This too shall pass

Manda Banerji
Manda BanerjiSolicitor at Freeths

Manda Banerji talks about starting out in law during an economic slump, such as COVID-19.

COVID-19 and the increased time at home has given us all the opportunity to find time for our own thoughts. For me, among other things, thoughts turned to 2008 and the financial crash which resulted in the recession.

I graduated in 2007 with a biological sciences degree from Nottingham University. Growing up I was repeatedly told I would make a good lawyer but I chose to carve my own path, choosing the sciences instead. After I graduated I was at a cross-road and I decided to take a year out to decide whether law was really for me before I invested in the GDL and LPC.

In early 2008 the decision was made and with my offers in hand from BPP in London and Nottingham Law School I decided to stay on in Nottingham and start the GDL in August 2008. I was bright eyed and bushy tailed excited to embark on my career in law with little knowledge of the recession that was looming. Then came the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September of the same year and what was the start of a recession that was to affect many over the coming years.

Having already invested in the GDL, I continued with the LPC in 2009/2010. But it was already fast becoming apparent that law firms were feeling the pinch and stopping or significantly reducing recruitment, which would mean that finding the holy grail that was a training contract would be no mean feat for me. Friends who had already secured training contracts before were having their training contracts deferred, by up to two years in some cases, and I had to quickly learn that application rejections would become a regular occurrence.

While the financial crash of 2008 was by no means as dramatic to each and every person’s day to day life as COVID-19 has been, the financial and economic implications of both are likely to have similar effects on those starting out in the law. With many law firms already having put in place recruitment freezes, I feel a sense of de ja vu. So here are my top tips on starting out in law during an economic slump (taken from my experiences a decade ago).

1. Getting work experience is key

Even if firms have decided to freeze recruitment of trainees, some may still be recruiting paralegals/legal assistants in areas of practice that remain buoyant. Do not underestimate the value of these roles and invest time and energy in these applications as well. I was able to get my first paralegal job in a niche firm very soon after completing my LPC in 2010, subsequently moving to another paralegal role at a regional firm where I ultimately secured a training contract through an internal application process in 2013. These sorts of roles provide a real opportunity to not only get hands on experience but also to make a good impression on those you work with which could ultimately secure you a training contract internally.

2. Be resilient

Rejections will come in thick and fast but that is not necessarily a reflection of you, it is a reflection of the economic climate. With fewer jobs, the competition will be significantly tougher but if you allow yourself to dwell on each rejection you will find it harder to focus on the next application.

3. Use the time to network effectively

You never know who can help you in the future. Sending out Linkedin invites by their hundreds with no introduction or explanation of why you are wanting to connect with someone is not effective. Make sure you follow up with contacts.

4. Keep in touch with your peers from law school

They can often be the best source of information about job opportunities and can sometimes make internal referrals to secure you an interview if they are already working at the firm.

5. As the old adage goes: “this too shall pass”

The search for a training contract can seem never ending when you are in the thick of it. With each rejection it is hard not to tell yourself it will never happen. As I sit here a decade after I finished law school and half a decade after I started calling myself a solicitor, the now seemingly short two-and-a-half year search for a training contract feels like a drop in the ocean.

This article was first published on 6 July 2020 by The Lawyer and is reproduced by kind permission.