Written by Jess Clements – Trainee Solicitor
In this month’s blog post we hear a little from four of our up and coming lawyers at Dunn & Baker Solicitors. This Q & A looks at their training experience so far and what guidance they would like to give anyone looking at following in their footsteps.
Amelia Smith is a Paralegal in our Family department and James Stone, Harry Coombe and Jess Clements are second year Trainee Solicitors. All four have completed the Legal Practice Course (LPC) with the aim to qualify as Solicitors in the near future.
Q1 – Did you have any previous legal or office experience before starting your training at Dunn & Baker Solicitors?
Jess – I was lucky enough to get a job as a legal assistant whilst I saved for my law conversion. I was also able to reduce my hours at this firm so that I could work part time whilst completing my Gradate Diploma in Law (GDL) and Legal Practice Course (LPC). I also did a period as a paralegal at Dunn & Baker Solicitors before commencing my training contract.
Amelia – I did 2 weeks’ work experience at a family law firm in Bristol whilst I studied for my LPC and Masters.
Harry – Aside from work experience I had nothing, which was pretty daunting. My training contract offer was however conditional on me completing a period as a paralegal whilst studying the LPC so I did 9 months in the Clinical Negligence and Personal Injury Team and gained experience that way.
James – I have had a number of work experience placements and worked at law firm in Plymouth as a paralegal for a year in their Personal Injury Department.
Q2 – Tell us more about your route into the legal profession?
Jess – As I said above, I had to do the GDL and LPC prior to starting my two year Training Contract with Dunn & Baker Solicitors. My undergraduate degree was actually in English Literature with modules in creative writing and marketing. Although not a conventional route, this enabled me to study something I was passionate about whilst remaining able to continue a career in law.
Amelia – I studied law at A-Level, I completed the Legal Practice Course and a Masters in Law (LPC LLM). I am currently a paralegal in the family department.
Harry– I studied Law at the University of Liverpool and then moved back to Devon to do my LPC and Masters with the University of Law in Exeter.
James – I completed my law degree at Plymouth University, I then moved to Exeter to study the LPC (LLM) Masters in Law, during which I successfully obtained a training contract with Dunn & Baker Solicitors.
Q3 – Is there anything that surprised you about being a Trainee?
Jess – It’s a lot less tea making than I expected but jokes aside, it’s amazing how much involvement and responsibility you get day-to-day.
Amelia – I’m not a trainee as of yet, but that is my aim in the near future.
Harry – I echo what Jess has said really. We’re fortunate here that we get to do a lot of client facing and we are trusted to speak with clients directly. We’re not hidden away doing the filing or anything like that, we get really good exposure.
James – I was surprised at how different working in practice is to studying. Working in practice entails so much more than what you can learn within a textbook.
Q4 – How has Dunn & Baker supported you throughout your training so far?
Jess – They’ve supported me in many ways. With training days off, giving me guidance as to which courses would benefit me at Dunn & Baker Solicitors and for my future as a lawyer. They have also supported initiatives involving my undergraduate university. They allowed me time off to give a talk on alternative routes into law and the potentials available for someone with a non law degree.
Amelia – They have been brilliant. They have supported me every step of the way to ensure I was comfortable with what I was doing. I feel I have learned so much since being here.
Harry – Particularly when I was a paralegal, Dunn & Baker Solicitors were excellent and allowed me a period of study leave ahead of my LPC exams which, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting. Since then my supervisors have given me excellent support and training throughout my training contract.
James – Dunn & Baker Solicitors have been very supportive in my training, I have received high levels of support and mentoring from all members of the firm.
Q5 – Do you think your training has shaped you as a person?
Jess – Definitely. Not only does the Training Contract allow you to experience at least four areas of law, you also get to meet different people across the firm and really learn how to tailor your client care. The support at Dunn & Baker Solicitors has encouraged me to give everything a try but at the same time to know when to ask for guidance and help.
Amelia – Definitely. I enjoyed the LPC/Masters but the actual hands-on and practical training is invaluable. I feel I have gained a lot of experience and knowledge.
Harry – I think it has probably made me more confident. When you receive positive feedback from a colleague it really does give you a boost (an ego boost that I probably don’t need!).
James – Yes, my training has developed my ability to transfer my legal knowledge into practical skills within the legal profession.
Q6 – There are now loads of opportunities to get into law, would you recommend the route you took into law to others?
Jess – As I took a longer route into law and some of my courses weren’t funded, I am slightly jealous of the possibility of only sitting one ‘super’ exam instead of having to do a conversion and the LPC. However, I think that without the two years rotating around departments to try all areas of law, the future generations may be prevented from getting to experience as much variety and gain as much experience to deal with what is expected of them as a newly qualified Solicitor.
Amelia – I think it truly depends on the person. If you think university is for you and you are able to complete and fund 6 year’s worth of studying then great! The CILEx route is also a great way. However, I am also jealous of the super exam that is in the making currently but I am not so sure that this would give you the correct level of knowledge and experience needed as the LPC/Masters was extremely intense.
Harry – All routes are credible routes and I suppose it’s the end goal that matters and not how you get there. Having said that, I really enjoyed the route I took. I’m not sure I agree with Jess and Amelia about being jealous of the super exam as, like Amelia, I don’t think it will offer the same level of study and I don’t think future trainees will be as prepared as we were when we started.
James – Yes, I knew I wanted to work in the legal profession, however, before my studies I wasn’t in the position to choose which area of law I wanted to work in. University, LPC and my Training Contract has helped me make this decision by offering me a wide variety of study and practice areas which other routes may not be able to offer.
Q7 – If you could go back and say one thing to yourself when you started your career, what would it be?
Jess – Keep at it; working or volunteering at any level within the legal field is worth so much more than you realise.
Amelia – You can do this. You will get days where you think you can’t and things will go wrong but such is life and you need to keep going.
Harry – Enjoy it – it will be difficult but it is 100% worth it.
James – It’s not as scary as it seems, work hard and enjoy it.
For more information on the routes available into law, visit https://www.ucas.com/ucas/after-gcses/find-career-ideas/explore-jobs/job-profile/solicitor