Name: Patrick Kane
Position: Trainee solicitor
University: King’s College, Cambridge
Hobbies: Running, music, football, writing
Current department: Real Estate (non-contentious)
Number of TC applications made and interviews attended: 10/3
Why did you decide to train as a solicitor?
My strengths and skills probably lend themselves more effectively to training as a solicitor rather than the bar. I’ve always liked problem solving, I love a challenge and I liked the idea of working in a job where no two days were ever quite the same. I wanted to work in a role where I could help people – training as a solicitor seemed like an obvious choice.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to secure a training contract?
Experience was a major factor – when I was applying for vacation schemes in January 2011 I only had a week of work experience in a small law firm in Belfast under my belt and I think some law firms look fondly on those with paralegal experience etc. at the training contract stage. I also missed a 2:1 in my first year of university and from there I felt that I was on the back foot. Finally, travel was a challenge as many of my interviews took place outside term time when I was at home in Northern Ireland – it can also cost quite a bit to fly over to London or Manchester!
What was the toughest training contract interview question you were asked (at any firm) and how did you answer?
I think we all prepare to answer the “why do you want to become a solicitor?” question before interviews, but I remember a partner asking the same question again, referring to my other interests, and asking why I didn’t want to become a journalist etc. This threw me off a little and it took a few moments but I think I recovered (and I’ve worked with the same partner for the past four months!).
Tell us a bit about the type of work handled by the department you’re in at the moment…
Our department mostly deals with retail and leisure real estate but no two days are ever the same. One minute, I could be working on preparing legal documentation for the auction of a small piece of land – the next, I could be working on the property due diligence for a huge pub acquisition – the next, I could be working on a hotel.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?
My colleagues are brilliant – I’ve been presented with a number of opportunities because they recognise that not only am I there to “get a job done”, but also to develop my own skills. When I walk to work, I can see projects that I’ve worked on being built and regeneration happening before our eyes thanks to our clients. I’ve been lucky enough to work on two deals that have made the headlines in national newspapers and it’s great to be part of something like that. Finally, I like the fact that even at a trainee level we can build up client relationships, and both sides can benefit from them.
What about your job didn’t you expect before you started?
How important IT skills can be – you would be amazed how indispensable you can become (and how much time you can save) with a little knowledge.
Who’s the most recent email in your inbox from, and what’s it about?
It’s an email from another law firm representing a major bank – a client is acquiring a pub, and we’re making sure that the bank has all of the legal documents they need so they are happy to fund the purchase.
Where’s the best place to go to get your office’s gossip?
Our Friday Fridge event at the end of every month, the firm puts on drinks and we get to see colleagues from different departments to catch up on what’s going on!
Describe your training partner in three words.
Approachable and entertaining!
Tell us two truths and one lie about yourself (in any order).
- Even if it’s a little uncomfortable at first, I enjoy being thrown in the deep end
- I haven’t quite got the hang of networking yet
- I love posting timesheets
If you had not decided to become a lawyer, what career would you have chosen?
Either a music journalist or a teacher.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in law?
You won’t truly know if you want to have a career in law unless you get a bit of hands-on experience. Whether it’s assisting at your local Citizens Advice Bureau, taking part in pro bono or simply asking for work experience, everything will help.
Try and break the habit of “academic writing” – you need to be clear and concise when you speak to clients and to colleagues, and I’m still trying to get to grips with it!
If you’re applying to firms, make sure you show evidence of the skills and strengths they’re expecting (e.g. attention to detail, work ethic, strong communication skills) as well as any strengths that may make you stand out from the crowd, for example the ability to speak a foreign language, knowledge of a specific industry sector or strong programming/IT skills.
And a final tip for interviews (that has served me very well to date); never begin an answer to a question within the first three seconds of it being asked. Take a breath, think through your answer, take a sip of water and speak.