Throughout school and university I had always imagined a very traditional route into my legal career. Despite my early aspirations, plans changed throughout the years and I found other interests and opportunities which I knew I would live to regret if I didn’t at least try to explore these. Having graduated from university, I packed my bags and set off to South America, Colombia being the first stop. I spent the days trekking through beautiful mountains and in the evenings I spent my time researching and reaching out to law firms.
One evening, I was delighted to receive a response from an employee at Whitehead Monckton who discussed potential roles within the firm. I was pleased to find out that there was a temporary vacancy available, a secretarial position within the Property department. I did not have any previous experience in the role and it is certainly not one to be undermined - secretaries are an invaluable asset to the operation of a law firm. It was an amazing opportunity but a role which I knew very little about and, it remained to be seen whether I would be competent in this capacity. I researched the role of a legal secretary, tested my typing skills and arrived at the interview. I was honest about my lack of experience but I pledged that I would not disappoint the department. I was offered the job.
Within 3 months of working alongside the property department, I was offered an opportunity to join the Tax and Estate department on a permanent basis, which I snapped up right away. I spent the next two and half years assisting the TEP department while studying the Legal Practice Course on part-time basis. The dual-experience of study and legal-based work afforded me with one of the most obvious benefits – the opportunity to apply concepts and newly acquired knowledge on a daily basis! At the weekend, I was learning about the formalities of Lasting Powers of Attorney and on Monday I was drafting an LPA.
Although my studies were critically important, working as a secretary motivated me greatly because, as well as exposure to the firm, the exposure to the profession reaffirmed the big commitment that I was making would be worth my while.
I did however still have my eyes firmly set on a training contract! During the initial application round, the department happened to be extremely busy and I was concurrently preparing for exams - clock-watching and managing one deadline after another. I spent hours completing the application form but I was confident that I knew the firm ethos relatively well and could cope with the series of interview questions. During the interview, my experience as a secretary enabled me to discuss various issues such as management and leadership where I was invited to discuss the value that I could bring to the firm as well as the importance of business profitability. I felt confident that my secretarial experience would enable me to demonstrate what I had learned over the years and everything that I valued about the firm and hoped that this would enhance my employability.
I am delighted to say that I am now a few weeks into my first seat within the Commercial and Employment team. I often reflect on my journey and feel grateful that I utilised every opportunity that was presented to me and I hope that aspiring lawyers will recognise that building a better future is only achievable and sustainable if you do it your way!
My advice to aspiring lawyers would be that if you are ever offered an opportunity that is not exactly what you had set in mind, assess its value to your development and, if it is suitable, do not let that opportunity slide.
I wish future trainee solicitors all the very best and I hope that they find their legal experience as fulfilling and optimal as I have.