What is it Like to Work in Law?
It's not for us to say whether working in law is like an episode of Suits or Better Call Saul. Read our real life success stories and find out for yourself!
Click on each name to read their story, or simply scroll through:
- Sive – Trainee Solicitor at Marriott Harrison LLP
- Simon – Senior Solicitor at Neil Hudgell Solicitors
- Matthew – Senior Solicitor at Neil Hudgell Solicitors
Sive has a strong educational background in law having studied it for her undergraduate degree at the University of Southampton, going on to take a Masters in Corporate Law at University College London, and finally doing the accelerated LPC at the University of Law. It all paid off though, she's now a Trainee Solicitor with Marriott Harrison LLP.
What inspired you to study law?
I enjoy working with people and as part of a team. I also look for ways to challenge myself intellectually. As a solicitor you are always working with people and are dealing with complex legal issues that are intellectually stimulating.
I have a particular interest in corporate law because as a corporate lawyer you are not only required to know the law but you need to keep up-to-date with wider economic developments that may have an impact on the advice that you give your clients.
I decided to do a Master’s degree because I wanted to get a further insight into the area of law that I was most interested in.
What are you hoping to specialise in?
I would like to qualify into the Corporate department of Marriott Harrison but it is difficult to say at this stage without having had the chance to experience other departments. What is so great about a training contract is that you get exposed to many different areas of law.
Can you tell us a bit about how your career has progressed so far?
As part of my two year training contract, I will be doing four 6 month long seats. I have spent my first six months in the Corporate department. I am currently in my second seat in the Dispute Resolution department.
What’s been the most interesting experience so far?
I was able to work on an internal share transfer for a company which I have admired for a long time. I was given a lot of responsibility from the start and was put in direct contact with the clients.
What does a typical working day look like?
I get into the office between 8:30 and 9:00 in the morning. I check my emails to see if there is anything urgent that needs attending to, and then speak to my supervising partner to see if there is anything she would like me to do.
The work I do ranges from drafting contracts to creating bundles for tribunal hearings. Trainees are encouraged to get involved in networking events so there may be an event in the evening which I would attend.
What skills do you have that have made you successfully break into law as a profession?
I think I was able to demonstrate a genuine interest and understanding about becoming a solicitor.
How will your current experience support your career aspirations?
I am given a lot of responsibility at an early stage at Marriott Harrison. I have been very fortunate to have had direct client contract on many occasions. This has been an invaluable experience in terms of starting to build my own practice going forward.
Where do you hope to be in five years time?
I would like to be qualified into the practice area of my choice and perhaps start specialising in a particular aspect within that practice area where people come to me for advice.
How can job applicants stand out from the crowd?
I think it is very important to have relevant work experience on your CV. Not only does this help you get noticed in the initial application process but during the subsequent interview stages you will be able to demonstrate an understanding of what it really is like being a solicitor.
Any general advice for budding Law students and professionals?
It is becoming increasingly competitive to secure a training contract so be persistent if this is really what you want to do.
Simon is a Senior Solicitor at Neil Hudgell Solicitors. He told us about his career in law, from school all the way to where he is today.
Why did you choose to become a solicitor?
I had an interest in the law from a young age, and from about 12 I wanted to be a solicitor. Criminal cases on the news always fascinated me, an interest fuelled by big criminal trials such as Peter Sutcliffe (the Yorkshire Ripper) and the Dennis Nilsen trial.
What subjects did you study at A Level?
At school I studied Maths, History, Geography and General Studies. A Level Law certainly isn’t a pre-requisite for a career in the field.
My advice would be to choose a variety of subjects in order to demonstrate a wide range of skills, and to check with the universities for any specific qualifications for the course you're interested in.
Where did you study your LPC?
The year following my degree (LLB Hons Law) I was lucky enough to get a place at the College of Law at the University of York to do my LPC. I had by then secured a training contract (articles in those days!) which I went into straight away. I qualified in 1996.
What area of law did you specialise in during university?
When I first set out I wanted to learn about criminal law. That has changed to the extent that I have never practiced criminal law. Once I qualified, I started working on clinical negligence, and it fascinated me.
I wouldn’t suggest that students specialise too much at university – as can be seen, I thought I wanted to do one area and ended up working in another. I would suggest trying to get different work placements whilst at university. This will give an insight into the practicalities of different work types, and will give a student more of a feel for the type of law they wish to specialise in.
Can you tell us about the early days of your career in law?
I was offered a training contract at my first firm in 1994. Contracts were hard to come by so it felt like a major achievement. I have been asked how I made myself stand out and the simple answer is by just doing what I was asked to do. I went on a work placement for two summers with a local firm, Hamers. My first week consisted of putting furniture together for them, but it showed I was willing to do whatever it took.
Gradually I was given more work and was actually offered a training contract before I was offered my LPC place. I don’t think the industry has changed, in that training contracts are rare. It may sound old fashioned, but too many candidates I see want something for nothing – you need to put in the hard graft.
What’s the most common misconception about what solicitors do?
That practising law is all about the money, or that we are ambulance chasers. This is often reinforced by government and the media. Ironically, we are not very good at defending ourselves as a profession!
Our focus is on helping clients. For many years I did legal aid work and as a firm we still do. Legal aid work is definitely not about the money. The rates of pay are very low and if it was simply about money we wouldn’t do it. It does however provide access to justice for clients, and that is the key issue.
What’s the most interesting part of being a solicitor?
Piecing together a case from client’s recollection, review of records and medical reports. Clients can have many volumes of records and a full review can take hours. You need to be able to spot the needle in the haystack. One page out of thousands may be the key, so you need to be analytical and have good powers of concentration!
What does a typical day look like for you at Neil Hudgell Solicitors?
There is no typical day really. I am part of the senior management team and different challenges occur daily. That is what keeps it interesting. My role these days involves less handling of files and more management of staff.
How can job applicants stand out from the crowd?
Do something different. Interests such as reading or going to the cinema are ten a penny. Do some community work, get some sports coaching badges – something that makes you interesting to someone who sees 20 CVs a week. Work experience helps; it shows you are committed.
There are many applicants for every job so you need to show commitment and enthusiasm for the law. When interviewing though the main thing is personality. Yes I need to know people have the knowledge, but I need to know they will fit in with my team. Work on interviewing skills and techniques is never wasted.
Do you think there’s a type of person suited to becoming a solicitor? What key skills do they need?
You need common sense as well as intelligence – they are really not the same thing. In my field of clinical negligence you need analytical skills and a dogged determination to get the best outcome for your client. Litigation lawyers are usually argumentative by nature.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give a law student/graduate?
Be certain that it’s what you want to do. Be determined to get to where you want to be. It is hard work and you need drive to succeed. Get work experience. Offer to do holiday work at no cost. This shows commitment.
The main thing – never give up. You will get knockbacks and it's how you recover from those that matters.
Matthew is a Senior Solicitor at Neil Hudgell Solicitors specialising in personal injury law. This interview touches on how he started his career, and provides helpful advice for any students who are hoping to pursue law.
What made you decide to become a solicitor?
I came out of university with a degree in English Literature which, whilst interesting, I decided that I needed to move into something a bit more vocational.
After converting to law and starting my legal career, I decided early on that I wanted to specialise in personal injury. The reason for this was the element of human interest, as it was distinct from commercial law, which seemed a bit dry to me.
How did you find your university experience as a law student?
I took a Law conversion course at the College of Law (now the University of Law). The Law conversion course attempts to pack into one year all the essential elements of a three-year Law degree, so it was quite challenging!
Describe your typical day.
It sounds like a cliché, but there is no such thing as a typical day. I may be at court for a hearing, visiting a client at home or in hospital, or in the office preparing for a case. One of the best things about the job is its variety.
What is your favourite part of your job?
One of my favourite parts is getting out and meeting our clients. We are always happy to visit clients, whatever part of the country they may be in. There is no substitute for a face-to face-meeting.
What is the most challenging part?
The job can be high-pressured with many tight court deadlines. However, as long as you are well organised this should not present problems.
Which has been your most interesting case to work on, and why?
I recently acted on behalf of a young man who suffered a spinal injury and head injury when he was cycling to work and a car collided with him. He had to give up a promising career in the army. We recovered £6 million for him. He was an inspiring young man who won a 'Pride of Britain' award after he gave £22,000 of his compensation to a young cerebral palsy sufferer, to enable him to have pioneering treatment in America.
What was the turning point in your career?
When I was asked to assist on my first serious injury case, over ten years ago. This involved a young man who had suffered a spinal injury in West Wales, when travelling as a passenger in a car that was being chased by the police. Since then, I have worked on numerous complex injury cases, including spinal injury, brain injury and fatal accident cases.
What advice would you give an aspiring lawyer?
Try to obtain as much legal work experience as possible. This could be through working in a law firm, law centre or barrister’s chambers. It could be unpaid work experience or paid work as a paralegal.
Before I started law college, I spent a year doing unpaid work experience in law firms, barrister’s chambers and law centres. I even ‘shadowed’ a judge at the local county court.
How can a job applicant stand out from the crowd?
It is important to have more than just good academic qualifications and to show that you have interests outside your studies. At university, join clubs or societies or take part in sports if you are a sporty person. If you are interested in working as a serious injury lawyer, you might consider working for charities such as Headway (a brain injury charity) or for the Backup Trust or the SIA (both of which are spinal injury charities).
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
Doing more or less what I am doing now – acting for seriously injured clients and doing the best that I can to get them the compensation that they deserve.