Experience: 15 years PQE
Firm: Mishcon de Reya LLP
Role: Professional support lawyer, private wealth
'For me, running has always been an excellent way to escape. I can push any problems to the back of my mind and simply focus on my running technique, or just the finish line when things get tough.'
I became a solicitor largely because I was not sure what other careers were out there and, after doing work experience as a 14 year old in a solicitors’ office, I followed on from there. We had very little career planning at school and I honestly thought the only subjects I could study were law and English. As I loved books so much I did not want to be put off reading by having to study English, so I defaulted to law.
I received full student loans and the limited grants available but this was still not enough to cover university accommodation. As a result, I applied for and received grants from local charities. I worked during the holidays but did not manage to keep a job at university due to the workload.
Arriving at university I discovered a new type of person: those who had gone to private school. I managed to find a group of friends at university who were more on my level, if not from the same socio-economic background, and found that where I went to school was less important. I adopted the same approach at law school.
I think I missed out on some of the things that other law students did as a result of my naivety. I was amazed, for example, when getting back from university after the summer break that almost everybody had completed summer placements and secured themselves a training contract. I failed to do so and ended up having to take a bank loan to pay my law school fees. If I had my time again I would have paid more attention to this and tried to get my LPC paid for by a law firm. I would have used all of the facilities at university to bolster my CV too, but the culture I was raised in taught me there was something very ‘uncool’ about joining the netball team or debating society or other extra curricular activities. Had I known that these were things that could have helped me network, learn new skills and, potentially, assist with my training contract applications, I would have done more with that side of university.
Since becoming a lawyer I definitely have two selves. The old self who grew up in Essex and went to the local comprehensive where more people took re-sit GCSEs than A-levels, and the new self who is a lawyer in London with lots of friends who do not worry about money and are very well-connected. Sometimes I find this difficult to conflate but over the years I have grown in confidence and have pride in my background.
For any aspiring lawyer I would recommend trying as much as possible to understand the different types of law and legal roles available. I have been lucky enough to work in Private Client law which affords a huge variety of work. I have also spent time in-house and developed a greater understanding of the commercial benefits a lawyer can bring. Knowing you can practice as a lawyer in so many different fields is revelatory and I would encourage anyone to practice in a field that interests them first rather than just assuming that the only type of lawyer is a corporate lawyer or property lawyer.
In my experience the legal profession can seem dominated by those from privileged backgrounds. Some law firms recruit from the same 'mould' which can be very intimidating to an outlier. I spent some of my career practising law in-house and found the outlook to be quite different.
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