Case study

Trainee solicitor — Sarah Smith

Sarah studied Law LLB Solicitors Exempting at Northumbria University, she now works as a trainee solicitor with Hudgell Solicitors

How did you get your training contract?

Following graduation I did some work experience placements, first for a housing charity working in their housing and corporate departments and then with Leeds City Council working in their information governance department.

This gave me valuable experience, which allowed me build on my CV while gaining an insight into the different areas of the law.

I secured my first job at a new firm working on professional negligence claims and as the firm grew I progressed to assistant head of legal and technical, while maintaining my own case load of professional negligence matters.

I then secured a position working for a mid-sized legal firm on complex and serious clinical negligence and personal injury claims. I assisted a partner with his case load, and this allowed me to gain experience in litigation and build on my knowledge.

I joined Hudgell Solicitors in January 2014 where I ran my own case load of clinical and dental negligence matters. This allowed me to see claims from inception to completion with the work being entirely my own.

The following year I was selected to become a trainee solicitor. I will qualify in September 2016.

Try to gain as much experience in the different areas of law as you can and don't just rule an area out because you didn't enjoy studying it

What do you do day-to-day?

No two days are the same as it can vary depending on where claims are at in the litigation process.

An average day would be reviewing a client's medical records, assessing claims along with medical evidence from medical legal experts and producing letters of claim to the defendant clinicians.

It would also involve assessing the value of cases and negotiating settlement.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I enjoy the variety of complex work I am exposed to; either through my own cases or working with colleagues on theirs.

What are the most challenging parts?

It can be difficult to balance training requirements with a busy case load and it takes good time management and self-discipline to stay ahead.

What are the best things about working in the law sector?

I enjoy how each client and each case gives new challenges. This allows me to constantly learn and develop myself.

I also enjoy problem solving and this is a vital skill to being successful in a legal career.

Any advice for others looking for a training contract?

I would say don't give up and don't worry if you do not have a training contract straight from university. These places are hard to secure and the time spent as a paralegal helps you to understand where your career is going and allows you to further develop the skills you learnt in the classroom.

You may also think that a certain area of law is for you, but the practical reality may be very different, so try to gain as much experience in the different areas of law as you can and don't just rule an area out because you didn't enjoy studying it.

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