However you look at it, I think it is safe to say that the road to becoming a qualified solicitor is a long one. The cliché “it’s a marathon and not a sprint” could not be more apt in my opinion. Fortunately, I am reaching the finishing line and only have five months to go; I am sure that you can imagine my relief at being able to say that!
At every stage of my journey, there has always been the realisation that there is another step to follow – one which would normally involve an exam or two! Given the length of time it takes, 7 years in my case due to my four year sandwich course at university, it can be easy to lose focus and heart, especially if you see your friends start to climb their career ladders and earn good salaries. I have certainly wished at points that I could just push the fast-forward button and get to the end.
I have, however, come to appreciate that trainee solicitors are actually in a very fortunate and privileged position in undertaking a training contract. There aren’t many careers where you get such an opportunity to try a variety of disciplines with the relative safety net that a training contract brings. I have worked directly under excellent solicitors and learnt from their wealth of experience. I have also had the chance to work out what area of law I want to specialise in too, by experiencing it first hand rather than picking something purely on the theory taught at law school and university.
It is quite scary thinking back to when I started university and how young I was. It makes me smile but also makes me realise how far I have come. If I could go back and talk to my younger self at university, the one thing I would say (apart from the winning Euromillions numbers!) would be to really tackle the subjects that I didn't enjoy studying. If I am honest with myself, whether it was because I felt the teaching was poor or I just didn’t find the subject interesting, there were a couple of topics where I didn’t do enough to obtain a real understanding of that subject.
Don’t get me wrong, I still worked hard and did well in my exams but there is a big difference between doing enough to get through the exam and retaining a full understanding. It is not until you get into practice during your training contract that this distinction becomes apparent.
So my advice to prospective trainee solicitors, who are still at university, is to take on the subjects that you do not like or that might not interest you. You never know, you may find that the practice of an area is completely different to the theory. It will take more effort, but at the end of the day it is your responsibility and you will reap the benefits when it comes to your training contract.
Remember that if you are serious about doing law, what you learn at university is the foundation for your future career. The legal theory may not seem applicable to you at the time, but once you get into practice, you realise how important that fundamental knowledge is.
One final piece of advice would be to give every stage your all. Don’t have any regrets or wish that you had made more of an opportunity. It may seem that the journey is never ending but trust me, before you know it, you will be writing your own trainee blog post with only five months to go to qualification. My journey started with being shown a Job Centre advert for a court logger position at my local Crown Court. I can honestly say that I would not be where I am today had I not applied for and taken that job. Make the most of every opportunity and be as proactive as you can.
And so signing off for this blog post, it seems odd that after seven years, I am still really only at the start of my career. I certainly couldn’t have asked for more from my training and I know that whether I am fortunate enough to be retained in September or if my future lies with another firm, I have had the best start possible.