Burnetts logo

Solicitor in training

Solicitor in training

Former trainee solicitor Sara Worsick shares her experience on how she landed a training contract at the firm.

I haven’t always wanted to be a solicitor – how many of us know what we want to do from the off? At primary school I had my heart set on becoming a vet but was quickly put off when my dad told me it would involve cows, calves and a pair of Marigolds!

The more I thought about it, the more the legal sector appealed to me but I realised there are so many different types of jobs in the legal sector. It wasn’t until I did my degree that I decided I wanted to become a solicitor. If being a solicitor is high on your list of careers, there are several factors to consider when making this decision.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, but one to consider carefully:

  • Current legal climate
  • Work experience
  • Academic ability
  • Location
  • Work/life balance

It's all about work experience

If I could put this in luminous colour with a huge arrow and flashing lights I would. Work experience is vital and is something every prospective employer looks for. I was fortunate enough to take part on the Burnetts work experience scheme (details of this can be found here). The first year was a whirlwind tour of nearly every department in the firm and it gave me a broad insight into the legal sector. The scheme is incredibly helpful as it allows you to start work experience at such a young age (year 12), whereas most other firms (both in Cumbria and nationally) will only offer work experience to those at University. I felt I was at a huge advantage when applying for different work experience schemes as I already had experience, which always helps get your foot in the door especially when it comes to interviews, as it gives a common ground to discuss.

Work experience shows commitment in that you have given up your time to try the job that you are applying for (or a similar job). It is important to try different firms/legal jobs. This is because high street firms run very differently to regional firms, who run differently to city firms, who run differently to those who offer pro bono. It’s also an idea to try different legal bodies too, such as work experience at a solicitors’ firm and at a barrister’s chambers so you understand the differences. This helps justify the time old question of ‘why do you want to be a solicitor?’ and ‘why do you want to be part of this firm?’ No two firms are the same!

University life

As a very active individual, I was concerned my studies would encroach on my social life. I’m glad to say it didn’t! It’s all about prioritising and time management – as exciting as it sounds. Yes, there are long nights and early mornings, but University is about more than just obtaining a degree. It’s about trying new things, making friends and taking responsibility. You should use this opportunity to ‘beef up’ your CV and fill in any gaps. From experience, firms enjoy candidates who are not only academically strong but also those who have something about them. For instance, an active volunteer, musical, sporty, arty etc. Take part in networking events (although, it is unlikely to land you a training contract directly) it’s a great way to firstly practice talking to professionals about law/jobs/common areas and, secondly they might even offer to have a look at your CV/application and offer some direction. Law fairs are brilliant for this – although make sure you are prepared – research 3 or 4 firms and prepare 1 or 2 questions specifically about that firm before you attend.

The degree itself certainly involves a lot of reading, which was definitely one of the hardest things to discipline myself with – particularly if it is something which doesn’t grab your attention – land law at university would send me to sleep (don’t worry in practice it’s ok!!). One thing to look at when choosing a University is how you are going to be tested – some people are stronger at coursework than exams and vice versa - so check this out.  

The Legal Practice Course

If you survived University, then the LPC (Legal Practice Course) isn’t as bad. This is much more practical; for example, how do you go about selling a piece of land; what information you need; and what forms to complete along with the requisite client care? As with your degree, there are mandatory subjects but there are also electives. You should consider which area of law you want to do your seats in and/or the firm you are applying or have applied to.

Obtaining a training contract

This was an intense process, in the midst of the second and third year, not only having coursework, exams and sports matches there was also preparation of application forms! As training contracts are so competitive you really must pull it ‘out of the bag’ and do individual application forms for each firm. You will need to tailor each application to the specific firm in order to make your application stand out. It is better to do 3 or 4 good quality applications rather than 10 generic applications.

Quite often firms have 2/3/4 stages to their application process. These range from telephone interviews, skype, face to face, psychometric tests, mini exams, observed group work, test days and other sorts. The key to all of these are preparation, albeit there is only so much you can do, but the more you do the better. Firm handshakes, a smile, eye contact (but not too much!) are key – but most importantly - be yourself. You will hear that hirers are after candidates who ‘fit the firm’ but the firm must also ‘fit you’ as you are going to spend the next 2 years working there.

Sara Worsick started her solicitor training contract with Burnetts in September 2014 and qualified in July 2016.

If you would like to undertake your training contract at one of the largest firms in Northern England we would like to hear from you! 

We have opened our application process and would like to invite candidates to apply for a training contract to commence in 2019.  If you are interested click here for details on how to apply.  The closing date for receipt of all applications is 30th June 2017.

Published: Tuesday 29th March 2016
Categorised: Practice News

Add your comments on this post

New comments on this post are no longer being accepted.

Comments on this post