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Online training contracts: An interview with Jessica Lyons

Jessica Lyons completed ULaw’s LPC MSC course at the Leeds campus in August 2020. She gained a competitive training contract with Pinsent Masons and is undertaking a seat in Property Dispute Resolution. We caught up with Jessica to hear more about her journey into Law and what it is like to take on a training contract.

I only seriously started looking into a law career towards the end of my undergraduate degree, which was in English and French. I attended a few of the talks and events hosted by my university’s Law Society and found myself interested in what a career in Law might offer.  

ULaw stood out as being a welcoming and inclusive place to study. I preferred the approach ULaw takes to learning compared to other providers, particularly in terms of the workshop structures and assessment style. I had already applied when I received my training contract in August and luckily, my firm require all their trainees to study at ULaw. 

My training contract is with Pinsent Masons. I applied through their website and got my training-contract offer off the back of doing a summer vacation scheme with the firm. I came across Pinsents’ through researching various firms and I specifically sought out international firms because I wanted to have the opportunity to take on international secondments. I am currently in my first seat, which is Property Dispute Resolution and I am really enjoying it so far. I could see myself specialising in this area, although I am keen to experience a variety of seats before making a final decision. I’m hoping to do my next seat in IP - Employment or Restructuring. The good thing about PDR is that the work is really varied. So far, it has been quite hands-on, meaning I've had the opportunity to draft quite a few different documents.  

With regard to the Coronavirus, I was nervous to be starting at such a strange time. I was mostly concerned about working remotely and establishing relationships with my colleagues and other trainees without the usual opportunities for socialising and networking. Everyone has made a huge effort to make themselves known to me and to make me feel welcome throughout my training contract. Despite having met only a handful of the people in my team, I do feel as though I have built a working relationship with everyone. I am getting used to just calling people up or organising Teams calls instead of the usual face-to-face meeting.     

As clichéd as it sounds – my days vary massively. Some days I will open my inbox and have a few jobs that have come in, which I can get started on straight away. Other times, I will email the team asking if anyone needs assistance with anything or if there is a particular case or client I can get involved with. Sometimes colleagues will email me and ask if I can attend a call with a client or with counsel later that day and produce an attendance note. As I am at the start of my training contract, I also have a lot of training, and as everything is now delivered virtually, it’s very easy to drop into a session over lunch time or during a quiet morning.   

At this stage of the pandemic, I have been splitting my time fairly evenly between working from home and going into the office. I think both have their advantages. However, sometimes the office is necessary. Recently, I had to pull together a bundle to send to Tribunal and I find checking physical copies of documents much easier than electronic ones. I appreciated being able to come in for that. I have also found it really beneficial just to have some human interaction, even if people aren’t in the same team as me. It can be very easy to become isolated when you’re working from home, especially when you are new to the team and don’t have longstanding relationships already in place. That being said, I do enjoy having a slightly slower morning when I’m working from home and being able to wear comfy clothes.

I am already learning to be adaptable during my training contract in terms of how I work, what work I do and how I manage my time because you really don't know what each day will bring. What you planned yesterday might have to be totally reworked today. Alongside being adaptable to change, I am learning how important it is to stay on top of the jobs you have going on. It is very easy to forget about an ongoing case when something new and urgent comes in, so I am finding ways of ensuring important deadlines aren't missed and jobs don't get forgotten about. 

If you’re looking for a training contract, I think one of the best things you can do is to get as much experience as possible, whatever experience that might be. The key is to be able to evidence your interest and enthusiasm for a career in Law: partly through what you say in an application but also through what you have done. Ideally, get experience in an area of Law which particularly interests you. However, that is not always possible, and you should be prepared to undertake a variety of jobs in building up your work experience. You might have experience shadowing a barrister when in fact you want to be a solicitor – this is still valuable and makes your application interesting. 

The highlight of my training contract has been attending a hearing in London just before the second national lockdown. Though the hearing was virtual, this was still a fantastic opportunity and I was able to work closely with the partner in my team, with counsel that we instructed on the matter and with the client.  

Seeing what people have achieved at the various points in their careers motivates me as I start out in my own career and gives me some direction as to what I can strive for.  At this point, my ambition is to progress as far as I can with the firm I currently work for – the same as most people I’m sure. My ultimate aim is to make partner eventually, but time will tell.

 

Follow in Jessica’s footsteps and join us to study the LPC.