Case study

Trainee solicitor — Jessica Smith

Jessica gained a degree in Business Management at the University of Leeds, before completing the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). She worked as a paralegal before applying for a training contract at Rayden Solicitors

How did you get your job?

I applied to Rayden Solicitors for a training contract by submitting an up to date CV and cover letter explaining why I wanted to be a family lawyer, setting out my work experience and the reasons why I would like a training contract at the firm.

What was the recruitment process like?

I found the recruitment process at Rayden Solicitors very personal, with the opportunity to talk about my experience and why I would fit in at the firm.

Following the submission of my CV and cover letter, I was invited to attend an interview with HR only. I then had to submit some advice to a client, based on a topic provided by the firm, attend a second interview with a partner and senior associate and complete a research task. I was then offered the job.

What attracted you to a career in law?

I had personal experience of family lawyers when I was very young, and the assistance they provided to my family was invaluable. Working as a family lawyer gives me the ability to undertake client-facing work that guides people through difficult periods. I like that every day is different and that each case has different circumstances, issues and challenges to overcome.

I applied to Rayden Solicitors because it is a niche, family law firm that specialises in all aspects of family law. Despite the firm being located outside London it has a strong reputation in the field of family law and this is reflected in the diversity of the firms clients.

It was important to me to choose a firm that was listed in the 'Legal 500' and 'Chambers and Partners' and Rayden Solicitors appears in the top tier rankings in both guides, with numerous positive testimonials.

What legal work experience did you gain before applying for your job?

I worked as a paralegal at a central London firm in the family team to gain experience. I also did a few weeks work experience at other firms while I was studying.

What's a typical day like as a trainee solicitor?

Busy - the days (and weeks) fly by because I have my own caseload but also assist senior fee earners with their caseloads when required. Each day is completely different, there may be several client meetings or calls one day and a court hearing or conference with counsel the next. Some days are spent drafting applications or statements on behalf of clients and others are taken up by business development and marketing yourself or the firm. 

Describe your job in five words.

Busy, rewarding, stressful, interesting and challenging.

What part of your job gives you the most satisfaction?

Seeing a case through from the initial client meeting to conclusion, where a client is happy with the outcome and able to move forward with their lives.

What are the challenges?

Management of a busy case load and consistently meeting client’s expectations - all while completing the necessary training to keep up to date with the changes in the law and business development.

What qualities do you think are important for a solicitor?

  • organisation
  • attention to detail
  • listening skills
  • the ability to cope with stress
  • compassion and understanding.

In what way is your degree relevant?

You can technically become a solicitor with any degree as you are able to complete a one-year course following a non-legal degree called the GDL. As my degree was in Business Management, this is the route I took. My degree has proved helpful though in terms of the understanding of marketing and finance within a law firm, despite the course content not being directly relevant.

Tell us about three challenges facing the legal sector today?

  • Cuts to legal aid by the government will affect an individual’s access to legal services and where they may usually instruct law firms by being funded by legal aid, they may have no choice but to act in person.
  • The legal industry is constantly developing and there are new types of organisations delivering legal services, including offering online services and new fee structures, which is making the industry more competitive.
  • The uncertainty of the impact of Brexit and how it will affect the law and provision of legal services.

There are a lot of stereotypes about working in law, what's the reality?

Working in the law is challenging but very rewarding and I love the fact that each client has different circumstances and issues.

The legal profession is very sociable and there are lots of opportunities to meet people and build relationships within the legal sector and in other industries.

How do I become a solicitor?

  • Get some work experience to find out which areas of law you like, which will help when completing a training contract and upon qualification.
  • Think about whether you want to do a degree in Law or in another subject but remember that this will add time and cost (unless you are sponsored by a law firm) to the process of becoming a qualified lawyer.
  • Start to build up a network as soon as possible. Contacts can help you secure a job and can also help with referrals and bringing in work in the future.

Want to share your story?

Get in touch by emailing editorial@prospects.ac.uk to tell us about your job, course, work experience or gap year.

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