updated on 29 March 2021
I thought it would be useful to share my journey to becoming a solicitor – a very interesting and challenging discipline.
Like many, it was a childhood dream. From a young age, I had the burning desire of becoming a solicitor and I am delighted my dream went from goal to reality.
Initially, my passion for law came from the fact that my name means someone who justifies; I wanted to bring justice and fairness into peoples’ lives.
I secured my first legal experience at a local law firm during high school. I liked the client interaction, busy environment and my passion increased from there. Throughout my education, I continued to work and gained valuable experience at the Pro Bono centre, Citizens Advice Bureau, The Royal Courts of Justice, legal departments at charities as well as renowned retail stores.
Further, just after graduating I interned at a leading international law firm and contracted with the Big Four which helped me to develop commercial awareness. It can be difficult to get your foot in the door at a law firm but you can pick up excellent transferable skills in different work environments that will help you to settle into a legal job with far greater equanimity.
My A Level grades were good but I didn't achieve my predicted results due to extenuating personal circumstances. I became slightly apprehensive as to whether I would be accepted to do law as most universities understandably set high-grade requirements.
However, I attended the open day at the university I wished to study at which really helped. I was fortunate enough to meet the course directors and develop a rapport and my personal statement helped them to see my potential and I secured a place on the Solicitors Exempting degree.
This four-year degree was distinctive and dynamic. It includes the LLB incorporated with the Legal Practice Course together with work experience opportunities. This worked out more cost effective also as I only had to pay yearly tuition fees.
Don't just look good on paper – capitalise on your personality
In light of the above, I am a firm believer that people buy into you. Therefore, you should use your personality, customer service experience, interests and extracurricular pursuits to market yourself well and prove your capability to build relationships, apply your knowledge and showcase what you can bring to the table.
While good grades are important and help open doors, they are not all that defines you and there's little correlation with good grades promising success. Don't be disheartened and don't give up – sometimes failure is success in progress; see any setbacks as a set up for a better comeback. There are many ways you can compensate for not getting a certain grade. Employers value experience and skills, preferably in a way that leverages your passion and strengths.
Securing a training contract
I'm glad I didn't give up. I went on to secure a training contract at a west end firm after working there as a paralegal. By starting as a paralegal, I was able to:
This can help you to take control of your career path and show your determination and potential.
The competition will always be fierce. What helped me to stay ahead of the curve was demonstrating my entrepreneurial outlook and bringing in business for the firm through networking and developing trust and synergies between the respective businesses. There's a gaping void of teaching entrepreneurship during law degrees but I think this is something that could really benefit future lawyers.
Perfection isn't attainable – strive for excellence
Remember that a firm can teach you the law but they can't really teach you what's inherent – motivation, team player skills and integrity which are all needed to be a good lawyer. These skills coupled with cultivating positive relationships will boost your brand resulting in a greater impact on career success.
I think it certainly helps when you have a good aura about you, as others enjoy working with you, and similarly clients are more likely to instruct and recommend a solicitor they have a positive experience with.
Persistence, determination and hunger for success is key
I encourage you to use your resources and reach out to your contacts. If you don't ask you won't get, eventually someone will give you the opportunity.
On your journey, you should inspire and learn from others but equally remember that you are in competition with yourself, so my advice would be to be confident in your abilities but humble enough to ask for help where needed.
Believe and you will achieve! Good luck.
Munsifah Choudhary is a newly qualified solicitor at Simmons & Simmons LLP (contract role).