Name: Andrew Thirlwall
Position: Trainee solicitor (second year, final seat)
Degree: Law LLB (Hons) Exempting
University: Northumbria University
Hobbies: Cycling, football, photography
Current department: Real estate
Number of TC applications made and interviews attended: 12/5
Why did you decide to train as a solicitor?
In 2004 – 2006 when I was studying my A levels, law was very much a growth area and I was advised that a career in the law would be fantastic (and lucrative). Having graduated from university and found that the “good old days” were over, I persevered in getting a training contract as I still maintained that becoming a solicitor would be interesting, challenging and rewarding.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to secure a training contract?
Trying to rein in my ambition, the somewhat turbulent economic conditions and the ratio of applicants to available training contracts.
I’m a meticulous planner, and sometimes get a bit carried away with my own ambition. Nobody wants a trainee who has a “five steps to partner” plan, so once I refocused on why I wanted to be a solicitor and not just the trappings that came with the job (or climbing the corporate ladder) I found that I had more success in interviews.
I graduated in 2010 and was applying for training contracts between 2008 and 2011, a period where training contracts were incredibly hard to come by. Competition was made even fiercer as a result of the bottleneck created by the vast amount of graduates being churned out by universities compared to the diminishing numbers of training contracts offered by firms in Newcastle.
What was the toughest training contract interview question you were asked (at any firm) and how did you answer?
Personally, I think the toughest question to answer convincingly is “Why do you want to be a solicitor?” I’m sceptical of the numerous applicants who state that their childhood dream was to become a solicitor. Mine was to become a fast jet pilot, or own a sweet shop. I don’t know many ten-year-olds who grow up wanting to draft commercial leases or SPAs.
Fortunately, by the time I had my final interview for Muckle, where I trained, I had been a paralegal at a large national firm for a long period of time, so could answer based on my experience of working life in practice. However, for those whose prior legal experience amounts to only a few weeks of vacation placements, it’s not easy to justify why the firm should invest so much time and money in you based on your limited exposure to life in practice.
Tell us a bit about the type of work handled by the department you’re in at the moment…
The real estate team handles a variety of transactional work, including investment, asset and estate management, property finance, corporate support and property development. We advise a range of large PLCs, private limited companies, house builders, registered providers, academies, universities and insolvency practitioners.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?
Dealing with different people every day, and problem solving.
What about your job didn’t you expect before you started?
That as much of a lawyer’s job is about relationship management (with clients/colleagues) as it is about knowing the law (the practical application of). Also, the amount of administrative and regulatory tasks that must be completed, this can often seemingly restrict your ability to do your job effectively.
Who’s the most recent email in your inbox from, and what’s it about?
Our business development manager asking me to complete this interview. Before that, an email from a friend at Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Limited, regarding a private matter. Their email signature alone makes me green with envy.
Where’s the best place to go to get your office’s gossip?
‘Time Out’ (our break-out area) at lunchtime, over a game of pool.
Describe your training partner in three words.
Professional, approachable and supportive.
Tell us two truths and one lie about yourself (in any order).
- My favourite film is Top Gun.
- I can travel 56mph on my road bike (on the flat).
- The last goal I scored was a penalty at the Gallowgate End at St James’ Park.
If you had not decided to become a lawyer, what career would you have chosen?
I’d have liked to become either a combat pilot or a commercial aviation pilot.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in law?
Approach the career with your head and not your heart. Do your research; understand and appreciate the statistics (most importantly the numbers of graduates pursuing training contracts against the numbers of places available). Consider moving away to train with a firm (where there may not be as many graduates pursuing training contracts) and consider training in house (Adidas, Proctor & Gamble, BT etc). Above all else, consider the alternative routes to qualifying as a solicitor, including CILEx and the recent changes to the training regulations for paralegals.