What does being a solicitor involve? How do I qualify as one? Is being a barrister completely and utterly impossible? Questions like these never fail to confuse the aspiring lawyer and I was tired of hearing contradictory “advice.” It was only the First Headstart Programme which shook the confusion out of my head and gave me the direction I needed. It taught me how in the long hike up the mountain towards a career in law, there are a number of stop-off points one needs to make on that journey. First, you need to know which mountain it is you want to climb. Whether you want to be a barrister, a solicitor, a company secretary, go into criminal, family, civil or commercial law is something the event will help you clarify in your own mind. Listening to Lucinda Orr, senior associate of Enyo Law was particularly refreshing since she informed us about possible routes to becoming a barrister. What made her talk so noteworthy was the brutal honesty. Yes, you’re your own boss. Yes, you can go on holiday whenever you like. No, it’s not as hard as some make it out to be but it’s a long and steep climb which will require a lot of perseverance, not to mention pupillages.
To get onto the programme you have to be either a first-year law student or second-year non-law student (like myself). Where you are at the moment will determine what type of training you need for your climb and the event provides great advice in this department. As a second year Politics student, I was apprehensive that firms would prefer law students but to my surprise, I learnt that coming from another background is not a setback. In fact, it can be a gateway into even more opportunities. Fundamentally, legal problems are not only legal problems. They are technical, they are economic and they are political. This is why almost any discipline will be held in high regard by the law firms and once you have found your niche, the sky really is the limit.
For me and most of the attendees (and I imagine most of those applying), the dream is corporate/commercial law. Representatives from a range of different firms came for the training session. Sidley Austin, the Chicago-based firm where Barack Obama met Michelle, has its opportunities on offer. As does the first global law firm, Baker & McKenzie and so does nationally-focussed Shoosmiths. The best thing about the event was that many of the representatives were new to their respective firms and were giving away the tips and tricks for being where they are in a few years time. Everything from how to write an outstanding application, how to practice the necessary psychometric tests and how to ace the interview was covered in the training workshop.
Not only do these firms provide guidance and advice but the networking session provides the opportunity to ask questions one-on-one, both to speakers from the day and other representatives who did not speak at the training session. I particularly enjoyed talking to a solicitor (name withheld) who worked for Vodafone, a company she praised for its relaxed culture and flexible working-hours. What she taught me is that once you’re an established solicitor, all types of doors are open. After all, almost every major company and every industry requires legal staff and so the event not only helped me get a grasp over what I wanted to do after graduation but helped me formulate long-term career ambitions.
Overall, the BLD Foundation’s First Headstart programme is the first step towards a future career in law. As a direct result of my selection and attendance, I secured a work shadowing placement and have been selected to attend an insight day at two of my favourite law firms. It is a door-opening organisation which is why I cannot recommend the Foundation and the First Headstart programme enough.
Tal Tyagi, FH 2015
As a first year law student I was so sure I wanted to be a lawyer. However I was not sure how on earth to achieve this dream. This has been the case ever since I started thinking about the law, but the First Headstart Programme has really given me a head start in law! As soon as I walked through the doors of Sidley Austin LLP I was in awe, the building was beautiful and the atmosphere just screamed “lawyer” to me!
As soon as I walked into the 6th floor room I saw a sea of faces, it was filled with professional looking but also friendly looking people. As I sat down and read through the booklet that was sitting on the table, it was filled to the brim with information. I always knew that I wanted to be a solicitor but did not know the recruitment process so when Jerry Gallagher (the director of HR at Sidley Austin) went through the basics and then the not-so-basics of entering a legal profession it was provided invaluable insight.
Although I, personally, am geared at being a solicitor it was still interesting to hear the other side of the fence from Lucinda Orr from Enyo Law. She provided a shockingly honest but humorous insight into a barrister’s career path.
Reed Smith came along to provide an introduction to commercial awareness; this allowed us to participate in an enlightening discussion as a group. It also stressed to us how important commercial awareness is in the legal world and how to obtain it. Representatives from Pinsent Masons, Baker and McKenzie, Berwin Leighton Paisner and many other firms came along to the event. Trainees from Pinsent Masons gave us an inside view into their recruitment process. They told us about the STARR technique which can be used for interviews and this helps structure answers for job interviews and applications.
The networking session which followed the event may have been the most useful. It allowed us students to practice our soft skills in a relaxed and friendly environment. This session was extremely interactive and interesting as I never had a chance to network before. Networking with trainees was particularly useful because the trainees were at all different stages of their training contracts and could provide insight into the culture and the working environment of their firms.
Overall, the BLD Foundation First Headstart Programme was a wonderfully insightful experience and it allowed me and the rest of the participants to gain a first-hand view into the legal world. The amount of information packed into a one day programme was amazing; the day was structured extremely well. So my advice to future participants is to make most of the event by taking notes on all the talks, do some research about the participating firms and don’t be afraid to network!
Tarnpreet Kaur, FH 2015
University of Liverpool