undertake work experience in employment law and then worked as a paralegal in professional regulation prosecution. I had never studied either of those areas of law and I soon realised working as a solicitor was so much more than the letter of the law. This realisation was cemented when I studied the Legal Practice Course. The teaching on the LPC is more focused on the application of specific areas of law and building up the skills needed to be a solicitor, rather than just learning what the law is. I felt ready to tackle my training contract truly knowing what working in law was really like.

From my experience, a law degree did not prepare me for the realities of a career in law. I learned that whilst it is good to have an interest in a particular area of law, it is important to keep an open mind. It was from work experience that I understood, not only what it was like to work within a particular area of law, but also what area of law I could ultimately see myself working in.

I am now starting the last journey before I decide my qualification route…and I am still keeping that open mind!

Cripps Pemberton Greenish offers a vacation scheme and legal apprenticeships, both of which provide an insight into life in a top law firm and experience of different practice areas. If you think these might help you with your own decision making, get in touch!