James Humphreys, Birketts

Name: James Humphreys

Firm: Birketts

Position: Trainee solicitor

Degree: Law

University: Kent

Hobbies: Cricket, running, music

Current department: Employment

Number of TC applications made and interviews attended: 5/1

Why did you decide to train as a solicitor?

I like the idea that you can never stop learning and developing your skills as a solicitor, and the fact that no two days are the same – even the supposedly routine work is slightly different each time.

James Humphreys, Birketts
James Humphreys, Birketts

What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to secure a training contract?

I had my training contract interview shortly after graduating with a law degree, so the biggest challenge for me was addressing my mind to the fact that the broad legal principles taught at university bear little resemblance to the reality of working for a large, commercial law firm. This is where work experience, legal or otherwise, can be really useful as it really helps develop your commercial awareness.

What was the toughest training contract interview question you were asked (at any firm) and how did you answer?

I was asked to name some of the firm’s key clients at my Birketts interview – a fairly straightforward question but at that moment all my preparation failed me. My only memory is the mild panic that quickly set in, but whatever I said clearly wasn’t fatal!

Tell us a bit about the type of work handled by the department you’re in at the moment…

I’m currently doing my third seat with the employment team, who deal with a really interesting mix of contentious and non-contentious work, generally acting for employers. Some days I’ll be working on Employment Tribunal claims, but we also advise on settlement agreements, staff handbooks and policies, TUPE transfers, and just about everything else employment and HR-related.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?

The most enjoyable aspects of the job for me are a good result in court, and stumbling across a definitive answer to a seemingly impossible research question – both leave you feeling fairly relieved!

What about your job didn’t you expect before you started?

I didn’t expect the responsibility that the firm gives trainees at an early stage. Since starting, I’ve been asked to run files with minimal supervision, and conducted short County Court hearings on my own, which has been great experience.

Who’s the most recent email in your inbox from, and what’s it about?

One of the partners in the employment team, passing on some details for a settlement agreement I’m in the process of drafting.

Where’s the best place to go to get your office’s gossip?

A colleague of mine who seems to know everything about everyone – I don’t know how she has time to do any work!

Describe your training partner in three words.

Positive, patient, understanding

Tell us two truths and one lie about yourself (in any order).

  • I was an extra in the first Harry Potter film
  • I’m scared of boats
  • I once crashed a golf buggy into a very visible wall

If you had not decided to become a lawyer, what career would you have chosen?

I always liked the idea of being a journalist – that’s not to say I’d have been any good it though!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in law?

In a nutshell – don’t focus too much on law. Your degree and LPC are important, as is legal work experience, but in my experience, a few days at a few different types of firm are more than enough. What’s equally as important is the broader life experience you can gain outside of law, that shows employers that you’re a well-rounded individual and makes it easier to know for sure that law is right the career for you.