Prisca Wharton, social mobility ambassador

Social mobility ambassador Prisca Wharton shares her experience of entering the profession, including the challenges she faced and how she overcame them.
Prisca Wharton is a white woman with long, straight dark brown hair. She is smiling and stands outside, playing the violin. She wears a red jumper and white shirt.
Photograph: Alice Mutasa

What inspired you to study law?

I had always had it at the back of my mind somehow. When I was studying languages at Warwick, I attended a taster day at a top firm in London.

I loved the sorts of work we did on the day and as soon as they explained that this would be the kind of work we would do in practice, I was sold.

It sounds silly but probably watching the usual hit glamorous legal TV programmes also inspires you or at least motivates you when you’re drowning in university work!

Did you receive encouragement to pursue your ambitions?

From a very young age, I was encouraged to believe in myself and know that if you want something enough and work hard then you will get it, regardless of background.

It is really important to truly believe that – to know that your past and present does not define your future.

I want people to know that it is definitely possible with the right mindset and lots of determination.

Where did you study law?

I actually did a degree in German with Italian at Warwick University and then did a law conversion course for a year at BPP in Manchester.

I then did a fully funded masters in law at Warwick University followed by the LPC alongside my training contract.

Did you encounter any challenges studying law?

Lots! The main challenge would be financial. I had always wanted to study law but planned to go down the conversion route.

I had read that there were “law loans” available at some banks specifically geared to the conversion course so thought I would go ahead on that basis.

Unfortunately, the year I went to do the course these loans were pulled and conversion costs tend to be paid up front. I then had to take a year out and I worked at a bar to save up some money and still had to take a loan from a bank with a rather steep interest rate!

I also had a full time job at a phone shop through my conversion course and masters (which were also full time!) and so that instantly puts you at a disadvantage in terms of time you have to dedicate to your course versus needing money to pay for the course!

What I will say is that it definitely builds your resilience, your organisational skills and your people skills in so many ways that I tend to look back and see it as a positive. It is all worth it in the end.

What type of law do you specialise in?

Commercial real estate – which varies from portfolio asset management for pension funds to regeneration and development projects around the country and everything in between.

Why did you want to become a Law Society social mobility ambassador?

With every challenge I faced, I became increasingly passionate about social mobility and the attention the profession needs to dedicate to helping future generations here.

Never assume someone has WiFi, never assume they can afford trains to the office for internships.

I came across the ambassador role a few years ago when I myself was looking on the Law Society website to see what financial assistance was available.

I thought to myself that if I were to ever make it and become a solicitor then I would do my utmost to help others who found themselves in my situation in whatever way I could.

As part of that, I wanted to raise awareness in my capacity as an ambassador.

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given regarding your career?

Do what you enjoy and you will do it well.

Has your idea of success changed over time in your career?

Not really! What I would say is I think you realise once you are in practice that it is a marathon not a sprint and you need to learn to enjoy your more junior years and not always be rushing for the next promotion or the next “thing”.

You learn to really appreciate how important the experience you build in practice is and how it will make you a better solicitor year on year.

A wise partner at my firm said to always remember at the back of your mind that “you don’t know what you don’t know” and so really perhaps I learned that qualifying is just the start of a journey and to enjoy it!

Do people have misconceptions about becoming a solicitor?

It depends. I think perhaps it is painted to be rather glamorous in programmes like Suits and most of the time it probably isn’t, but it is a fulfilling career where you learn things on an daily basis.

It is important to visit firms and talk to people that work there, don’t be shy – there will be practising solicitors who would love to chat to aspiring students at any level.

What skills would you say are essential for the job?

I don’t think there is an essential key skill set in the profession and this is one way we need to change our mindset. We need people with very different skills and perspectives.

If we drastically improve social mobility over the next few years then we will naturally recruit people from more diverse backgrounds and with that we will, as a profession, have a wider and more enriched skill set.

Social mobility is not just about encouraging students from more disadvantaged backgrounds into the profession; it, in turn, provides the very building blocks for a more diverse profession.

This is why every law firm in this country must now bump social mobility up to the top of their priority list when they recruit or do their outreach work.

Contact the ambassadors

If you want to ask an ambassador a question about their career or route into law, email using the address below and include their name in the subject line.

Email: ask an ambassador

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