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“Essential first year advice” by Chris White of Aspiring Solicitors

My name is Chris White and I am a solicitor at a leading global law firm.

When I started university as a law student 10 years ago(!), I didn’t really know what to expect. I was a “first generation undergraduate” in my family and had no “family contacts” in the legal profession, but I knew I wanted to become a solicitor. However, very early on in my first year I made a huge error, one that nearly prevented me from securing my goal of becoming a solicitor at a leading global law firm.

At a Law Society event, I made the error of listening to a third year law student who told me that first year grades at law school “didn’t count”. This person was on the Committee of the Law Society so I automatically added extra weight to his advice. Looking back at this advice, I can honestly say that it was the worst piece of advice I received throughout my entire 4 year degree course.

As a first year aspiring solicitor, I was unware of the structured processes/timeframes involved to access a career as a solicitor. My lack of knowledge as to when to apply for vacation placements and training contracts coupled with the worst advice an aspiring solicitor could ever receive (that first year grades “don’t count”) was not a good combination.  If I hadn’t studied a four year law course, I would have missed the boat on my vacation scheme applications, which would have hampered my ability to demonstrate my commitment to be a solicitor- a key trait in any application for a position at a law firm.

“Why is this so?!” I hear you cry? Put simply, my first year grades on their own were not as good as they could have been and I failed to secure any placements.  My applications were poor and the method I used to apply to law firms was uninformed and confused. With the benefit of hindsight, I know this would have been abundantly clear to the recruiters who received my “applications”.

Luckily, I was able to remedy my mistake and I secured a high 2:1 in my second year and since most city firms require vacation scheme applications in the penultimate year of study, I had another chance to apply.

Consequently, I set aside four months of spare time between November and February to apply for vacation schemes in my third year. Following a lot of hard work and hours of application form drafting, I secured three vacation schemes and was offered a training contract from two of these firms.

Having assisted graduate recruiters with the application process for years and having mentored aspiring solicitors with their applications and interviews, I know one of the overwhelming factors hampering aspiring solicitors from securing positions with law firms is poor first year grades. Please don’t add to this stat. As an aspiring solicitor, your first year grades are crucial!

Over the coming months I will be contributing to this blog with useful and insightful advice to aspiring solicitors at City University London. Should you have any questions/queries about becoming a solicitor I would be pleased to assist you. This includes providing you with tips and advice on completing applications and preparing for interviews.  I will also be visiting your campus on 8 October.  Please contact me via my Facebook page “Aspiring Solicitors” for further help and advice.

Good luck!

Employer Engagement Team

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3 Comments

  1. Dear Chris,

    I am Law Society Disability Division EC member. I am registered blind solicitor. I voluntary retired from govt legal agency in 2013. I am an India Origin and English my second language.

    Please advise me how I can develop my legal career further given the above-mentioned circumstances.

    I read about you on Aspiring Solicitor site, but somehow unable to register there or send message you.

    Thank you in advance, and i await to hear from you in due course.

    Kind Regards

    Bharat Mankad

    • Hi Bharat. Chris may well not have read your comment as its a guest post he has given on our blog. I don’t have a contact email address for him but how about trying to reach him via his LinkedIn page or the Aspiring Solicitors Facebook page.

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