Alex is a trainee solicitor at Shoosmiths LLP. He is currently undertaking a seat in the Corporate department and studied criminology and social policy at Loughborough University.
1. Tell us about your route into becoming a trainee solicitor
My entry into the legal profession is becoming more and more popular each year. I didn’t do as well as expected on my A-Levels so ended up going down the non-Law route in a rushed decision on results day (definitely not recommended!). I read for a BSc in Criminology and Social Policy at Loughborough University. Determined to one day become a solicitor, I completed my degree and then studied the GDL at BPP Law School in London. Whilst studying, I applied for training contracts and did multiple bouts of work experience, which included a vacation scheme at a city firm, interning at local firms and volunteering at the Citizens Advice Bureau. Upon being unsuccessful the first time round, I decided to take a year off studying and gained some invaluable commercial experience working in a bank. This definitely helped develop my problem solving and inter-personal skills. I was then awarded a training contract at national firm Shoosmiths and the rest is history!
2. What do you think helped you stand out from the crowd during the process of your application? (i.e. from the form all the way through to your assessment centre)?
Never underestimating the skills that I’d acquired over the years from my non-legal ventures. I think you’re likely to gain a great deal more from a summer/weekend job you’ve had for a few years than a week’s work experience at a local high street firm where you’ve spent most of your time occupying the photocopier and coffee machine! I think it was also understanding from an early stage that the role of a lawyer in the 21st century goes far beyond encompassing technical legal knowledge. Many applicants attempt to solely impress on their legal nous, whilst often forgetting core skills like commercial awareness and business acumen.
3. What do you enjoy most about being a trainee solicitor conducting a seat in Shoosmiths’ Corporate department?
Corporate is a fantastically diverse area and at Shoosmiths you get exposed to a variety of areas as a trainee, including general M&A, venture capital and private equity investments, and general corporate governance. It sounds clichéd, but no two deals or clients are the same. It’s always exciting to research which technology start-up or other interesting company we are acting for prior to a transaction moving forward. The variety of each day at work also keeps me on my toes and renders any notion of ‘routine’ remote.
4. What day-to-day tasks do you usually do in your position?
As a trainee I have the opportunity to work with a range of legal advisers who each have various specialisms within Corporate. My main tasks include conducting legal due diligence and preparing ancillaries to accompany the main transaction documents. It’s always hands on and you’re given lots of responsibility from the outset. I have also been given the opportunity to put my drafting skills to use with short-form SPAs and articles of association for clients. I have also attended numerous conference calls which have assisted in preparing the all-important disclosure letter.
5. Any recommendations as to how future training contract applicants might make the best out of the COVID-19 lockdown/uncertainty?
Learn a new skill! Become as competent as you can with technology as the working from home era is definitely here to stay (to an extent), even after the lockdown is fully lifted. You’ve got to show your future employer that you can work independently to ensure you become a trusted and well-equipped legal adviser.
6. What has been your highlight of your time so far at Shoosmiths?
There are so many, but the first which comes to mind is having the opportunity to visit the High Court during my second seat in Commercial Litigation. I had been assisting on a judicial review since starting the seat and it was fascinating being able to hear the hour-long judgement from Mr Justice Jay (who was lead counsel to the Leveson Inquiry in 2011-12).
7. Did you consider any other career routes or was the legal career a dead certainty?
I had initially applied to study Law at university and made sure that during my non-Law degree I kept up to date with the law. This included co-founding my university’s law society. I was definitely determined on a legal career from the outset, but I did also consider joining the armed forces for a period. What is important is to keep your options open. That doesn’t necessarily mean having a ‘plan B’ at all times, but don’t feel as if you have to go down a particular route because of your academic background – always be flexible and see what feels right for you!