Name: Rachel Pearson
Firm: SGH Martineau
Position: Trainee solicitor
University: Royal Holloway, University of London / BPP Law School, Leeds
Hobbies: Travel, netball and volunteering
Current department: Dispute Resolution
Number of TC applications made and interviews attended: 27 applications made and attended 3 interviews
Why did you decide to train as a solicitor?
I had considered law as a teenager, but when applying for university I did not feel sure enough to study law outright. I decided to do history and get some legal work experience. I did three placements over my second and third years at university and loved them, so applied for the GDL.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to secure a training contract?
My A level results were not as strong as other applicants. This was a particular issue with applications forms that used filters. So I made sure to apply to firms that I had the right A level grades for. I also did as many application forms as possible (without rushing them). Finally, I prepared an explanation for my grades for interviews, which was good as I was asked about them at all three of them!
What was the toughest training contract interview question you were asked (at any firm) and how did you answer?
“What are your weaknesses?”, because you have to really careful about how you answer. I used to say “I am a perfectionist”, but was told this was a bad answer by a careers advisor. I would always suggest some hesitation, you don’t want to appear to have too many to choose from! I think I went with caring too much / taking things to heart. I wanted to show how much I cared about clients and my work, but also be honest about myself at the same time.
Tell us a bit about the type of work handled by the department you’re in at the moment…
The dispute resolution group at SGH Martineau handles a range of disputes. I have been assisting with a high value breach of warranty claim and a number of discrimination claims for some of our higher education clients. I was also lucky enough to attend a mediation relating to an estate dispute.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?
I love doing something intellectually stimulating. I had a number of part time jobs whilst I was studying and quickly realised that I needed more than this to be entertained! It is also very rewarding when you achieve the result a client wants, particularly when working in a contentious area of law. The lead up to a trial can be financially and emotionally stressful and to be able to say to the client that it was worth it is great.
What about your job didn’t you expect before you started?
How much responsibility you are given (but this varies between departments). During my seats in property I was managing my own files, which I did not expect. I also really underestimated the stress of moving seats and possible newly-qualified roles. You think when you’ve got your training contract the job application stress is over, but it’s really not!
Who’s the most recent email in your inbox from, and what’s it about?
An email from a member of the firm’s netball team about our match tonight.
Where’s the best place to go to get your office’s gossip?
I would say a break-out area, or if it is too good for the office – Friday drinks!
Describe your training partner in three words.
Approachable, calm and popular.
Tell us two truths and one lie about yourself (in any order).
- I’m vegetarian
- I’m the CSR and Charities Representative on the Birmingham Trainee Solicitors’ Society Committee
- I did three vacation schemes (this is the lie – I didn’t do any)
If you had not decided to become a lawyer, what career would you have chosen?
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in law?
The first word out of my mouth would always be funding. Even if you do a law degree, you need a least one year’s postgraduate study to practice as a solicitor or barrister. Loans for this year are also becoming harder to secure, because banks have worked out that studying law does not automatically mean you are going to be able to practice and therefore earn enough to pay the loan back.
So, if you do law at university make sure you are applying for training contracts/pupilages from your second year, because many firms/ chambers will sponsor you. If you’re a GDL student, make sure you are applying during your final year at university. Also, consider other ways of funding, such as scholarships. I took a year out between my degree and my GDL, which gave me time to save up some money to help cover my living costs during my GDL.
I would also say be prepared for rejection. I once got eight email rejections for training contract applications in one day. Training contracts are highly competitive, so you need to be able to withstand getting knocked back.