I remember being sat in a lecture theatre feeling pitted against my peers for what we all imagined were the holy grail of training contracts; longing for the security of my LPC being sponsored and being able to call myself a “success”. That pressure culminated in some fifty blanket applications, countless hours of worrying and the only inevitable outcome: rejection.
Now, almost a year into my training contract with TLT, I have the luxury of being able to reflect. I hope that my reflections can be of some assistance and comfort to aspiring solicitors who are yet to be offered a training contract. Often I hear about this light at the end of a tunnel, that light being a training contract. This sits uncomfortably with me. I believe that no journey is undertaken in complete darkness until one pivotal moment; my tunnel has got to be much longer and much wider than that.
Lesson: keep running
Now depending on how your hurdles are set out, everyone has at least two options available to them. All of your hurdles interlocked side by side may seem like an insurmountable barrier. In my second year of University I lined my hurdles up that way. I was the first generation student in my family, I was struggling to get legal work experience, I wasn’t as intelligent as my peers, I didn’t have the money to fund the LPC on my own and the list seemed to be never ending. I couldn’t side step this barrier as it seemed to circle the entire world. So my options were simple: to either somehow get through the barrier or be stifled by it.
Lesson: everything can be an asset
You may, like me, have struggled to get any legal work experience: a liability. However, like me, you may have worked elsewhere and built up a body of transferable skills: an asset. In order for the asset to outweigh the liability, you need to be able to exploit it i.e. demonstrate its applicability to the skills you will utilise as a solicitor. By way of illustration, a person working on the drive thru at McDonald's has worked in a time pressured environment; they have striven to meet targets, engaged with difficult customers, rectified mistakes, sometimes grappled with seemingly unreasonable demands and has an understanding of franchising. Do not be afraid to make your assets jump off the page.
In exploiting our assets, we do not need to hide or side step our liabilities. I believe it to be of the utmost importance that we acknowledge what our liabilities are in interviews. As humans, mistakes are unavoidable. There are some things we are just weaker at. For instance, I am not the best networker (yet). Acknowledging our weaknesses and committing to trying to improve them makes us accountable and driven; qualities valued by our clients. There is no definitive mould for what a solicitor should be. Acknowledging you need to improve a quality you believe a solicitor must have is an asset in itself to be exploited.
Lesson: use your arrows wisely
I want you to imagine that you have fifty arrows in a quiver; these arrows are the physical embodiment of your positive net worth. When I submitted my initial applications in my second year of University all I knew for sure was that I wanted to work in the commercial field; needless to say I fired my misdirected arrows all over the place. Pinpointing your preferences and having a list of must-haves will assist you in honing in on the firms that might work for you. Do your research and rank firms in order of how they meet your criteria. Now, look at your arrows. It is now up to you to consider how many of them you will fire at each target. Will you give fifty firms one reason to choose you, or five firms ten reasons to choose you? Whatever your approach, be sure to make good use of your arrows.
Lesson 1: don’t be in a hurry
Lesson 2: your assets are appreciating
Unfortunately, just like there is no definitive mould for a solicitor, there is no definitive method for ensuring you get a training contract. If this is the career path for you, resilience and determination will be in your quiver. Undoubtedly, you will be rejected; be it in your career, a relationship or entry to a club after a few too many zombies: it is an often unwelcomed part of life. You may see your peers be successful before you and you would not be human if you weren’t disappointed. Rejection isn’t always a question of why, it may be a question of when. This is a competitive industry, with hundreds of applications per position; rejection is almost a mathematical certainty. So how do we flip rejection on its head? Get feedback and implement it.
This career path, for me, is not a sprint. It is a looping hurdle race and the only competitor is me. I had financial worries about the length of time it would take to qualify as a solicitor, but instead of pursuing legal work experience, I took a role in the sector I hope to qualify into and have made some long-lasting connections. So, with hindsight, a quiver over my shoulder and a rock hammer in each hand, I will approach qualification like I approach my hurdles: head on. I will celebrate the light that qualification will be, but soon after, I will keep on digging.