Amanda Sanchez-Barry

Key factsAmanda Sanchez-Barry

Experience: 7 years PQE

Specialism: Corporate law - investment funds

Firm: Linklaters LLP

Amanda's story

My journey to becoming a solicitor wasn't straightforward. I had a baby while at university and lived in hostel and council accommodation.

I worked two jobs and did pro bono but still managed to get my degree, go to law school and qualify as a solicitor in a competitive firm while bringing up my son. I never made excuses for myself and failure to achieve my ambitions was never an option.

I was born in Islington and grew up with my parents, who are first generation Filipino immigrants, and my brother. Neither of my parents attended university or worked in a profession.

My dad has a background in restaurant management and my mum used to own a small sandwich bar. I was the first person in my immediate family to attend university.

My parents always impressed on me the importance of education, despite neither of them having gone on to higher education. I got good GCSE grades without working too hard and achieved two As (English language and literature and media studies) and one C (history) at A level.

I decided I wanted to become a solicitor, as it would provide clear career progression and secure employment, but had no real idea about work experience and training contracts, as I didn't have anyone I could ask about these things.

I attended Brunel University to read law and fell pregnant during my first year. I was 19-years old at the time and I took a year out to have and look after my son. This was a challenging time.

I had to live on a very small budget and was placed in hostel accommodation. I knew that I had disappointed my parents, who felt that I had wasted the opportunities I had been given.

I had no choice but to work to support myself and my son when I returned to university to complete my degree. I moved out of the hostel and into council-funded accommodation. It was difficult juggling academic studies, two jobs and raising my son as a single mother. This could have been a set-back to my ambitions to become a solicitor but I turned it to my advantage.

While my friends were out partying and socialising and often missing lectures, I knew that I had to use every spare moment I had to study if I was going to achieve my ambitions and make a comfortable life for my son. If a lecture was cancelled or cut short, I went straight to the library to work on essays and read my course materials. I learnt to manage my time extremely effectively.

Although I had drive and ambition, I would have benefited from exposure to mentors or contacts in the legal profession who could have given me some practical advice earlier on in my education.

It was only during my second year of university that I started to learn more about what I had to do in order to qualify as a solicitor.

Once I had graduated, my next challenge was financing law school. While my family, particularly my mother and son's father's parents, had supported me in providing childcare, my parents couldn't afford to pay my Legal Practice Course (LPC) fees and I didn't have any savings of my own.

I hadn't had the foresight to apply for work experience placements that would have allowed me to get in with a firm that might have considered me for a training contract and paid for my LPC.

I was refused a bank loan because I had been on income support, but I was successful in my application for a scholarship with the Law Society Diversity Access Scheme. Without this scholarship, I wouldn't have been able to complete my LPC.

Following law school, I was successful in my application for a one-year fixed-term paralegal contract in the corporate department of Linklaters LLP. During my paralegal contract I applied for and successfully secured a training contract.

My start date was pushed forward so I was able to start immediately after the end of my paralegal contract. I qualified into the investment funds practice and have been working at the same firm ever since.

I think my paralegal role really helped me to secure a training contract. It helped me gain contacts, I learnt how things worked in a City firm and I was able to explain exactly why I was interested in commercial and corporate work during my training contract interview.

Amanda's advice

My advice to anyone considering a career in law who has had to overcome a difficult situation, is not to give up and never make excuses. I never mentioned that I had a small child in any of my training contract interviews, nor did I mention that I had struggled financially and had lived in a hostel for a year.

Instead, I told my interviewers the truth about my strong work ethic and career ambitions. I told them I worked two jobs and did pro bono because I wanted them to judge me on my professional merit, and they did.

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