Stepping into the unknown

I began this blog because I felt out of place in the legal sphere. I felt like it wasn’t open to people like me. At Clifford Chance, I didn’t feel at all like this. They allowed me to feel like I belonged there.

10943717_10203774863949138_5161171544458839200_nOn 29th January, I was invited to Clifford Chance for an interview for the First Year Springboard Vacation Scheme. I can honestly say setting foot in a leading international law firm is as fantastic as it sounds!

 

My experience of Clifford Chance was incredible. Everyone I met was exceedingly kind, welcoming and helpful. I felt immediately at ease: something I did not expect when setting foot in Canary Wharf for the first time.

Accompanied by an overwhelming sense of pride, I looked up at the 32-floor glass palace that is 10 Upper Bank Street. I will never forget the moment I stepped inside, and nervously made my way up to the 1st floor reception to wait to be briefed. The graduate recruitment manager, Aasha Tikoo, put me at ease immediately with kind words of praise, recognising the excellent achievement we’d all attained having reached the interview round of the process. After an hour’s interview, we were taken on a tour of the building to get a feel for what it would be like to work at Clifford Chance. The views, swimming pool, gym, cafeteria, bar… you name it, they’ve got it! Yet amongst all this grandeur, what stood out as the single most impressive part of the building was the people. Everyone was so friendly and answered all the burning questions I had about a career in commercial lIMG_20150129_191542aw.

My experience of Clifford Chance showed me that there is no reason to think I can’t be successful just because of my background. The two hours I spent there inspired me further in pursuit of my career goal. It showed me the importance of giving everyone the opportunity to succeed: if I hadn’t been invited to interview, I never would have had the opportunity to see Clifford Chance from the inside. I never would have known how at home I could feel in a leading, international commercial law firm. Everyone deserves to be given a chance. I am so grateful to Clifford Chance for giving me this opportunity.

So, I guess I’m trying to say that what’s important is that you seize every opportunity you are given or can make for yourself. Never give up: one day someone will open the door which gives you a glimpse into what the future could hold. And that glimpse will allow you to feel that it just might be possible. And that feeling will inspire you to continue on your journey to achieve your dream.

My Christmas Wish has come true!

AFTER TWO INTERVIEWS AND SITTING THE CAMBRIDGE LAW TEST, I HAVE JUST BEEN TOLD MY APPLICATION HAS BEEN SUCCESSFUL!

I HAVE BEEN OFFERED A PLACE TO STUDY LAW FOR THE FINAL TWO YEARS OF MY BA DEGREE, STARTING NEXT YEAR, SUBJECT TO ATTAINING A 2:1 OVERALL IN PHILOSOPHY THIS YEAR.

I WILL CONTINUE TO WORK AS HARD AS I CAN TO MEET THE CONDITIONS OF MY OFFER.

IT IS GREAT TO KNOW THAT MY JOURNEY TO SOLICITING HAS BEGUN!

BRING ON THE NEXT CHAPTER!

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU: I HOPE YOUR WISHES COME TRUE TOO!

Women in law

We may not be quite as glamorous as our movie counterparts, but myself and Billy (my chihuahua) could be likened Elle and Bruiser in some ways!
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Equality for women in careers is constantly being discussed in the media.
Just this week the BBC reported that the International Labour Organization (ILO) found a substantial, and unjustified, gender pay gap. It claims that women ‘may be better educated or work harder than men’ yet are paid much less. Here’s the link:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-30340870

Take a look at Lady Justice Hallett’s comments from last year for the Telegraph. She highlights the 2012 Council of Europe report’s findings which place Britian as the worst in Europe for employing female judges.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-politics/10078243/Law-firms-have-unconscious-bias-that-stops-women-from-getting-promoted-says-senior-City-lawyer.html

Yet the number of female law students seems promising: women make up 62.4% of students accepted onto law undergraduate courses (Law Society, 2014). Perhaps there’s been a significant shift in the trend against women in law in the last year? Or perhaps it will just take time for this higher proportion of women to translate into the highest legal positions?

Applications are a second job

I work full time and what should be a 9-5 job ends up being much longer hours, but this is the life of a paralegal working at a silver circle firm. So making time for training contract applications and actually having a life outside of work can actually feel like they are jobs in themselves!  How do you fit it all in?

For me, it’s about balance. You really do need to look at everything you have to do in front of you, and plan your time effectively, and not be lazy. But I’m sure this is no big revelation to any of you! If you want something badly, you HAVE to put in the effort. It’s just the same as work, if you want a promotion you put in the effort. If you want a training contract, you put in the effort. And it will pay off.

Congratualtions to all of you that have Vac schemes coming up, prepare well for them. Knowledge can impress potential recruiters. And remember the majority of training contract deadlines are coming up in July, so get moving and think to yourself you’re almost there!

Good luck!

Idealism…..Where has it gone?

Intro

This blog post shall primarily be an honest and open piece focusing on idealism but also on the sad realization of reality and the annoying moment when someone tells you NO!

As a premise to this blog – I am currently writing this blog at 4.03am (insomniac), I have just watched three films (two of which I can recommend) and I had this sudden urge to announce what I shall dedicate my life to. I would like to say that I am very lucky to know what I want to do with my life and if you see me in 10 years working in some small corporate firm earning money just for the sake of earning money – Please feel free to shoot me!

I’m about to turn 21 – How can I possibly know what I want to do with myself you ask? 

It’s because I’m honest enough to admit I’m idealistic, I often cite that I want to change the world which is often met with snorty derision and countless pairs of eyes taking a spin.

But when you think about it – would you really want to live in a world where people stopped wanting to change the world for the better?

If you go back do you really think that Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King or Mother Teresa honestly thought they’d be seen as International icons of equality and protectors of Civil Rights? OF COURSE NOT!

I would like to point out that in no way am I arrogant enough to consider myself anywhere near as brilliant and visionary as these legendary people but my point is….It Only Takes One Person! Why can’t it be you and we are in no way in a state of being where everyone is protected or equal.

Why me?
Why the Hell Not? There is no criteria for people who change the world, or is there? I’m gonna quickly Google – Just Google’d and nope, still no criteria which you must meet before you are allowed to change the world so I’m still okay to continue my plans.

So what do you want to do? 

The last time I read there still remains over 80 Countries (not sure if this is U.N or Commonwealth) and at least five countries where Homosexuality is Punishable by DEATH! I mean, in the 21st century you can still be killed if you’re a man who loves a man!

So I plan to dedicate to my life to Removing the Death Penalty in Countries where it is still punishable by Death!

I recently met a truly inspirational barrister at the 11th Annual Stonewall Lecture: From Silence To Safety: Protecting the gay refugee and the lecture was brilliant – it certainly helped me realize what I want to do – he does some amazing work protecting gay asylum seekers in this country which included the groundbreaking decision in HJ (Iran) and HT (Cameroon) v. Secretary of State for the Home Department. (Read the case)

Apparently, it is the second time of the supreme court (and i think including H of L) where the judgement was met with applause! (Little fun fact for you)

This case was revolutionary in changing the law – so if this man can change the law in this country – why can’t I change the law in other countries?

Before attending this lecture I read the No Going Back report also published by Stonewall which detailed the appalling treatment of gay refugees by the UK Border Agency so we are far from equal or free in this country? What’s worse, the treatment of LGBT people in these countries is often unseen, accepted by communities merely because of social attitudes and unjust laws.

 

What Next?

Well I’m currently a second year LL.B student, so still have somewhere to go before being in a position to do this but I have a plan –

If all goes to plan, my dissertation will exactly be on this topic – gives me a great chance to further research the area and it actually counts towards my degree…Couldn’t think of a better thing to research tbh. I’ve found an  internship with Asociación Entre Amigos working in their Anti-Homophobia Legal Clinic in which they promote better social attitudes, change policy and advance equality.  I then hope to pursue the American Civil Liberties Union as an LGBT paralegal and subsequently apply to Columbia University for their Human Rights Masters Program, but I’ll need the LL.M fellowship to do this as I couldn’t really afford $75,000.

It’s then flying back to Home Soil where hopefully I can begin a career with the Human Rights Dignitary Trust and completing the BPTC part time, being called to the Bar and securing Pupillage.

And during my practice at the Bar, I hope to gain international jurisdiction to understand foreign legal systems and to hopefully protect people on a larger scale – It then becomes a matter of lobbying, changing social attitudes and changing the law.

And hopefully the day will come where Iran, Mauritania, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen will renounce their death penalties.

Oh Don’t forget, I also wanna get married during all of this and raise children – Busy Busy Life indeed!

Wish me Luck!

 

 

 

I found a job on Twitter…

Yes, you read that right.

For all of you law graduates that are out there and struggling to find even a paralegal position, I want you to read this post and think ‘This could happen to me!’ In a time when legal jobs are at their most competitive, you have to explore every opportunity in front of you. I chose Twitter to do this.

I found one mysterious tweet saying ‘A little birdie told me Eversheds has paralegal positions going…’ and an email address was given along with this tweet. I seized the opportunity and applied speculatively at first, inquiring if any positions were available and attaching my CV along with the email. I was told that it was the Litigation department that was recruiting paralegals and I thought ‘Perfect!’ – it’s where my background lies and the area in which my strengths are based.

I had a telephone call a couple of weeks later inviting me to interview, which I attended in November. The interview was fairly tough, over 15 competency based questions and many overlapped so I tried to expand every answer and give examples from every job I’ve had in law…along with trying to build rapport with my interviewer! A week later I was offered the position and I accepted, with no regrets yet. One thing about Eversheds was that I was completely surprised by the way everyone I met at the firm was so friendly and professional. Even now, two weeks into the job, I feel exactly the same way.

So I’ve now moved half way across the country, from Kent to Yorkshire to pursue a six month contract as a Litigation Paralegal with Eversheds, and I am loving it. I may joke about my social life being over since being given a Blackberry for my work emails, but in reality this is the job I have been working to for so many years and hopefully it paves the way to a training contract. I look forward to the late hours and putting in the effort because only I know how hard I have worked to get here….as I’m sure every one of you has too! And you know what, a job will not come and sit on your doorstep, you need to be dedicated and go out on the hunt, and not half-heartedly!

 

Prepare your elevator pitch

Imagine a towering building block, and travelling up the elevator to the 34th floor. Glass panes all around you, looking down onto Times Square where everything is as tiny as a pin prick. This is the sight you see when you enter the Thomson Reuters office by Times Square. I had the opportunity to visit these offices during my internship. I was attending a talk entitled ‘Making your Mark’ presented by Jolie Hunt, Senior Vice President and Global Head of Brand and Public Relations at Thomson Reuters (although she is now at AOL). Ms. Hunt has a great biography, and I was extremely interested in hearing her words of advice as to make my mark in my career of choice.

She was a great speaker and utterly inspiring which is why when she was closing up her talk, she asked the audience a hypothetical question: If she had a job to give away, how would you convince her to give it to you? And what Ms. Hunt wanted from this was an elevator pitch: a one minute persuasive piece to convince her why you should get this hypothetical job over any other person. About ten people out of the hundred in the room, stood up one after the other and pitched their reasons why they should be the individual hired. I was the last person to stand, heart absolutely pounding but I thought to myself, what is there to lose?! And the answer was nothing.

I vaguely remember what I said, that I was determined, motivated and focused and that if she was to hire me I would prove to her that I was better than any of the other individuals who had stood up. Others asked questions such as ‘Why should I hire the company to employ me?’ – twisting her question round and bouncing it back to her. Of course, being hypothetical there was no job, but what I achieved was the thrill of selling myself, being completely put on the spot and thinking ‘What are my real strengths? How badly do I want this?’ And I do this with every job I interview for now, confidence will get you ahead. I prepare my strengths and I prepare my elevator pitch for every interview.

And so the moral of the story: be prepared to sell yourself. Do yourself justice. Have the confidence and the ability to speak out boldly, no matter who is around you.

Even though the job was hypothetical  Ms. Hunt invited those who stood up to pitch, to have breakfast with her several weeks later at Robert DeNiro’s restaurant ‘Locanda Verde’ in Tribeca. It was an amazing experience and it’s something I would have missed out on had I not had the confidence to be one of the ten people who stood up to speak that evening.

Social media, anecdotes and questions…

I don’t know about you but sometimes I really struggle to think of questions to ask at firms that I’m interviewing with. There’s such a vast knowledge base to research before you actually go in for the interview itself, that occasionally I draw a blank because I feel like I already know the firm and associates without having even entered the premises. (Please note: there’s a fine line between researching and stalking!)

So where do you do your research? Google is the obvious choice of search engine. The power of Google is almighty! But you will also need to think outside of the box, research online news sites, follow the partners on LinkedIn, connect on Twitter, read the firm’s blog (if they have one), newspaper articles, do the full works and it will help you be more prepared! It’s also become more and more important to have a social media presence online, so start making accounts but always remember to keep them professional! The law firm I worked at in New York would Google search any candidates that applied, digging for dirt and inappropriate pictures, so I know first-hand that it happens.

Last month I actually had the partner of a law firm I applied to send me a friendship request on Facebook only an hour after I had sent them my application. It’s a difficult situation to determine: on one hand the partner is doing his research on you and you wouldn’t want him to make a pre-determination about you based on Facebook pictures or comments you’ve made in the past. BUT, you also don’t want to hinder yourself from getting an interview! The way I dealt with it was to explain to an associate (who had emailed me to say they were considering my application, and had mentioned the partner’s Facebook request) that I was grateful for the request but that I use Twitter and LinkedIn in a professional capacity, and not Facebook. It was a risk that I took by doing this but I had to stick to my guns, although I am sure that some of you may read this and disagree. But I still don’t regret my decision and I think that’s the important thing.

So I also wanted to extend the offer to all of you who read mine, Greg’s, Liam’s and Mark’s blogs, that should you have any questions at all feel free to ask me. You can comment on any of my posts or tweet me here. I would love to have more interaction with all of you or even if there are any topics you’d like me to discuss then please do get in touch and let me know!

The waiting game with interviews…

The legal world is a waiting game.

You wait to hear back from applications you’ve made, you wait to hear back from interviews you’ve been to and you wait to start your training contract (in the majority of cases, unless there is an immediate start for a lucky few!)

When I was in my final three months of my internship in New York I started making applications as I wanted to secure a job for when I returned home. I updated the CV, refreshed my covering letters and tailored them to whomever I was applying to.

One thing about me: I really believe that technology and technological mediums are the way forward. I applied to a worldwide innovative technology company for a paralegal position and obtained a Skype interview with them. It made me feel like I was making a move forward in some ways: 1) that a major corporation potentially wanted to employ me and 2) that they were happy to interview me via Skype and not in person. I waited three weeks for a response and was told that I would not be advancing to the next round because another candidate had more experience and was available at lesser notice [*sad face*]… However, the company told me to get in touch when I returned to the UK and that there may be another role at the company available to me, however it would be non-legal….I weighed up my options and decided to go for the interview, I figured at least I could meet those who Skype interviewed me in person, as it never hurts to network! With the role being non-legal though I had some doubts as I had undertaken the internship so my chances in the legal world would be greater rather than branching away from law. Needless to say I chose not to take this position (but to my advantage as I had greater things, more suited to my experience, to come my way!)

Ultimately, what I want you to take away from this post is to:

  • Be patient;
  • Be flexible;
  • Be confident;
  • Network your butt off!
  • Take rejection as a stepping stone to learn and grow from your mistakes;
  • Analyse the interviews you’ve had, always think how you could have answered the questions better;
  • Don’t script your answers, be real in the interview and don’t pretend to be someone you’re not;
  • Remember that sometimes it’s not you, it’s the company;
  • Never underestimate your competition;
  • And always remember that if you are called to interview that the company like you on paper, you need to prove to them you’re the right fit in person.

Currently, I’m waiting again. I interviewed with a small firm in Central London three weeks ago and was told not to be concerned if I didn’t hear back from the firm for 1-2 weeks for a second interview. But coming up to three weeks now I’m getting concerned! Questions such as, ‘Should I contact them? Maybe I interviewed terribly? Was I not enthusiastic enough? Were the other candidates better than me?’ all cross my mind, but you have to put them to rest. You need to have the confidence in yourself to believe in yourself. If you can’t believe then how can a potential employer believe in you?? I’ve never wanted to work for a company more than this firm, I think they are fantastic but what’s done is done. Hopefully I purveyed my enthusiasm for the position and all I can do now is cross my fingers. I have my fingers crossed for all of you as well!

 

The First Post… My Search for a Training Contract

And here it is, the first post of what I hope will be an informative journey along with me whilst I search for a training contract.

A little about me:

Well, you already know I want to qualify as a solicitor but what you don’t know is that I graduated in 2007 from Kent University and completed the Legal Practice Course in 2008. It’s been four going on five years since I finished the LPC and still there is no training contract in sight for me. Many of my friends have qualified and many have found alternative employment in various areas such as recruitment and management consulting, but I don’t want to change my mind about law.

I’ve been working as a Paralegal in the meantime, currently working for LexisNexis and am awed to be surrounded by so many intelligent people. My colleagues are mainly all qualified solicitors who are driven by efficiency and a need to modernise the legal profession and I enjoy being at the forefront of this. (For a alternative view see Mark’s post here.)

I’ve also spent time working and studying abroad. I took part in a year long internship moving to New York and working on Fifth Avenue for a litigation law firm. This has to be the highlight of my career thus far, the experience I gained may have been in a different legal system but litigation skills are highly transferable. I also gained academics and topped up my knowledge by studying for a Post-Graduate Certificate in International Business in which I got a distinction.

Before this opportunity came along I was working for a legal publishing company in London Bridge where I stayed for almost three years. I felt I was lucky to have a job in the economic climate the country was facing and I always believed it was better to have a job than no job. But I didn’t just stay idle, I managed to gain a vacation scheme for three weeks and also took one day a week off work and volunteered at the Citizens Advice Bureau as a Gateway Assessor. And even before this, I started my first legal job at 15 and since then I’ve shadowed judges in the District court (which was arranged through my University), I wrote to the Crown Prosecution Service and set up work experience with them, I’ve worked for a Magic Circle firm and also a large investment bank as a paralegal.

But still no training contract…

Sometimes I do feel disheartened, as everyone does when facing a pile of rejection letters, but the rejection makes you a stronger person. Whatever reasons are given for you not being offered a position, it probably wouldn’t have been the right place for you anyway. Keep applying, and keep things interesting on your CV! The amount of interest I’ve had in my CV since I returned in March from working abroad, has been astounding and these might not necessarily lead to being handed the job but on many occasions it gets me an interview.

I believe all of my work experience has rounded me into an individual capable of taking on any work that is passed my way. I thrive when learning about new areas of law, I do my research thoroughly and most of all…I enjoy it! Seriously, do not underestimate the power of work experience, however mundane or monotonous it may be, just think about how amazing it will look on your CV.  It’s still my dream to qualify and I can feel that I am so close and in the meantime I’ve gained a ton of experience which will only help me when I take on my training contract.