Name: Tracey Singlehurst-Ward
University: Cardiff University (LLB Law) and Cardiff Law School, Centre for Professional Legal Studies (LPC)
Work Title: Trainee in Commerical Litigation, Hugh James LLP
Why did you decide on a career in law? I chose law as a career at quite an early stage, at the beginning of my GCSEs. In part, this was because it was suggested to me by careers’ advisors who saw that I was good at academic subjects where the skills would be transferable, for example History and English. I was particularly attracted to it however, because I knew it would be a challenge, and would set out a career path and targets for me from the very beginning of my studies. I had not studied law, but it struck me as so interesting that it would be a job that would never be boring as there is so much to learn. I would therefore be involved in a stimulating career, which would involve working with a wide variety of people which was very appealing.
What did the application process involve? The application process is very in depth. Getting to university and onto the LPC is not such an onerous task, but applying for training contracts certainly requires dedication. I was very fortunate and was offered a contract with one of the first firms I applied to, Hugh James. However, even to get to this I went through assessment days with some firms (with everything from negotiation skills tests to psychometric tests), interviews, and being asked to do presentations. The application forms used by legal recruiters are far more in depth than for some other jobs, which I think reflects the competition in the profession. It was absolutely necessary to be ahead of the game and organise myself at an early stage as the firms I wanted to go to recruited two years in advance. Firms want to know why you have picked them ahead of any other firms and so you must give it careful consideration.
What are you actually doing? I am currently working in Commercial Litigation at Hugh James. This seat has been immensely varied in the type of work I am able to get involved in. It ranges from simple debt recovery, to commercial and contractual disputes, professional negligence, intellectual property, education and sports law. The tasks I am given are very varied, and enable me to play an important part in the cases I work on. Each day I am doing different things, so the seat is very exciting and interesting as well as providing an excellent knowledge base and learning experience.
What do you most enjoy about what you do and are there any downsides? I enjoy the variety and fast pace of my job. I don’t have time to get bored and each case is so different that they are all interesting in their own way. I particularly enjoy the fact this seat is contentious as it makes you feel very passionate about your work, and you can take pride in your achievements. I meet lots of different clients and enjoy the responsibility given to me. I get a variety of tasks each day ranging from interviewing witnesses, drafting, researching, and liaising with clients. Being a trainee generally is very exciting as you have the opportunity to try a variety of very different jobs.
There are not really any downsides to my job. As a trainee, you have to be flexible and ready to help out your team with all sorts of tasks which may be vital, or at times menial, but this makes it more varied and interesting, and I have not found a single case that I have not enjoyed or found interesting yet. Other than this, the only downside is that you have to move seats when you have just got the hang of what you were doing in the current one!
What skills do you need to succeed in law? First and foremost you need to be dedicated and enjoy the law. The profession is far too competitive to waste time trying to make it in it if it is not really what you want to do. You also need a good academic record of course, but firms are really interested in your communication skills, adaptability, and ability to learn. They also like to see an ability to be business minded. Depending on what type of law you want to do you will need different skills, such as analytical skills and (almost always) an eye for detail. However, in most cases I think being hard working, personable and enthusiastic will go a long way.
What advice would you give other graduates entering this sector? As a graduate considering law, you should really think hard about what type of career you see yourself in within the law. It is really important and helpful to make the right choice of firm, choosing who you train with carefully. It was tempting for a lot of people I knew to apply blindly to as many firms as they could in the hope of finding a training contract. However, it’s best for you if you have fully considered what the training will involve and whether it’s for you, and the firms you apply to will also appreciate this. After all, you will spend at least two years working in whatever area they offer, and they will be investing a lot of time and money, so you need to choose something that interests you and suits your future plans.
Is there anything you would like to add? Law is a very rewarding career path. You really feel like you have achieved things for your clients in just about any seat and it is very easy to be passionate about what you do. I have been very lucky and had a fantastic training experience which is the most important thing at the moment. It is not an easy path to the training contract, but as soon as I started work it felt like it was worth it.