Case study

Solicitor — Sarah Jennings

Sarah studied an LLB at University of the West of England (UWE) before completing a Legal Practice Course (LPC) and MSc at the University of Law. She's now a solicitor in the corporate team at Weightmans

You took a break from studying to fund your LPC. What did you do during this time?

I decided to self-fund the LPC so needed to save the money in order to do this. I therefore applied for a graduate scheme with Enterprise Rent-A-Car and completed this during my year off studying. This enabled me to save the amount required to study for the LPC.

Why did you decide on a career in law?

When I initially started university I had no idea I wanted a career in law. It was after my degree and upon deciding to complete the LPC that I decided that I would like to pursue a career in law - the more practical skills-based approach to the LPC helped me to get to this decision. This was then reinforced when I started my job as an administration assistant at Weightmans.

You secured an administration assistant job then a training contract at Weightmans through a study mentor. How valuable are these schemes to those who are studying?

I signed up for the mentoring scheme while studying my LPC and was allocated a mentor from Weightmans. The mentor scheme is invaluable. My mentor provided loads of support and advice regarding my CV. I had never written a CV for a legal job before and had a lot of customer-facing experience but nothing office based. He helped me to mould my CV into something that would look professional and demonstrate my skills in a way that would be beneficial to a law firm. It was my mentor who told me about the administration assistant job at Weightmans - I applied and got the job. I then applied internally for the training contract in 2018 and was successful. 

How does the work of a NQ solicitor differ from that of a trainee?

The responsibility is there but the day job isn't too different. I am likely to get involved in more as I know the team and have a bit more experience in the area so have developed a bank of knowledge I can now use on transactions.

What part of your job do you enjoy the most?

The client contact - I really enjoyed my seat in corporate as I got to communicate with clients all the time and can follow the transactions from inception right to completion, which is a brilliant feeling. We deal with a lot of OMBs (owner managed businesses) so a lot of our clients are entrepreneurs or have started their business from scratch - it is very rewarding to see them sell their business and enjoy retirement or move on to a different challenge.

What are the challenges?

The hours are sometimes long depending on the transaction but then you will also get lighter periods so it is very much about taking the good with the bad in terms of hours.

There can also be high levels of stress among colleagues and clients if a deal is close to completion or if things go wrong, but that is usually due to the fact that everyone cares so much and they want things to go right so the pressure is sometimes on.

What three qualities are important in a solicitor?

Communication, adaptability and motivation

What are your career ambitions?

I would love to be a partner one day. I can see myself continuing with the business development side of my job and this is a great quality for becoming a partner. I really love the firm I work in and feel passionate about its values so hope to have a long career here.

Tell us about an issue currently facing the legal sector.

Coming back after COVID-19 - being out of the office is tough and you can sometimes feel isolated. It is so important for junior staff like me to come back to the office and speak with our colleagues and get involved in things around the office to make sure we get that teamwork and camaraderie aspect back to the job.

What advice can you give to other aspiring solicitors?

It's a marathon not a sprint - never take your foot off the gas. You will get there.

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