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In this article, Prince Fater Audu interviews Hannah-Mei Grisley, a future trainee at Squire Patton Boggs. Hannah-Mei is also the co-founder of Let’s Chat Law, an online platform which organises authentic chats for aspiring lawyers fortnightly on diverse online platforms. Aside from this, in appreciation of her Asian roots, Hannah-Mei co-founded a China and Asian-related blog called 3 cups of cha which concentrates primarily on law, business and culture.
Hannah-Mei takes us through her intriguing journey of how upon obtained a first- class degree in a non-law discipline, she opted to pursue a career as a solicitor. Recounting her experience, Hannah shares an insight on factors that largely influenced her choice of law courses to focus on. Finally, she gives tips that incoming Legal Practice Course (LPC) students can leverage to scale through.
Hi Hannah-Mei, please share with us what the current stage of your career is
Hi there – thank you for having me!
I have just finished the LPC Fast-Track at BPP and I’m currently on a 3-month secondment with a department store before I start my training contract at a City law firm this autumn.
I am a Modern Languages and Business Management graduate who took a ‘year out’ after graduation to work at a start-up in Hong Kong. It was a fun experience to live in a completely different city. I had previously studied in Beijing on my year abroad and a great learning opportunity for me too. I got responsibility to manage my own projects and interact with clients from top international companies. Aside that, it also helped me realise that law was the right career path for me, so I returned to the UK to study the GDL.
I only did one vacation scheme which was at the law firm where I received my training contract offer. I was lucky enough to get some experience shadowing beforehand. This along with my other non-legal experiences of working and studying, helped me suss out what kind of law and law firm I wanted to work at.
I know that you are very active on social media – please share what projects/profiles you are a part of and what you share on them.
As I mentioned, I co-founded Let’s Chat Law and 3 Cups of Cha during lockdown in 2020.
As a non-law student, I didn’t really know many other aspiring lawyers so I initially started my own legal Instagram page (@hannahhyphenmei) to meet other aspiring lawyers, especially those who were from a non-law background like myself and studying the GDL.
I met Juliette and Roslyn online and we started Let’s Chat Law as a way to chat with other aspiring lawyers via Instagram group chats. Let’s Chat Law has now evolved into a community of 1800+ aspiring lawyers and a team of 6. We now organise Chats on Zoom, Instagram and Clubhouse with guest speakers from all over the legal industry on a range of topics from diversity in law, to LegalTech and making applications. We aim to educate and inform aspiring lawyers by having authentic conversations about law.
Now we are coming out of lockdown, we are hoping to organise our first ever in-person event to mark our 1st anniversary and expand onto university campuses as well as partner with societies and other organisations.
I’m also involved with 3 Cups of Cha, which is an Instagram page sharing news and updates related to Chinese and Asian law, business and culture every weekday. We recognised that there was a gap in the legal industry, and our own knowledge, for digestible and easy-to-read content about greater China. We also organise roundtable discussions with guest speakers on different topics, which we record as our ‘Chaguan Chats’ podcast.
What experiences or advice helped you choose which type of law you wanted to enter?
My previous job in Hong Kong was very formative for me in terms of realising what kind of work and working environment I wanted to be in. I worked in project management in a small team at a French startup, which made me realise that I enjoy taking responsibility, working with clients, and in a small, but international team. This helped me focus my training contract applications because I then applied to law firms with smaller trainee intakes, secondment opportunities and so on.
Right now, I am still very open to trying more areas of commercial and corporate law. I enjoyed my vacation scheme in the competition department and enjoyed the intersection of policy and business but we’ll have to see!
You recently completed the Legal Practice Course (LPC) Please share any tips you have for incoming LPC students.
I recently graduated the LPC Fast-track course at BPP and I’ve found out that I passed!
The accelerated course is very intense, so my biggest tip is be prepared. Know exactly what you have to do and when and to use the term planners that the university offer to plan ahead. Keep on top of your Small Group Session
(SGS) or workshop prep, because once you fall behind schedule, it’s an uphill battle.
Now that we are studying online, it’s really important to leverage your support networks and find a classmate or study buddy for revision or someone to go to the library with (if you’re allowed). It can be really easy to lose motivation when you’re studying at home by yourself, so don’t beat yourself up when you do and recognise when you need to take breaks.
Most LPC courses have online and open book exams (for now!), so it’s important to review how you revise and prepare for your exams. I focused on condensing my notes, making sure they were in order and beefing up my problem question structures and flowcharts. The LPC is practical so there are lots of problem and scenario-based questions, so make sure you apply your knowledge to the question instead of regurgitating it (which luckily you don’t have to if you have your notes in front of you).
What tips would you give to aspiring solicitors in relation to the application process?
My three top tips are things that I’ve learnt the hard way.
- Know what you want. Make sure you have criteria for the kind of law firm you want to apply to, for example, practice areas, trainee intake size, location, secondment opportunities, and make sure you are applying it strictly when making applications. If you are taking a scattergun approach, it makes it harder to write coherent applications and answer ‘why this law firm?’ in interviews.
- Meet the firm, where possible. It’s hard to know if you are the right fit for a law firm if you haven’t met anyone who works there, whether it’s a partner, trainee or HR team member. While most networking events are online, this is still an opportunity to get a feel for the firm. And don’t discount the power of lockdown!
- Don’t disregard your non-law experience or interest, especially if you come from a non-law background. Everyone might have done a law degree, whether it’s the LLB or GDL (that is until the Solicitors Qualifying Examination is completely phased in) and will have some kind of legal work experience or interest, such as volunteering, vacation schemes, mooting. Find what makes you stand out from the crowd and what will make law firms remember you as a candidate when applying or networking at an event.
Finally, share a fun fact about yourself!
I now have the perfect answer for the question ‘how have you demonstrated resilience?’ When I was working in Hong Kong, I lived in a tiny room or, as I liked to call it, a shoebox that was about 30 square feet for 9 months. There was a desk and chair ‘downstairs’ and a bed and fan in the ‘loft’ and that was it. Luckily it was in a central location and had a rooftop terrace. It was great fun, because it was a bonding experience with other residents, and forced me to get out and explore Hong Kong although it was also challenging.