In this article, Diya Gupta interviews Simranjeet Kaur Mann, a trainee solicitor, who will qualify at the end of the year. Simranjeet opens a window into her career so far and imparts advice to aspiring solicitors.
Hi Simranjeet! Please could you introduce yourself and share a little bit about the stage you’re at in your legal journey?
My name is Simranjeet; I am a trainee solicitor at a UK Top 20 Law firm, currently in my fourth seat. I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Bristol and outside of work, I also create content about careers, productivity, culture and important issues through my social media accounts and on YouTube.
When and why did you decide to pursue a career in law?
I first came across law when I was a teenager watching a Bollywood movie; 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.
How did you find the transition from studying law as a degree to beginning the LPC?
There was a year-long gap from when I studied Law and when I began my LPC as during that period I did paralegal work and secured my training contract. I enjoyed studying the LPC a lot more than my law degree as it was a lot more practical. However, I felt the content was excessive and very fast-paced on the LPC. For example, every week we were moving on to new topics, whereas during my law degree, we would have more time to understand each topic before moving on to the next one. Nevertheless, it provided a great summary and prepared me to a greater extent for my training contract.
What did you do/how did you prepare for securing a training contract?
Firstly, I researched firms extensively, using all resources available to me to figure out which types of firms I would want to work at. It is really important to remember that the firm should be a good fit for you, just as much as you are for them; and so looking into their practice areas and ethos are essential.
After rejections, I tried to understand where my weaknesses were and what I was doing wrong. In this way, I self-reviewed my applications and contemplated on how to change my approach for success.
I also made sure to keep an informal commercial awareness journal, so I could keep following important topics and current affairs, as it can be very easy to lose track with everything going on.
Out of the seats you have taken, which have you enjoyed most?
I’ve really enjoyed Commercial Law – it is an area of law that allows me to analyse the relationships between parties, understand my client’s business and negotiate contracts on their behalf.
Is there a particular area you envisioned yourself specialising in before working, and if so, has this changed at all?
I thought Real Estate would be my calling, but Commercial became a surprising favourite for me. The reason why I thought it would be Real Estate was because I was a paralegal in a real estate team, and I also really enjoyed studying it on the LPC.
What has been your most challenging experience as a trainee so far?
Being on a commercial secondment has probably been my most challenging experience, but one I learnt a lot from. The reason why I found it challenging was because I was trusted to provide legal advice with no supervision to members of the business, and be able to respond to legal queries. It was definitely out of my comfort zone, but that environment gave me room to grow.
How do you cope with the rigours of working in the legal profession and at a highly-reputed, demanding firm?
I would say that taking a break when necessary is key, as otherwise, you risk burning out, not enjoying your work and not performing as well. For me, this looked like talking time out to do more creative things and having a hard-stop after work and on weekends.
It is really important to make sure you have a support system and know who you can talk to at the firm when you’re feeling overwhelmed or confused. I also try to be as honest and open as possible about my capacity and availability to my team, enabling me to complete my tasks to the best of my ability instead of rushing/juggling excessively.
What does a typical day look like for you and what are some of the average tasks you’re assigned?
A typical day starts with checking my inbox, reviewing my to-do list, then starting the work according to what requires the most urgent deadline. Throughout the day I am assigned more tasks, some more urgent than others which requires re-arranging my to-do list. When in the office, I have lunch with the other trainee solicitors. After lunch, I continue working until the end of the day where I either stay for a social, catch up with friends or go home. The time I finish everyday does depend on whether my tasks for the day are complete and whether there are any urgent matters I need to continue working on.
There are so many tasks that a trainee can be doing, but a few of these include:
How would you describe the standard trainee at your firm (are there any particular traits, professional experiences, abilities that everyone generally shares)?
The standard trainee, in my opinion, displays and should try and aim to possess the following traits:
What advice would you give to individuals hoping to obtain a training contract, but consistently facing rejections?
I think you should always be aware of and reflect on your strengths and weaknesses as an applicant, in order to really be able to emphasise the positives more and improve on your weaknesses. This can often be hard to do so I would take someone else’s perspective – you could give a copy of an unsuccessful application to your friends/family to provide their opinion on as sometimes you need a fresh mind and outside viewpoint.
Overall, I would say to keep going. The process for training contracts is inherently designed to be competitive and tough; and there may be times where you feel like the odds are stacked against you, but by constantly reflecting and thinking of ways to improve yourself as a candidate, you get closer and closer to a training contract.