Name: Katie Mitchell
Degree: Law, 2.1, Newcastle University, LPC: Sheffield University
Work title: Solicitor, Mills & Reeve
Why did you decide on a career in law? I studied languages at A-Level and did not enjoy the courses. I wanted to choose a degree that allowed me to keep my options open, and law was suggested as a gateway into more careers than just becoming a solicitor or a barrister. I enjoyed my degree and the variety of subjects covered and I decided to continue with a career in law, and to become a solicitor. Even having made this decision I knew that there were many different types of law that I could qualify into, and each one could offer something different.
What did the application process involve? The application processes for the Law degree and the LPC were fairly straightforward. The application procedure to gain a training contract was more arduous and daunting. I got my training contract at Mills & Reeve through the paper application, which is now online, followed by an interview day. Many trainees gain their training contract after completing a vacation scheme, and I would recommend this process as it allows you to experience what it is like to work in a particular firm before you decide whether to apply there.
What do you actually do? I have very recently started my third seat in the projects department. Basically, the team work on large projects such as the development of new hospitals, student accommodation and schools. In this department it can be difficult to take on large amounts of responsibility due to the size and complexity of the projects. Commercial property was my last seat, and despite many trainees’ perceptions of this area of law, I would recommend this department. With supervision, I was able to take on and manage my own files which involved more responsibility but was much more rewarding. I found that by applying logic and common sense with a bit of property knowledge you can be a valued member of the team.
What do you most enjoy about what you do and are there any downsides? I find that the best part of this job is having the opportunity to use your brain. It is a very rewarding feeling when you are able to apply your knowledge to a real transaction or deal. I also really enjoy working with the staff from Mills & Reeve. As trainees we move departments every four months which can be daunting having to get to know new people, and new ways of working, but the fee earners are friendly, down-to-earth people.
As with most jobs there are downsides such as having to work late on short notice, but your efforts are always appreciated. As a trainee your workload is dictated by the other members of the team and sometimes this means that you can have a quiet day followed by a very busy day, and it can be difficult to predict what you will be doing the following day. Having said that some people find that this is a benefit to the job.
What strengths do you need in order to succeed at law? Once you start work you realise that understanding your area of law is taken as a given in this career, and you are expected to use that alongside many other attributes. To name but a few, you will need strengths such as attention to detail, strong communication skills, an understanding of client’s commercial needs, and assertiveness.
What advice would you give graduates coming into the law sector? Make sure that you know what processes you are required to go through before embarking on lengthy and expensive courses. Obtaining a training contract is not as easy as it may seem. If you go through all the stages only to decide that becoming a solicitor is not for you, then this could be time-consuming and expensive. Try to gain quality work experience in a Law firm, not only to be able to improve your CV, but in order to gain an insight into what you might be doing should you become a solicitor. Having said all that this career can be very rewarding both financially and personally, and the hard work has been worth it for me.