It doesn't feel like that long ago since I went to university for the first time – in September 1991. Back then, 'pandemic' was the name of a student indie band trying to get a Wednesday night slot in the union. Thankfully - they didn't.
The reality is that I'm now halfway through my working life and looking forward to qualifying as a solicitor in less than a year's time. My route towards qualifying and finding that all-important training opportunity, is not what I would call 'traditional' but I hope that by sharing my experience, it will show others that it's never too late to find the right career.
The writing on the wall
It was 2012 when I first realised that the retail sector in which I had worked since 1997, would be transformed by the digital marketplace. At this stage, a full-scale change of career wasn't what I had in mind. My concern for what the future held required me to work out what I enjoyed doing most and how I could create my own opportunities.
I wanted the answer to be digital marketing - but it definitely wasn't! An enjoyment of communication in all its forms, a desire to work with a wide variety of different people, and the need to apply a robust framework to my own personal development, pointed me towards a degree in law.
Flexibility and collaboration
As part of my first degree in retail business management, I wrote an assignment entitled 'The Flexible Firm'. It has long since been accepted that organisations need to adapt and change over time in order to thrive. This has perhaps never been more apparent than in recent months. Less widely understood, was the extent to which individuals need to do the same.
Being flexible is more than just an approach or an attitude; it's about circumstances, the people around you, your existing commitments and your ability to change these to achieve your goals. I was lucky; when I started a part-time law degree in the evenings after work, I had the support of my partner and almost as importantly, the support of my colleagues at work. It became clear to me that graduating with a law degree in my 40s would require the flexibility that could only be offered by a truly collaborative approach.
I continue to be aware of this today as a trainee, when tasks are completed as a result of collaboration, rather than by lone individuals.
Commit with courage
I was in the third year of my LLB with a decent clutch of exam results and an opportunity to qualify as a solicitor. I had heard that Brodies was Scotland's top ranked law firm in almost every practice area so it seemed like a good place to apply for the all-important training contract. I remember taking the day off work to attend its assessment centre.
I made a list of recent personal successes (no matter how small) and I researched the firm. Then I researched the firm again. I already had a good knowledge of current affairs and a sound commercial awareness.
Once at the assessment centre I set out to enjoy myself. I think this is the best way to allow those assessing you to get to know you. That plan worked – and here I am today, learning from colleagues who strive to be the best at what they do.
If you're considering a career in law, allow your experiences to motivate you and be honest about your failures as well as your successes. You'll come across as authentic and as someone with a capacity to learn. Finally, help others to improve their circumstances, as you will definitely need help to improve yours – collaboration is key.
Applications for our 2022 traineeships are open until Friday 28 August 2020.