Case study

Solicitor — Katie Dugdill

Katie graduated from the University of York with a degree in Law (LLB Hons). Discover how she secured a job as a solicitor with one of the top ranked chambers in the UK

How did you get your job?

During my second and third year of university I opted to gain as much work experience as I could in the legal field to ensure that a career in law was right for me.

Once I had completed my studies I became a paralegal at a medium sized law firm. I worked as a paralegal for two years and applied for training contracts during this time.

I secured a training contract with Langleys Solicitors and these typically last for two years. However, because I had paralegal experience I was given 'time to count' and I was able to qualify six months earlier.

What's a typical day like as a solicitor?

I act for insurers, corporate and individual policyholders defending employers' liability and public liability claims, including claims brought for personal injury and property damage.

I manage my own caseload, working on around 20 to 30 cases at a time, with one of the partners working closely with me as a supervisor. I also assist senior members of staff on more complex, high value cases. My work is largely office based, though I am required to attend court on occasion.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I am always faced with interesting and challenging work and I am constantly developing my legal knowledge.

While the litigation process is largely the same on each case, the facts are different and therefore I am faced with new legal challenges. As such, my job never becomes stagnant or boring.

Alongside this, I work closely with legal experts within my field and so I have a fantastic support network to aid my development.

What are the challenges?

There is much greater emphasis now on resolving matters through alternative dispute resolution as opposed to simply running every case to trial, (which might not be in the best interests of the client).

Parties to the litigation are encouraged to engage and co-operate with each other to get the best outcome for their clients. Sometimes parties disagree on matters, including liability and the value of the claim. This can make our job difficult, but it is important to identify ways to overcome these challenges so that we can achieve the best outcome for our clients.

How was your degree relevant?

During my law degree I learned about key areas of law, which I regularly come across in practice. However, I also developed important life skills. During this time you have your first real taste of independent living, which forces you to balance taking care of yourself, your studies and your social life.

Life in the legal profession is busy, so these experiences taught me about prioritisation, flexibility and discipline.

How has your role developed?

When I first started my training contract, I worked alongside senior members of staff in a supporting role. I found that this was the best way to learn, as I was given isolated tasks to develop key skills. My training was very structured as opposed to being thrown in at the deep end.

By the end of my training contract I had built the foundations required to become a well-rounded solicitor, which made the transition into managing my own caseload an easy one.

How do I get a job as a solicitor?

Law is very competitive and therefore it is important to stand out. For me, I sought work experience throughout my course, working through the summer holidays wherever I could.

My university also had its own legal clinic, which offered free legal advice and services to members of the public. I worked in the clinic as part of my course. It was this experience that prompted me to seek out further work experience in other law clinics. I had a friend living in Cleveland, Ohio at the time, so with a few calls I secured work experience there, to give me exposure to law in another jurisdiction. This was certainly a conversation starter in my training contract interview at Langleys.

However, don't undertake work experience to simply put it on your CV. Use it to understand what it is like to work in practice and to figure out what sort of law you want to work in. This will help guide you when it comes to applying for a training contract as different firms offer different services and have different core values, so it is important to work out what works for you.

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