The real barriers to a career in law
04 Aug 16

Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) hosted a round table event on Monday 1st August, where members of The Brokerage alumni network shared their journeys that took them into the world of law. The group consisted of undergraduates, legal apprentices, paralegals, trainee solicitors and qualified solicitors.

The group discussed how the exposure they gained in the world of professional and financial services from an early age was an important part of the process. As one person said, seeing the “fancy water” in the City offices made a huge impression on him. Another attendee from an inner City school said his visit to Linklaters, a global law firm, at age 14 was a real eye-opener and made him aim higher so he could achieve better grades.

Mentoring was widely considered to be a really beneficial opportunity, with some people lucky enough to have received mentoring previously whilst still at school. It quickly became evident that not all participants in the room had been given the same opportunities, with one woman saying that her first experience of being mentored had not taken place until her second year at university. She explained how this meant she was less able to demonstrate unique experiences when applying for university or programmes, which several people stated made a big difference to a CV, and gave them a chance of standing out from the crowd.

“Be bold and step out”

There was a discussion around the criteria for accessing mentoring schemes and how it could be prohibitive, whether due to being the first in the family to attend university or being eligible for free school meals. Some suggested that bright friends who did not meet these criteria but might otherwise come from non–advantaged backgrounds had therefore missed out on gaining unique experiences.

Some people in the room took the initiative and found their own mentor through attending networking events and simply asking for help. They admitted that having an experienced solicitor on the end of a phone or email had been incredibly useful. “Be bold and step out” was the advice of one young woman who secured an internship in Starbucks’ legal department through networking.

“Do not be scared of the word ‘no’. Show motivation, passion and perseverance”

Disappointing grades and not getting into a Russell Group university were often cited as barriers to entry into the law. However, a number of participants said that students should not get comfortable with making excuses. If you don’t get the grades you hoped for, don’t give up.

A now-qualified solicitor acknowledged how easy it is to become discouraged with endless rejection and disappointment. Perseverance was undoubtedly the one thing above all else that participants felt you had to have to succeed, especially given the financial investment required.

Several participants are holding down full time jobs and studying for the LPC at the same time – a tough call, especially as they are studying alongside people who do not have to work to finance their LPC course. “Do not be scared of the word ‘no’. Show motivation, passion and perseverance”, was advice offered by a paralegal.

“The more I practise, the luckier I get”

And finally, the part played by luck was mentioned by Tim Smith, Partner at BLP in his closing remarks. Several participants alluded to it – being in the right place at the right time or making a chance connection. But as Tim said, when asked how he had become successful, the legendary and incredibly hard-working South African golfer Gary Player said, “The more I practise, the luckier I get”. Great advice, Tim!

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