Tell me about you and your journey into law
I first came across law when watching a Bollywood movie actually; I liked how this barrister in the movie was presenting arguments based on past fact finding and evidence. I also really liked essay-based subjects like History and English where again I was using facts and literature to answer questions for exams. I then decided to study Law at University which I did not enjoy as much as I thought I would. I found it too theoretical rather than being applicable to real life. However, I did enjoy the Legal Practice Course (LPC) a lot more because of its practical nature.
Why did you decide that being a solicitor was the right path for you? Had this been a career path you had known for a while you wanted to take?
As mentioned, I did not enjoy my Law degree as much as I would have. Therefore, I actually decided on this career path properly once I had become a paralegal. During university, I think I was only applying for vacation schemes and training contracts because everyone else in my cohort was. However, once I’d experienced law in practice, it made me realise that I did enjoy this career path; I admired the focus on networking and collaboration, together with providing the best client service and being part of a field, where the work we do is constantly changing, (due to things like legal technology).
What was your experience of doing a law degree?
The theoretical nature of the Law degree and excessive reading did not appeal to me as much, but there were several modules I loved, like Corporate Law Simulation. This was because the module was practical. I even enjoyed writing my dissertation because I had the freedom and independence to write it how I wished. I would say the best thing I did during my degree to improve my grades was understanding what my strengths were. I realised my strengths lied in coursework rather than exams; therefore, in my final year I took more coursework modules than examinations.
You’ve done the LPC- did you find there was a big difference in studying a law degree to then completing the LPC?
There was a big difference yes – I’ve mentioned the theory vs practical element but also in the way exams were structured. I did the LPC at the University of Law, which meant my exams were open-book mainly, rather than closed book. Therefore, the way I revised was different. Rather than memorising the finer details, I instead memorised the basic foundations for each module. As I could use my notes during LPC exams, I was able to rely on them for those finer details. Furthermore, the LPC focuses less on case law, compared to the LLB, and focusses more on tasks a typical trainee solicitor may do, like drafting letters, interviewing clients, and knowing about solicitor’s accounts.
With the new Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) set to be introduced soon, what in your opinions are the pros and cons of choosing the LPC over the SQE?
I’m actually going to be releasing a video on my YouTube channel (Sim’s Legal Mentoring), where I explain what the SQE is in 2 minutes. In terms of pros, I would say the SQE aids in the legal profession becoming a lot more accessible. I would actually say there are more pros than cons, as the current system of the LPC and GDL is quite expensive, whereas the SQE is significantly cheaper. Furthermore, the SQE considers aspects like paralegal work and pro bono work to count towards qualifying as a solicitor, which I think is fantastic. I come across many individuals who have a wealth of experience, but the training contract route was just not working for them. I hope the SQE route aids them with this. In respect of cons, I guess they may come to light when the SQE is actually in place. I know typically the legal sphere is quite reluctant for change, and the SQE does shake things up quite a bit. There may also be loads of questions amongst candidates about what certain things mean, like qualifying work experience, but I guess this depends on there being complete transparency in answering these questions and concerns.
What was your experience as a paralegal?
My paralegal experience has been very positive to be honest. I have been fortunate to work for a few different law firms and in different teams as a paralegal, where I was immersed in a lot of early responsibility. This involved drafting witness statements, conversing with clients via telephone and letter, being in charge of my own case load as well as billing clients and writing invoices. Therefore, I gained an idea about the legal aspect of operating in law firms, but also understanding how law firms operate as a business. I even experienced different types of legal tech, which was pretty cool too.
Do you think becoming a paralegal is a good choice for someone who hasn’t been able to get a vacation scheme or training contract by the time they graduate?
I would say yes, it is a good choice, but I wouldn’t say it is the only choice for someone in this situation. It is great for gaining legal experience, but you can gain this elsewhere, for example, doing virtual internships. Also, you can still gain transferable skills from non-legal experiences, which are a bit more important.
What made you choose Womble Bond Dickinson as a firm for you to train at?
I wanted to work for a firm that had a small trainee intake, but also had an international presence and Womble Bond Dickinson fit this brief. I realised I wanted this because of my paralegal work, where I liked working in small teams, and having a personalised training contract where I knew people on a first name basis. I also really enjoyed my vacation scheme there and pictured myself working there, which confirmed my decision.
You started “Sim’s Legal Mentoring”, please tell us more about this and how it started?
Sim’s Legal Mentoring is about providing free advice and guidance to aspiring solicitors via Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn. This involves asking any questions you may have as well as doing application and CV reviews.
Why did you want to start Sim’s Legal Mentoring?
When I was in the process myself, I felt very alone and that there was not enough support out there for individuals. Therefore, I decided to help out using the experiences I gained. Sim’s Legal Mentoring also serves to help primarily South Asian aspiring solicitors (but I help anyone who asks), as I felt there needs to be more representation of this group in the legal field.
Do you think more support should be given to students in helping them choose career paths, particularly now in the midst of the pandemic?
For sure, I think there is so much emphasis on the training contract route, when there are several routes to becoming a solicitor. I feel those in positions where they can help people using their expertise or position in firms, should reach out and give a helping hand, especially during a pandemic when opportunities are difficult to come by.
Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to law students, what would that be?
Always stay authentic to yourself – there is no point changing who you are to chase this image of what a corporate lawyer ‘should’ look like. At the end of the day, the person you are is the biggest selling point, so sell this to the firm when applying!