How did you get into law?
I worked on a fish stall and behind a bar in a pub from a young age, here I found that I really enjoyed working with clients and providing a service to them. As a result, I knew that I wanted a career in the future where I would have client contact, but I wasn’t sure on what basis or what kind of role that would be. I thought reading law at university would be a good start and provide opportunities to decide which route I wanted to go down in the future.
During my undergraduate, I enjoyed studying law and the technical aspects of it. I thought that going into a career in law as a solicitor would allow me to combine the two aspects that I enjoyed most in my experiences so far; first, working with clients and secondly, experiencing the technicalities of various areas of law.
How did you get your Training Contract (TC) and which of your experiences and education helped you the most?
I received my training contract offer in the summer of the Legal Practice Course (LPC). I had completed my degree and went straight to do my LPC without a TC. It was in my second application cycle that I got my TC offer.
I think having a lot of non-legal work experience definitely helped! I had a breadth of experiences to draw from specific examples to show the transferrable skills needed for a successful trainee. Whilst my experiences were mainly based around providing a service to clients, each role differed from one to another. It was great to have a range of experiences to pick from.
I also think that my volunteering experience at what was called the Personal Support Unit, now known as Support Through Court, really helped me get my TC. I was working with clients on a one to one basis doing tasks such as filling in claim forms, drafting skeleton arguments and particulars of claims. Rosenblatt has a large dispute resolution practice so it was great for me to be able to tie that experience in with why I wanted to work at that particular firm as I had experience of tasks that a typical trainee would be doing during a dispute resolution seat. In addition, I had a high level of responsibility in this role because I was working with vulnerable clients in real-life, highly emotional and sensitive cases.
Did you undertake any vacation schemes before you obtained your training contract?
The only Vacation Scheme (VS) I experienced was with Rosenblatt (they recruit exclusively from their vacation schemes). It was a week-long VS and I spent a day in each of the four main departments and had an assessment day on the fifth day.
I really enjoyed experiencing the work of a trainee at a law firm. In a VS, they’ll want to see your potential as a trainee. Obviously, they don’t expect you to have the knowledge that a second or third seat trainee would have, but they’ll test you on your way of thinking; how you produce tasks; how you format work; and simply whether you are someone that they would want to have in the office.
What was the most difficult part of the process of getting a training contract and did you encounter any difficult interview questions?
I think the most difficult aspect of my process was probably trying not to compare myself to other people. During university and through speaking to other aspiring solicitors, the norm you are told is to get a TC in your second or third year so that you have a training contract to graduate into. That is not the case! The majority of people don’t get a TC until further down the line. You tend to forget that a lot of people are in your situation. However, when you hear that other people have received TC offers early on, it’s hard not to compare yourself to them.
Comparison culture is really negative; it doesn’t make you feel particularly great, and it puts a lot of pressure on you. Forgetting about what “the norm” was, appreciating that the application was a learning process and that it is completely normal to get a TC at your own pace was the difficulty for me.
In terms of interview questions, I found the situational questions I was asked in my three-panel interview during my assessment centre sometimes difficult. Whilst you can prepare for situational questions beforehand, fundamentally, each situational question that they give you is going to be different. I had one during my interview which was just so unlikely to happen; you’d be very unlucky if this situation happened to you. It was something like: “A client calls with a highly time-sensitive matter and no one is in your office and you can’t reach your supervisors or partners—what would you do?” With situational questions, you have to remember that there’s not really one right answer; but there are definitely wrong answers, i.e. saying that you would do something that you just shouldn’t do. A lot of it comes down to common sense. I think my way of tackling those difficult situational questions is to work through what you definitely wouldn’t do, i.e. give legal advice to a client—because you’re not qualified and you could get into a lot of trouble if you do that—and then after covering that, work through your thought process on what you would do and why you would choose to do that.
How did you use the skills that you developed from working in a non-legal environment to help you get a training contract?
I think from my experience working behind a bar, there are three main skills I used to talk about in my application: leadership, interpersonal skills and commercial awareness.
In my role prior to receiving my TC offer, I worked as an assistant manager leading teams across multiple floors. I was in charge of delegating tasks to staff and making sure everything is set up before service. During service I ensured everything is running smoothly, customers are happy, and consequently, that as much money is being spent as possible. A lot of people have bar or hospitality experience when they apply for a TC, which is great because it’s such a useful experience to have; but I think experience in management at a pub helped more because I had a higher level of responsibility and a lot of what I did had a big impact on how the pub was running and the revenue it was taking.
Secondly, interpersonal skills. Working in hospitality you learn a lot because you deal with difficult situations and with difficult clients. I think being able to draw on those experiences to explain when I have problem-solved or when I’ve had to take initiative was something I used in my interviews and applications.
Finally, commercial awareness. I have a good understanding of the food and beverage/hospitality industry. I know about margins and which products, such as beers on tap, have the lowest margins; and that it gets better through bottled beers and that spirits have the highest. So with that knowledge, I’m in charge of driving sales towards spirits or bottled beers because that’s where you’re going to be making the greatest profit. I’ve thought about drinks promotions before, but you also have to be tentative of the idea that you’re not really wanting to drive everyone to get drunk; it’s a fine balance of driving sales but also being sensible and following the law. I also hold a personal license which means that anything I do in the pub can come back on me personally; so, if I break any of the licensing laws, I can be personally liable for the consequences. With that, I have a good understanding of licensing laws and when I train my staff, I train them to comply with licensing laws and the premises licence. For example, you can’t take drinks outside after 10pm. Having that understanding of the technicalities of running a pub definitely helped in getting my TC as well.
What made you decide to start running networking sessions and Q&As to help students and graduates who are interested in the legal profession?
I was on a coaching call with one of my mentees when my mentee stated that she didn’t have law fairs at her university. I didn’t like this as it meant that she didn’t have the opportunity to speak to representatives of different firms to gain inside knowledge, or to ask questions that she couldn’t find the answer to online.
I was really surprised when I tried to find virtual law fairs and events, as a result of the pandemic, and was only met with the Legal Cheek Law Fair. I thought to myself, I have a lot of time because I’m furloughed, why not see if I can create something that will fill in that gap. I posted on LinkedIn asking if there was any demand for this and it blew up. I didn’t realise that it would go that crazy! I thought okay, now I’m actually going to have to dedicate a lot of time to this. It ended up being my full-time job for a couple of weeks trying to organise so many trainees and aspiring solicitors in a way that would work.
That’s how I had the idea, and it’s been really great because I’ve expanded my network and helped around 400 aspiring solicitors through the various events I’ve hosted. It’s fun too!
What are you looking forward to the most in your training contract?
With the whole application process, there’s a lot of writing down or speaking about how you have the skills to be a good trainee. I think I’m most excited to actually use the skills I’ve developed to do trainee tasks, being a trainee and seeing how that goes instead of hypothetically talking about it. I’m also really excited to learn as I think it’ll be such a great learning experience.
Have you got any final words of advice to students and graduates?
To students who haven’t yet reached where they want to be in terms of getting a TC or getting a role that they are dreaming of—just keep going, your time will come. Don’t let setbacks affect you too much because everyone goes through setbacks.
Finally, if anyone feels that I could help them in any way, feel free to drop me a message on LinkedIn or my Instagram page, I’m always happy to help where I can.
You can follow Tracy on LinkedIn or on Instagram here: