In October, we were delighted to host our Set For Success: How I Did It virtual event. Chaired by our Director of Employability John Watkins, we welcomed a panel of four of our inspirational alumni who shared some valuable insights on their career journeys so far to help and inspire future lawyers.
By Elsa Tatam. Published 18 November 2022. Last updated 11 January 2023.
Chrissie Parkes works in construction law for Holmes & Hills. She had a very unorthodox start to law, having previously had several different careers, from working as a forensic psychologist in a prison, to selling pizzas during lockdown. During her introduction, she highlighted how it was her diverse work history and life experience which made her a desirable candidate for Holmes & Hills.
As well as running his own platform, WiBrief, Geofrey Banzi also works in legal technology for KPMG. Geofrey discussed using his dissertation to combine his passion for technology with law. His writing on self-driving cars helped him gain employment within legal technology, even though he didn’t have experience of coding.
Simranjeet Kaur Mann is a trainee solicitor at Womble Bond Dickinson, and she also runs a YouTube channel detailing her journey through her legal studies. Simranjeet admitted that she didn’t enjoy some of her law degree modules, but when she reached the final year of her degree, and chose practical modules over theoretical ones, she realised that studying law and practising law are two very different things.
The final panellist, Amelia Maher, is a trainee solicitor at the award-winning animation studio Aardman. During her introduction, Amelia highlighted the importance of networking. She discussed how opening conversations at gigs helped her make connections in the music industry, which led to a job at Sony. Once in this role, she made inroads with the legal team over coffee, who shared the work they did, which led Amelia to The University of Law.
The benefits of a career as an in-house lawyer
. Amelia described how varied the work is and explained you’ll still work with external counsel, so you’re never cut off from legal firms. “The in-house route is completely viable,” Amelia explained, “it’s becoming more and more popular. There’s no downside.”
Amelia also acknowledged how her work-life balance has never been better, another positive from her experience of working in-house.
Managing your workload
The panel talked about how they managed multiple commitments, especially for those working for firms who expect employees to work long hours. Simranjeet, currently attending a part-time commercial secondment alongside her training contract, said: “It’s important to set expectations with your colleagues”. “Figuring out deadlines, prioritising what’s important and setting boundaries” also helps. Finally, she also discussed how understanding your colleagues’ circumstances and maintaining honesty can be beneficial. Geofrey also added his thoughts on this. “Plan ahead. Be consistent. Think about how many hours you need to dedicate to each task, and make sure to keep hitting those minimum targets you set. You’ll get there.”
Advice for those studying the Postgraduate Diploma in Law (PGDL)
Chrissie offered some advice for those about to start a conversion course. After acknowledging the difficulty of learning a completely new subject, Chrissie explained you should “be kind to yourself, be patient with yourself. Rely on the skills you have from previous experiences to guide you through. Don’t be disheartened. Keep going.”
The importance of networking
Chrissie spoke of a recent training course she attended, which provided the tell, explain, describe (TED) technique. “Instead of asking closed questions, ask open questions. Keep TED in mind. Tell. Explain. Describe. It will help you through any conversation.” Examples include, tell me what your job entails, or, explain what your company does. “It might feel forced at first, and a bit odd, but ask those open questions and you’ll be absolutely fine.”
Amelia offered some advice on how a job applicant can stand out in an interview. “Know your CV inside out,” she suggested, “don’t get caught out on those small details. Equally, know as much about the company or firm as possible. Know the value you can bring to the organisation as well.”
Simranjeet recommended law students keep a journal or diary. Whether it’s a course, work experience or an event, she suggests having a log of what you enjoyed and what challenged you will allow you to reflect on your learning and can even help in future job applications.
“Be open to opportunities,” Geofrey said, “seek them out and you’ll get to where you want to be.”
Amelia’s final tip was to understand what your niche is. If you know what your skillset is, you know what you can offer firms and companies.
Finally, Chrissie ended with a thought on your future goals. “Think about what you want to do, not about the name above the door. Sometimes you will find a gem that isn’t in the magic circle.”
Looking for further inspiration? Take a look at our range of in-person and virtual events and book your place now.