Name: Sara Kingdon
University: Cardiff University
Degree: LLB in Law and German from Cardiff University (2:1) and LLM in German Law from the University of Trier, Germany (Cum Laude). Undertook the Legal Practice Course at The Centre For Professional Legal Studies at Cardiff Law School.
Job Title: Trainee, Eversheds
Why did you decide on a career in law? I decided on a career in law after undertaking various legal work experience placements and attending several law fairs and careers talks to get a better insight into the legal profession and what working as a solicitor would involve. I found the work to be interesting, challenging and rewarding – exactly the kind of characteristics I was looking for in my future career and the chance to work directly with clients also appealed to me as I have always welcomed the opportunity to meet new people.
What did the application process involve? I applied directly for a training contract at Eversheds via our on-line application form and was then invited to attend an assessment day at the Cardiff office. This involved a variety of tasks including an in-tray exercise, interview and business analysis exercises with the opportunity to sit with a trainee for the rest of the afternoon. I also had to complete some on-line psychometric testing prior to the assessment day to test my numerical and verbal reasoning skills.
Other trainees have also joined Eversheds via the vacation placement route, as the firm offers a one week scheme at Easter or a two week scheme during the summer, both of which provide a great opportunity to experience ‘real life’ at the firm.
What type of work are you doing in your current seat? At the moment I am working in our Legal Systems Group as part of the Complex Title Rectification and Professional Negligence Team. Our clients are mainly mortgage lenders and other financial institutions and I have experienced a wide range of contentious matters including general title rectification, subsidence, nuisance and insurance cases to name but a few. There has been plenty of direct client contact, as well as the opportunity to attend court, draft witness statements and prepare instructions to counsel along with other more general litigation tasks.
What do you enjoy most about your job and are there any downsides? Part of Eversheds’ vision is to be a great place to work and in my experience this is certainly the case. Even as a trainee you get the opportunity to have direct contact with clients and there is a real ‘ hands on’ approach to your training. The quality and range of work is first-class and as everyone is friendly and approachable all aspects of training are enjoyable. You also get as much responsibility as you feel comfortable with, but help is always at hand which means you get the most out of your training and develop new skills quickly.
As a trainee you are required to spend 6 months in four different departments as part of your two year training contract, which essentially means you have to move teams every six months. This can seem a little daunting at first, as no sooner have you settled into one department than you have to move somewhere else, but on the plus side, you get to experience a wide range of practice areas and to establish good relationships with colleagues throughout the firm. In terms of working hours, sometimes working late is inevitable, but everyone is encouraged to have a good work/life balance and there is plenty of opportunity to socialise outside of office hours.
What do you think are the most important skills/strengths you need to be a successful solicitor? To become a successful solicitor you definitely need good organisational and interpersonal skills, commercial acumen and the ability to work either well under your own initiative or as part of a team. You also need to be able to present complex information clearly and succinctly and to remain focused on the issues at hand to ensure that your clients always get tailored advice to suit their needs.
What would be your best piece of advice for graduates considering a career in law? As the route to becoming a trainee solicitor is becoming increasingly more competitive, I would definitely recommend researching the firm you are considering applying to beforehand and don’t leave making your applications to the last minute. Work experience can also give you a valuable insight into what working somewhere will be like and even the small details won’t go unnoticed, so spell check your applications carefully before you press ‘submit’!