I will be the first to say that my journey to getting a training contract was unusual.
I’ve received numerous messages on my blog from people concerned about having only received rejections from their first or second cycle of applications and the pressure they feel to be getting firsts and all 2:1 grades, and this led me to feel that there isn’t really anything out there telling you the whole truth about life before getting a TC or onto a vac scheme. So for my first post in my series ‘Let’s B Real’, I wanted to get real about life before my TC and my perfect looking desk photos (lol pls don’t let them convince you I’m organised and tidy, you should see my wardrobe 😬).
There is no perfect way to do it, and it can be so easy to compare ourselves to others who seem to just fall into vac scheme and TC offers. Like literally, we all know at least one person who seems to be getting offers just falling from the sky 😂 🌩). But, for most people, becoming a lawyer is not a simple process.
So I wanted to rewind to before my TC and explain the unfiltered version of my life prior to applying for a TC. ⏪
The truth is, me and school did NOT go well together. I got appendicitis age 13 and had to take a long time out of school due to some bad repercussions post op, and by the time I reached GCSE year I didn’t go back to school. I home schooled for that year and sat my exams and by some miracle got the GCSEs I needed to see me into sixth form. I was by no means a perfect A grade student, or even a model student at this point as I couldn’t even turn up to class. Nightmare. (Feel like this needs a ‘don’t try at home warning‘ to say PLS TURN UP TO CLASS! Don’t do what I did lol this absolutely did not help me in anyway at all 😂).
For A Levels I thought yea I’ll get my life together and tried out a new sixth form college as I had completely recovered from my ill health, but having studied at home for a year by then I just couldn’t readjust to attending classes. I found the whole experience really difficult, and in the end dropped out and decided to go and work as a nanny. I moved to Madrid as work was good there and studied for my A Levels alongside working full time.
Living in Madrid was probably the best thing I could have done – I loved my job, my confidence grew so much, and I really enjoyed being able to study on my own and pick the texts and topics that I wanted to study. At this point, however, I never imagined I would get the grades I needed to go to university. No one had told me there were other kinds of ways you could get into university, for example with NVQs, access to HE diplomas, or work experience, so I had just assumed it was a no go for me. I sat my A Levels not really expecting much, particularly as a close family member died the day before my exams started, so it all seemed a bit of a mess. As the summer went on, I had no idea what I was going to do the next year. I had moved back from Madrid and took temp nanny jobs which allowed me to travel for work to Sweden and Spain, so in the back of my head I thought I might apply to somewhere to study childcare or education.
As results day neared, I watched all of my friends grow excited to find out if they had got into university, and I stopped and thought how I’d like to go. But I wasn’t sure how I’d manage it. I looked up a course at SOAS doing languages and they were asking for AAB. I wasn’t sure I’d get it, but I hoped that by some miracle I’d have pulled it out the bag and be able to apply in clearing. Results day came, and it’s fair to say I did not pull it out the bag. I was pretty devastated, because I’d suddenly been set on going to this university that taught so many interesting courses. However, I called up their clearing hotline anyway to explain I hadn’t applied nor had I got AAB, but would they consider taking me anyway as I had learned Spanish from one year in Spain and had mitigating circumstances.
And…they said yes! 🎉
I ended up changing my mind about studying languages when I got to SOAS (typical me), as I fell in love with the interdisciplinary courses you could take on a humanities degree, which you couldn’t really take on a language degree as the language tuition is so intensive. I swapped and whilst I was glad I was studying religion with courses in literature and politics, my first year was pretty hard; I didn’t feel I’d made a proper group of friends, and whilst I’d lived on my own in Madrid, it was weird living in London which was so much bigger (and rainier). I also had no idea how to write an essay and I suddenly clocked why I had probably struggled at A Levels and where school probably would have been useful…
In the back of my mind I had thought about studying law; but I didn’t think that I was of the right calibre to be a law student. Nor did I ever imagine I would qualify to be a lawyer.
It wasn’t until second year when I started working for a charity and volunteering at my local crown court that I realised I really enjoyed law. In fact, I thought for that first term of second year that I might be a barrister, but the longer I spent in court the more unsure I felt about that.
The turning point for me was that I had been reading a lot about law from working in court, and as I was working near to Dover where it has a big international port and border control system we were seeing a lot of immigration cases come in. I had seen at uni that there was a law essay competition being run on immigration law in the EU, and I thought as I had seen and read so many cases on immigration in the EU that it would be a fun thing to enter.
It was quite close to Christmas that I got an email from the competition organisers, saying that the top three essays had been selected by a QC barrister from a very prestigious chambers, and mine was one of them. I nearly fell over. Until then, I honestly had not thought that I had a lot of potential, and I felt heavily that my background would be detrimental to me and wanted to keep it as private as possible.
The icing on the cake came when I found out that my essay had actually won, and I would get to spend two days at an immigration law firm as the prize. I was overwhelmed and for the first time sat up and thought – wow, maybe I could become a lawyer.
In January I undertook the two day placement and at the end the firm said they would keep my record on file should I ever want to do the GDL and LPC as they would be willing to offer me a part time paralegal position. After this, I sort of had it in my head that law was what I wanted to do.
Then I got my second year results – it was a total mix of firsts, 2;1s and 2:2s. You name a grade, I had probably got it, and whilst it averaged out as a 2:1 I pretty much wrote off law. I had a big cry about how I’d ruined my future and life (how many of you can relate to this 😭😂) however a close friend of mine told me not to be silly and that if I wanted to apply to a law firm, if they thought I had good potential they would look at my overall grade rather than that darned 2:2 that had crept in to one of my modules. (Sneaky of that 2:2 to creep in, I know 🤨).
Those of you who have been following me for a while and will know I got my TC offer through my first ever application cycle will probably be reading this wondering how on earth I did that with this shady five years prior!
To be honest, the first thing is that I researched the firm I wanted to go to loooads.
I wanted to go somewhere that wasn’t that fussed about A Level grades (which more and more firms are giving less importance), and was interested in candidates who not only could show that they were academic enough, but that they also had impressive life experience. Whilst my grades may not have been perfect, my life experience meant that I had a lot of different skills to offer and that I was a little bit different. Sometimes, it’s standing out that gets you where you want to be.
If I look back at my application process, the one thing I wish I’d done better was I wish I’d had more confidence. At every step of the way I couldn’t believe I had got to the next round. I couldn’t believe they would want me. And I had to work really hard to sell myself at interview because I had always been embarrassed of the things that had made my life unique. But, if you pick the right firm for your skills and your interests, not just the firms you think are impressive or have high pay checks, then the whole process becomes a lot easier. As my life was quite unusual and diverse, I knew I would want to train somewhere that I felt was truly committed to broadening the scope of people it lets through its doors, and that had a genuine interest in what people can bring from all walks of life.
Whilst my background was unique, the things I was always able to show were that I am hard-working, a problem solver, and genuinely interested in the world around me. That despite many obstacles being placed in the way, I had a real motivation to keep moving forward and to always keep focused no matter what happens. So if you’re worried about not being the perfect candidate, or about all the filtered lives you see on Instagram and blogs: I was no where near what I thought the perfect candidate should be. I took too long to learn that there is no perfect candidate. Instead you’ve got to take your strengths and the things that make you you and own them. At least, that’s what I tried to, and it’s got me this far. 😉