Hi Folu, thank you for agreeing to speak with me today. Please introduce yourself to our readers.
At the moment, I am a Trainee Solicitor at DLA Piper. I will be finishing my first year soon.
What interests, experiences and advice led you to decide on a career as a Commercial Solicitor?
Interests: I have always been interested in law and business. When exploring career paths, Commercial law appeared to be a suitable option for me. In secondary school, I mostly enjoyed subjects that required forming arguments, analysing information and writing essays such as history and government and politics. At university, I selected Commercial law, Company law and Competition law as my optional modules. I enjoyed studying them and performed well in them and developed an interest in Commercial law.
Experiences: I completed informal work experience at high street law firms specialising in Immigration law and Family law which gave me a good idea about what solicitors do. It also helped me realise that I was not too keen on those areas of law as they were too personal for me. After that, I began to look for legal experience in commercial law specifically. Fortunately, I secured two informal work experience placements at Baker McKenzie and Freshfields. I thoroughly enjoyed them and went on to complete vacation schemes at three city law firms, including the one I am with now. By that point, I was sure I wanted to become a Commercial Solicitor because those experiences taught me how impactful the work in commercial law can be and how broad it is.
Advice / Networking: I found assistance from social mobility networks to be valuable. I applied to SEO London in 2015, which helped me gain access to open days at top law firms and learn more about commercial awareness. I also registered with Rare Recruitment, which supported me with my applications in the year that I progressed to multiple assessment stages. Finally, I applied to the BLD Foundation’s Legal Launchpad scheme, which helped me obtain a week’s work experience, develop my applications, and gain access to networking events. I believe they refined me into a strong applicant who could secure vacation schemes and training contracts.
You achieved a distinction on your LPC. What is your best advice for incoming LPC students on obtaining a high grade?
The key is organisation. I studied my LPC at the University of Law and was assessed through open-book exams. My opinion, and that of other trainee solicitors I have spoken to, is that the LPC is not necessarily complex but has a large workload. There is a lot of information. I believe if you do not stay on top of things, it may overwhelm you.
Secondly, do not isolate yourself. Work with other students where you can. Other people may have made notes that can be useful to you. Preparing together, within the university’s guidelines, of course, may improve your studying experience.
What advice do you have for aspiring solicitors with the application process?
Be strategic – Always think about how you are approaching the process every stage of the way. First and foremost, get your applications in as soon as possible. Firms will not wait on a suitable applicant. Know the opening dates and the firms you want to apply to well in advance. Doing this made a big difference for me in the year I received multiple vacation schemes.
Secondly, remember what matters is quality over quantity. Don’t waste time completing 30 applications. They are not easy; you should factor in time to draft them, have them looked over and corrected. Apply to a select few firms that you have researched well and genuinely want to work for. Personally, I would say 8 is a good number.
Finally, get help where you can. Sometimes you may think that your application is good, but it may not be. It is wise to get a second pair of eyes that know what firms are looking for in candidates. Also, asking for help should happen at every stage of the process, so ask for help to prepare for assessment centres.
Why did you apply to DLA Piper?
I knew I wanted to work in a global firm. I wanted to work internationally with a diverse range of people. When I was researching, I looked for law firms that promoted their international aspect well for their trainees. DLA Piper did this. I was also fortunate to gain insight from a lawyer at DLA Piper that I regard very much about what work-life was like there. He spoke highly of the firm. Both reasons led me to apply for a vacation scheme, through which I obtained my training contract.
How was the vacation scheme?
I thoroughly enjoyed my vacation scheme. What solidified my decision to train with the firm was the diversity I saw while I was there. As a black woman, I was looking for black female lawyers at senior levels. Unfortunately, lack of racial diversity is a widespread issue in the legal profession. I saw that DLA Piper was working to change this; they have quite a few black female leadership staff.
I believe so far that the firm has supported me as much as it can. Due to the pandemic, the training contract structure has been quite different. For example, I have been working remotely. However, they have implemented regular social events and facilitated measures to make training feel as office-like as possible. Overall, I have the freedom to choose whichever seats I want to do as there is no requirement to take specific seats, which I like very much.
What seats have you done so far, and how have you found them?
So far, I have completed a seat in litigation, specifically in a construction and infrastructure disputes subgroup, which in all honestly, I found was not for me. I was surprised because I enjoyed studying the dispute resolution module on the LPC and thought I would become a litigator. In reality, the work was not for me.
My second seat, which I am currently doing, is in real estate, which I am thoroughly enjoying. It is practical to real life, so even though DLA Piper practices commercial real estate, I have found that my work is relevant to everyday life; I am in the process of moving home and have found myself applying the knowledge I have gained at work. I think this field is where I may qualify.
Do you have any social media platforms to share for readers to contact you?
Absolutely! My LinkedIn is Folu Babatope. Please feel free to contact me! I love helping aspiring lawyers.