Danielle Best

Key factsDanielle Best

Experience: 12 years PQE

Specialism: Commercial dispute resolution

Firm: Weightmans LLP

Danielle's story

Very few people from my school went on to higher education and I had no one to ask for advice about pursuing a career in law. I have a strong Liverpool accent that attracted some negative comments in my early career - but I brushed them off.

People learned to judge me by my work. I'm proof that people without contacts and financial backing can become a solicitor.

I decided I wanted to pursue a legal career after doing an A-level in law and finding it stimulating, challenging and interesting. I also believed that, in doing a law degree and pursuing a legal career, I would be on a clear path to an established, respected profession.

I grew up in a very working class town just outside Liverpool and lived with my mum and sisters. My mum was a single parent and never had much money, but she was incredibly supportive of my ambitions and was adamant that my sisters and I should strive for better lives.

Expectation levels at the school and college I attended were low. There was little encouragement for students to go on to higher education and the careers guidance often lacked any practical information such as what subjects would look impressive on my UCAS form.

I knew of very few pupils from my school that went on to university and there was certainly no expectation that a career in law could be an option. Most students left at 16 and went straight into work, but I was determined to achieve something different.

I worked hard and did well in my exams. My mum was delighted and wanted me to go on to university - but she could not support me financially. As I was the first in the family to go onto higher education, no one was able to advise me on how to pick the best universities.

I had no idea what was meant by a Russell Group university. It would have been really helpful to have someone I could ask about choosing a university with a good reputation and for practical advice about how to apply for a training contract and funding options.

Law school was a real eye-opener for me. Many of the other students in my classes already had training contracts lined up at impressive City firms and many more had contacts in the profession through family friends that they could call on for work experience.

They were also very polished and confident and it was disheartening at times hearing about the opportunities they had at their disposal.

Despite my lack of contacts, one phone call secured some hands-on work experience at a small firm in Warrington. I learned some valuable skills during this placement and this helped me to secure a paralegal role at a litigation firm in London.

The paralegal role turned into a training contract and, after qualifying, I spent several years at a large City firm in London. For the last seven years I have been based in the Manchester office of Weightmans, a large national firm.

I was conscious of my strong Liverpool accent when I started training and did receive the odd sarcastic remark and snigger about the way I spoke. While it used to knock my confidence, those kind of comments don't bother me anymore - not that I receive them as often as I did.

My colleagues and clients judge me on the high quality of my work and my reputation as a professional, not by the fact that I have a regional accent.

I'm sure there are some law firms that prefer more polished candidates but most legal recruiters just want the best, most talented person for the job, regardless of their background. I'm confident that the type of behaviour I encountered is on the way out of law firms.

I am proof that people who don’t have any financial backing and don’t know anyone within the profession can be successful. With focus and determination I was able to join the profession and I have never looked back.

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