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What are the benefits of a mentor? An interview with Bethany Thompson

Alumna Bethany Thompson studied the combined LPC and Masters in Law and Business Management at our Manchester campus. After struggling to get past the assessment stage of interviews, Bethany joined the ULaw mentoring scheme. We caught up with Bethany to discuss the benefits of having a mentor and how it boosted her career.

I am an associate solicitor at Squire Patton Boggs in their health and safety team. I act for companies involved in serious and fatal incidents and represent my clients throughout investigations, prosecutions, inquests and public inquiries. It’s tough but I absolutely love my job and the people I get to work with so the hard work is worth it.

While studying the LPC, I discovered the ULaw mentoring scheme during a meeting with Careers Manager Catherine Morgan. I had been struggling for three years to get a foot in the door at an assessment centre, let alone coming close to securing a vacation scheme or training contract. I felt frustrated that I had a first-class law degree at a good University and various legal work experience/volunteering but kept falling at the application process stage. Understandably, firms were too busy to provide feedback on how I could improve for future applications, so I felt stuck in a revolving door of rejections without knowing where I was going wrong. At my careers meeting with Catherine, she suggested that I sign up for the mentoring scheme to receive objective feedback from someone in the industry who had been through the process before and knew first-hand what law firms were looking for in applicants.

On the scheme welcome night, Catherine came into the auditorium to collect each of us one by one to introduce us to our mentors. An hour in, I was the only person left in the room and had to awkwardly third wheel with another group while Catherine tried to work out where on earth my mentor, Andy, had vanished to. It turned out his partner was in labour at the time with their first baby, so I’ve forgiven him since for standing me up…just about.

Before meeting Andy, I hadn’t secured a single assessment centre but I secured five of them with his feedback on my written application. With his subsequent help in preparing for interviews, I also achieved three vacation scheme offers and (most importantly) an offer of a training contract at DWF. Andy checked in with me every step of the way, offering whatever support he could, despite his busy workload. I cannot emphasise enough the value that my mentor had in contributing towards my success.

The thing I enjoyed most about being a mentee is that you can end up meeting someone that you get on with in both a personal and professional capacity. Despite meeting five years ago, we still meet up for lunch or drinks and while he may no longer be my official ‘mentor’, we still discuss work. He has given me sound advice over the years, particularly about qualification options when my training firm didn’t have a suitable position to qualify into.

I taught Andy where to get the best pizza in Manchester (Rudy’s, of course) – any opportunity we get to meet up usually involves food.

The most important thing I have learnt under mentoring is that tailoring your application is key. Read back over your written application and ask yourself - can I tell from my answers which firm I am applying to? This is one of the best pieces of advice that Andy gave to me and which I have since passed on to each of my own mentees. I remember him covering up the logo on my Addleshaw Goddard (AG) application form and asking me to guess which firm I was applying to, having read it back, but I couldn’t. It was no wonder that firms weren’t interested in my generic answers. I went back to tailor my responses to each of the firms I was applying for and secured a number of vacation schemes, including at AG.

One of the most inspiring people I’ve met during my career is Vikki Woodfine, who was one of my training Partners at DWF. Not only is she someone that I look up to as a successful female lawyer, making partner by 32 while having two young children but she has also taught me how far you can go with resilience, hard work and being passionate about your work. She’s a woman that empowers other women and we need more of that in our industry.

I would absolutely recommend becoming a mentee for all the reasons I have stated above. I would also add that when you get the opportunity to become a ULaw mentor yourself, make sure that you do it, as it is incredibly rewarding to give something back to the scheme. I helped my most recent mentee, Katie, to secure a paralegal role at DWF, and it has been wonderful to watch her grow as a lawyer over the past few years.

 

If you’re a ULaw alumnus who would like to be involved with the mentor scheme, you can do this through the Alumni Network.