We recently spoke with Amna Afzal, Amna is an in-house solicitor and kindly shared valuable tips and advice learned from her journey to becoming a solicitor.
Why did you choose a career in the legal industry?
Becoming a solicitor has been a life goal since I can remember. Being 12 years old and asked what I want to do in the future, my response was to become a lawyer so I can wear fancy suits and high heels!
Of course my superficial reasons were quickly outweighed by my passion for education and creating a meaningful career for myself, one that fulfilled me.
As Elle Woods says in Legally Blonde, “you must always have faith in yourself” and that is what it takes, faith that this was the career path where I can make a difference and a voice that will be heard.
“you must always have faith in yourself”
What path have you taken to become a solicitor?
I opted for the traditional route in to law, beginning first with an undergraduate Law degree in Liverpool and progressing on to take the LPC full time, alongside a Masters in Law and Business. Whilst that was tough enough, I followed pursuit with my first graduate role in conveyancing. I worked for almost 2 years before securing my long awaited training contract.
Undertaking the training contract was my most significant achievement (prior to qualifying!) as it embodied the sweet rewards of my consistent hard work. Beginning my training contract in November 2019 and taking on a training contract in the midst of a pandemic was not easy, however this only fuelled my desire to succeed and complete my qualification. Finally in June 2021, my dream came true.
What skills do you need to be a good solicitor?
The main skill is resilience. The path to becoming a solicitor is arduous and you must prepare mentally. Fear not, for this is a skill which is also most definitely refined and strengthened throughout the route to lawyer-dom.
Another important skill to excel in this field is communication. Both in person, on phone calls and emails alike. Most interactions will be your clients, whom do not understand legal jargon used in every day practice.
Learning and knowing how to communicate the legalities and their consequences to your client requires clear unfiltered communication to not only advise your client, but to also provide a service they are comfortable with. When I was working in residential conveyancing, most of my clients were first time buyers, newly experiencing contact with a solicitor.
On the other side of this, you will be communicating with other legal professionals and solicitors on a daily basis. Whilst they will understand legal jargon perfectly, the way you express yourself and your case is inherent to being a great solicitor.
Working in law is a diverse field and you will develop a multitude of strengths during both your studies and practice. This allows you to be versatile, work on different matters and urgent tasks that may crop up unexpectedly.
Working towards deadlines also means you need to be flexible and have the ability to prioritise your day to day tasks to achieve all that is expected of you. Being organised will help you get there. One thing that certainly keeps day to day practice manageable is making a to-do list, not to mention the satisfaction as you tick off each completed task (or in my case, highlighted!)
What are the pros and cons of being a solicitor?
It is satisfying work! Whether you are working in real estate or corporate each day brings a different set of tasks and the work is intellectually stimulating.
Working in-house. Working in a law firm and working in-house highlighted two very different experiences for me. Working in-house is something I did not consider before venturing on to my current position, however I have found it brings a better work-life balance, a more intimate team of individuals working together and a stronger opportunity to showcase your legal knowledge.
Con – competitive industry – law is notorious for being a fiercely competitive field with rigorous processes to obtaining a training contract with the top City firms. You will definitely be put through your paces and could still find your efforts producing no returns.
You can find yourself working long hours; overtime can become second nature and coffee becomes your best friend (although coffee is definitely not considered a con!)
How did you find your current solicitor position?
A boutique recruiter approached me via LinkedIn with the job description.
Could you provide an overview of what the interview process was like?
I had a zoom interview with the legal manager and HR of my current company. I prepared extensively beforehand and the interview was around an hour long. The legal manager conducted the interview and asked various questions, mainly based on my current skills set and future plans.
I also asked questions of the company, including what my day to day role would be and how the company had handled the pandemic. Negotiations with the job were conducted via the recruiter and I asked several questions of the company as well as taking a tour of the office, before I agreed to take the job.
What 3 tips would you give to someone seeking a solicitor position?
- Do your research. Create a list of qualities you are looking for in your future employer and remember, your employer needs to work for you as much as you need to work for them.
- Plan your long term goals, whether that’s 2 years, 3 years or 5. What do you want to do in the future? Will the jobs you are applying for help you to get there?
- Be strong. Law is a tough field and not for the faint hearted. Motivation will not always be present, therefore disciplining yourself is key to excelling in the work place.