Christiane is a trainee solicitor at Accutrainee and is currently seconded to CMS. She was selected as one of the top 150 UK black graduates of 2020/21 for the Future Leaders magazine and is an insight writer at ComAware.

1. Tell us about yourself

I am a trainee lawyer, social entrepreneur and hair enthusiast – and soon to be a certified hair practitioner!

I started my training contract earlier this year, having worked in the legal industry for about 2-3 years in both private practice and in the public sector. I love law and I also love helping students who are trying to make it into the legal industry. I tutor and mentor law students, and have even recently become a school governor.

I would say I’m a big advocate for change and most of my interests lie in projects that aim to improve social inequalities, especially for black women in academics and professional life.

My social enterprise, in particular, Krowned has a focus of empowering young women through hair to instill them with the confidence to succeed. We embolden young women from ethnic minority backgrounds, particularly Afro-Caribbean women in becoming confident members of society and achieve a better outlook and success socially, academically, and professionally.

It’s tough to put myself in a box, but I would say what’s most important to me is writing and talking about things close to my heart. And that could be about my love for the bright and vibrant concept of congolese sapology, to my disgust on afro-hair discrimination, or about my hope for better diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. My interests can really range.

2. How does undertaking a training contract at Accutrainee differ from undertaking one directly with a law firm?

Accutrainee offers a very unique model of training whereby its trainee solicitors are seconded to different firms or in-house teams in the course of the two year training contract. Therefore, instead of completing the entire two years in one place, you have the chance of moving around firms and companies and having a breadth of experience.

3. What attracted you to Accutrainee?

I’ve always been interested in training in both private practice and in-house, especially after having paralegalled in both, and I always had it in mind that I would pick a training contract at a firm with the hope of a client secondment so that I could do an in-house seat. With Accutrainee, there’s no need to ‘hope’, I’m certain that I will get exposure to both during the course of the two year training contract.  So it’s exciting!

4. What do you enjoy most about your role?

I enjoy the fact that I learn something new everyday. My colleagues are extremely intelligent and working on some very complex matters. It is thrilling trying to keep up with them. I enjoy the challenge and the chance to refine and mould myself into a great future qualified lawyer. A wise person once said to me “you don’t need to work on being a perfect trainee, you want to work towards becoming a bad-*ss associate” and I live by that! I’m just a sponge soaking it all up.

5. How do you balance running your not-for-profit organisation alongside your training contract?

Unfortunately the pandemic has really taken a hit to the events industry, and as events is one of the main pillars of my organisation, we’ve had to pull back slightly on what we did. However, previously the ultimate balance was based on good-old discipline and boundaries. Remaining focused and on top of work during the day, and setting the time before or after the working day to do items for my organisation. When you want something to work, you always find a way to make it work.

6. What are your top tips for prospective applicants?

When I first started applying, I had in mind what an ‘ideal’ candidate was supposed to be like and I tried to emulate that in all of my applications and interview rounds. In a way, I showed my competence but at the same time I held myself back slightly because I wasn’t being fully natural.

With time I got naturally frustrated with the rejections and I became a little bit disconnected to the process, but in the same breath, my walls came down and I was more authentic. I spoke about things I cared about and didn’t pretend to know about things that I didn’t know. I found that just being me, was probably the gamechanger for me. I was just authentic, not afraid to look silly or stupid and just treated everything as a conversation and opportunity to get to know people. A little bit like dates, I suppose?!

7. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

I remember the first time I ever made, what felt like the biggest professional mistake at work when I was a paralegal. I was so embarrassed, mortified, and it made me completely question my ability to make it as a lawyer.

I remember immediately putting my hands up to the mistake to the lawyer I was working for, who I anticipated would be furious with me for making such a silly mistake. But at my surprise, she turned around and said “Christiane, that’s okay. Mistakes happen. No one died. We can deal with this.” She then went on to tell me that one of the most important things in this profession is to keep your cool and remain solution-based, and to remember that no one will die because of your mistake, at the very worst, someone might lose a little bit of money – but that’s something we can deal with!

For me that was the best piece of advice I could have been given because it is very easy in a profession like law, where the standards are really high, all the time, to end up beating yourself up for making an innocent mistake. But we’re only human and it happens, and the most important thing is just to put forward a solution to the issue.