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Lessons in a Legal Career from Alumna Karen Holden

Karen Holden is the founder of A City Law Firm, a firm she started after struggling to find a family-friendly employer. She studied the Legal Practice Course (LPC) part-time at The University of Law while working in the public sector and recently made headlines when her inspirational story was published in a national newspaper. Here she shares her secrets for success, including how to be an “amazing trainee”.

By Cara Fielder. Published 3 March 2017. Last updated 11 January 2023.

I grew up on a council estate and watched my mum work three jobs as a single parent. She instilled an incredible work ethic in me that has helped me get to where I am today.

I studied my LPC part-time. Like a lot of students, I had very little money but working throughout my studies enabled me to pay the bills. Sometimes it was pretty tiring juggling everything, but staying focused on the end goal helped.

Anyone from a similar background to me who’s worried about access to the profession should feel encouraged by all of the alternative routes to qualification. You can study part-time while working, or your employer can pay you to do the LPC. That wasn’t an option for me when I was studying, so I offer this to my staff now. Working as a paralegal and then a trainee while studying can have major advantages and not just financially. You get to apply what you learn in real time.

Studying at The University of Law was incredibly exciting for a variety of reasons. It was great to study alongside an international community and working students. Learning about different cultures, out-of-London employees and varied employment opportunities opened my eyes to the legal world; I think that has empowered me as an entrepreneur. 

Some of our amazing trainees have come from The University of Law. I look for several things in a trainee: you have to be proactive, think outside the box and not be too traditional or conformist. Be diverse and show that you’re willing to try new things. Create blog ideas for the website, go networking, promote a new technology for the firm and show enthusiasm for all aspects of the job. It’s good for trainees to have outside interests - it makes them more interesting, which clients can benefit from.

If you want a career in law, be persistent, have confidence and work hard. If you don’t get a contract straight away, do another role and prove yourself in the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), in-house or a private company. Experience can never be taken for granted. People who come to me after working in other roles are often mature, prepared and able to offer that little bit extra.

Have a career question for Karen? Ask her about studying, training contracts and more during our live Facebook Q&A. Log onto our Facebook page from 1245-1315 on Wednesday 8 March to join in.

To find out how part-time study could help you to succeed like Karen, book a place on one of our open days