With the elusive training contract seeming increasingly difficult to secure, with thousands of students applying each year, I interviewed Charlotte Allen, a second year trainee at Blake Lapthorn, to discover the story of her success and what we all can do to achieve the trainee dream.
What was the main attraction to a career in law for you?
The variety and breadth of work available was the main appeal for me. I wanted to pursue a career that offered me a whole host of opportunities: from working with individuals to international corporations; from being in an office environment to standing up in court!
During your university years, what extracurricular activities and societies were you involved in?
I was a member of The Hunt Cup Debating Competition at university and would really recommend utilising any opportunities that you have in terms of public speaking and increasing your confidence in ‘think-on-your-feet’ situations.
Additionally, I was involved with the University of Bristol Law Clinic, offering pro bono legal advice to members of the public. I chaired the University of Bristol Law Club (UBLC) Spring Ball Committee and helped organise our final year ball.
What guided you towards deciding to pursue a career as a solicitor?
When I was deciding which path to take within law, I undertook various work experience placements, including two mini-pupillages. I really enjoy the advocacy side of things; however, there are opportunities to case-present as a solicitor.
For me, a career as a solicitor is far more secure. You are working as part of a team within a firm and enjoy the benefits that flow from working for a company, such as a regular salary and annual leave. However, as a barrister, you are essentially self-employed so you are largely dependent on building up your reputation and securing work in other ways.
What are three top tips for success that you would give students who are just starting their LPC?
Review your notes as you go along and create ‘consolidation summaries’ after each tutorial. This saves huge amounts of time when it comes to exams and also ensures that you understand the topics fully.
Make the most out of the networking opportunities and careers advice offered.
Get involved with the extra-curricular activities offered, from mooting to sports. When it comes to applying for training contracts, your academic record is of course important but so is what you enjoy doing outside of studying!
How did you research the firms you applied for?
I used websites such as ‘Roll on Friday’, ‘Lex 100’, ‘The Lawyer’ and ‘The Legal 500’ to get a general idea of the type of firms I wanted to work for.
I then applied for work experience placements at a select few firms. I think work experience is the best way to see whether a firm is one that you would want to be a part of and is a great way for the recruitment team to see if you are a good fit too!
Also, you should speak to people who have already started their training contracts. At university, I also attended various presentation evenings run by different firms, which is useful as you can hear about what the firm does and then have time to chat over a glass of wine!
Did the research you conducted help you during the application process?
Yes – I think the ‘networking’ opportunities are the best way to get your face known when it comes to applying for a training contract. Once you have sent in your form you can always send the recruitment team an email saying: ‘I met you last week at X event and have now applied to you.’ This makes you stand out from the crowd.
Of course, it is always good to really research the firm you are applying for using their own website and external literature. This will shine through on your application form!
What is the best piece of advice you would give for students currently applying for training contracts?
Let your personality shine through your application form!
Get on a vacation scheme or work experience placement, work your socks off and show the firm how good you are before sending in your application.
How do you feel that you made your training contract application stand out?
By talking about my other interests outside of law and translating the skills I have acquired through these external activities to a career in law.
How did you prepare for the assessment day and calm any nerves?
Research – know the firm inside out and know who will be interviewing you and running the assessment day. Practice with friends/family – think about the type of questions that you might get asked and bounce ideas around.
What is the working environment like with fellow trainees?
Within my firm, we have a very supportive culture. We have a ‘mentoring’ scheme whereby newly qualified solicitors act as general supervisors throughout our training contract and we meet every couple of months for dinner and drinks. This is in addition to the general training principal supervisor and your seat supervisor.
The wider team, including associates and partners, are keen to teach you and encourage you by giving you ‘real’ work and useful feedback.
The fellow trainee group is now just a group of friends. We chat over lunch and raise any difficulties or concerns we are experiencing with our work (e.g. when we don’t know what we are doing) and mix socially outside of work and at external networking events.
Having worked in the Southampton and London offices, what experience did you hope to gain from experiencing both offices?
I was actually on a client secondment in London, so I was not working for the firm. This was a fantastic experience, as it showed me how an in-house legal team operates and exposed me to advocacy which is an area that I am interested in.
What do you enjoy most about the firm you work for?
Which has been your favourite seat in your traineeship so far and why?
This is a difficult question to answer: all of my seats so far have been interesting in different ways and have taught me a variety of skills. For example, Professional Regulatory demonstrated the importance of case management, while Commercial Property required strong attention to detail, and the client secondment really teaches you how to be a good advocate!
Are there any other opportunities where trainees get to take on additional responsibility or participate in activities outside of their defined role?
A whole range! Just to name a few: internal mooting competition, netball team, choir, rock band, cricket, cake sales and internal training programmes. Additionally, we are also actively involved in the corporate social responsibility programme, whereby we get involved in charity work and other such schemes within our local community.
What are your long-term career goals?
To continue climbing the legal ladder and hopefully one day have my own trainee to supervise!