Work Experience and Climbing the Legal Ladder

19/07/2017

Many people aspire to become a solicitor, but how easy is to crack into the world of law? Our work experience student Amber Richardson explains.

 A career as a solicitor can be incredibly rewarding; it provides a stimulating and challenging environment across many sectors, and lawyers are involved in almost every aspect of life.

Amber Richardson is a second-year law student at Middlesex University and chose to undertake a 2-week work placement here at Pinney Talfourd. We delve into her reasons for wanting a career as a solicitor and how the journey has been thus far.

What made you want to aspire to a career as a lawyer?

When I was in school I studied a book called ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee. This novel was immensely intriguing and opened my eyes to the reality of injustices that occurred in the world. Atticus Finch, the lawyer in the book, demonstrated that every individual has the right to a fair trial regardless of who they are and what they are being accused of. Reading this book was the first time that I thought about pursuing a career in law.

I was also asked to watch the film ‘A Time to Kill’, directed by Joel Schumacher. It demonstrated the prejudice that occurs on a day-to-day basis around the world. Both these sources together were where my journey to a legal career began.  After expressing my interest to my teacher at school I was invited to a presentation that a well-established law firm gave in order to inform the students on what a career in law entails.

I know that as I am getting older, the retirement age is also increasing; I want the career I choose to make me want to wake up in the morning. It has always been important to me that I never get bored and I feel that a career in law means that there is structure and stability, but also a huge amount of excitement, as no two days will ever be the same as every case is different.

How have you prepared for your chosen career path in law?

As many are aware, being successful in pursuing a legal training contract is not just about getting good grades; yes, grades are essential but work experience is also immensely important.

Before attending university I had no legal work experience. In fact, my first legal work experience was not until the end of my first year, where I worked at a free legal advice centre in Tower Hamlets over the summer holidays. This work experience was a great opportunity to communicate face-to-face with clients and have the opportunity to practice asking specific questions in order to gather the essential 

information.

When I went back to university I was fortunate enough to have the support and help from a lecturer at university who encouraged me to apply for many placements.  I secured a placement in another advice service, which I attended once a week throughout my second year at university.  This helped me be adaptable and improve my communication and confidence when helping the service users.

This work experience involved completing applications for the service users who were illiterate and/or those who suffer from a mental or physical health condition and were not able to understand or fill out the form themselves. Throughout the year, including during the summer break, I have marshalled two Judges, done a mini pupillage and a vacation scheme in a criminal firm. 

Do you believe that relevant work experience is key for a career in law?

Not only is work experience essential to pursue a career in law, it is also a vital experience that you need in order to learn the skills needed, and also to get an understanding of the area of law you wish to specialise in. None of the above work experience has been the same and each one has taught me a great deal. It had given me an insight into the legal career I wish to pursue.

Work experience is very difficult to obtain but persistence is key. It is easy to give up after receiving a rejection or even getting no reply at all. I was applying to many firms and courts trying to obtain work experience and I was sent many rejection emails and I got ignored by many. However, as Colin Powell once said, “Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence.” I learnt to think differently and to apply where others may not. I knew that everyone would be applying to the ‘magic circle’ firms and I was aware that I was not going to be accepted. Therefore, I applied to smaller firms. 

How have you found your journey to becoming a solicitor so far?

My journey thus far has had bumps along the way. I went to a normal public school where I never studied law. I finished school with very good GCSEs and decided to further my education at college. Again, I went to a standard college where I studied Law for the first time.  I 

was fortunate enough to have a teacher who was just as passionate about the law as I was. I then decided to apply for university and now I have just finished my second year.

It has been immensely difficult to study as well as trying to secure work experience. However, a legal career is always going to be demanding and being able to multitask is a skill that is needed. I believe it is essential to do work experience as, when I first started university, I was certain that I wanted to be a criminal barrister. Now I am leaning towards practising as a solicitor specialising in commercial law. You cannot be certain as to the path you wish to take if you have not experienced it all. 

how have you found your work experience with pinney talfourd so far?

I was fortunate enough to gain a two-week legal work experience here at Pinney Talfourd Solicitors. At first, I was unsure as to whether I would enjoy this experience as much as my others as they were in a London firm, and Pinney Talfourd is a regional firm. To my surprise, I have learnt a great deal during my two weeks. The people at the firm were incredibly welcoming and many solicitors were happy to for me to accompany them. One, in particular, allowed me to attend court with her on several occasions and really gave me an insight into the work she does as a family solicitor. She made me feel comfortable and equal which was hugely important to me. She was happy to answer all my questions and really took the time to give me strong advice.

I feel as though I received the best experience over my two weeks.  Every day was different, some days I was in the office writing up notes, other days I would be in court and attending meetings with clients. The firm gave me a real insight into the role of a solicitor and how the day-to-day running of the firm works. I met several successful people who took the time to speak to me and give me some advice and tell me about their journey and some tips on how they made it.

I also got an insight into the marketing side of the firm. This was very intriguing to me as from an outside perspective you don’t realise the amount of work the marketing team does.

One thing I really liked about the firm is that they really do care about their clients. The marketing team were constantly looking for ways to make the firm and the information accessible to all ages.  Furthermore, the firm is open slightly later than most and are open Saturday morning, which I think is excellent.  

What do you have planned for the next 12 months?

My plan for the next twelve months is to finish my degree – I hope to graduate with a first. When I return to university to start my final year I will start to apply for training contracts. I am aware that this may take longer than a year to secure, therefore if I were to take a year out I am looking into either studying the LLM or to work as a paralegal.

Finally, my plan for the future is to secure a training contract and qualify as a solicitor, where I will concentrate on working my way up in the firm. 

how would you summarise your experience of working at pinney talfourd?

The experience was very different from others in many ways. The firm took the time to ensure that I always had a task to complete. They made sure that I was given a diverse range of tasks and a true insight into the firm.  Being based at the Upminster office meant I also got to experience family law, which is an area I never thought I would like but to my surprise I did.  My overall experience with Pinney Talfourd was excellent and I am grateful that I was giving the opportunity.

More information

For more information on work experience placements at Pinney Talfourd please contact us.

This article was written by Amber Richardson, a second-year law student at Middlesex University on behalf of Pinney Talfourd Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. This article is based on the law as of July 2017.

19/07/2017

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