In this article, we interview Elizabeth Potter, a Trainee Solicitor at law firm, Irwin Mitchell LLP.
Elizabeth kindly shared why she chose to pursue a career in the industry, how she secured her role, and tips for aspiring legal professionals.
Why did you pursue a career in the legal industry?
I chose to pursue a career in the legal industry because it is an area where I can do intellectually stimulating work while also collaborating with others and building relationships with clients.
I want to build a career that will last a lifetime, and will push me to grow both professionally and individually, and I see the legal industry as the place to do that.
Can you detail the path you have taken to become a trainee solicitor?
For my undergraduate degree, I read Psychology at the University of Warwick. I then decided to undertake a law conversion and I completed the GDL at the University of Law in Guildford.
In the summer after completing the GDL, I was offered a training contract with Irwin Mitchell and I stayed at the University of Law to complete the LPC. I started my training contract in August 2021.
Can you give us an overview of what it is like to work at Irwin Mitchell?
Irwin Mitchell is an extremely supportive firm where I have been made to feel valued and encouraged from day one. I am a trainee in the Chichester office and I feel connected to, and work with, colleagues from across the other national offices on a frequent basis.
In addition, my experience has been that at all levels the firm is invested in making your training contract as valuable as possible, and there is no barrier to seeking help or advice from senior colleagues.
What are the pros and cons of being a trainee solicitor?
One of the pros of being a trainee solicitor is that you have a lot of flexibility to explore what interests you. Your chargeable time targets will be much lower than when you qualify and this gives you room to make the most of the two years of your training contract, for example by attending things such as training seminars and networking events.
A con of being a trainee solicitor can be that your workload may fluctuate as it depends on what is going on in the team and in the matters that you are assisting with. However, this can also be an opportunity to be proactive and either use quieter moments to enhance your training and use busier moments to improve your time management and task prioritisation skills.
How did you find your current trainee position?
I already knew of Irwin Mitchell from their national reputation, so when I saw that there was an open evening at the Chichester office, which is my local office, I attended and met many of the team who are now my current colleagues.
I loved what I saw of the culture of the firm on that evening and attended a few more events run by the Chichester office in the subsequent months while sending off my application.
If you get the chance to do this, I would really recommend it as you get the chance to really see what a firm is like, which can also then help to make your application more personal.
What was the interview process like?
The interview process involved several steps including a recorded video interview and an assessment centre. I was asked a variety of questions throughout the process, with key themes including commercial awareness, why I was applying to Irwin Mitchell, why I wanted to be a solicitor and about what I had learned from my previous personal experiences.
What 3 tips would you give to someone hoping to secure a training contract?
- Be yourself: No matter what, be honest in your applications. Don’t try to give the answers that you think the firm wants to hear; answer the question honestly in your own true words. Your authenticity and personal style will make you stand out far more than trying to sound impressive.
- Write everything down: My top tip would be after every interview that you have, immediately afterwards write everything down that you can remember. The names of the interviewers, the questions they asked, the answers you gave and the questions that you asked at the end. That way, no matter how your application goes, you will gradually build up a bank of previous interview questions and answers which you can use to practice and ensure that your future answers are as varied and interesting as possible.
- Connect with the firm: As I mentioned before, if you get the chance to attend an open evening or an event run by the firm, do so. Use the opportunity to ask as many questions as you can, and to build rapport with the people you meet. It’s important to remember you not only want to showcase why the firm you are applying to should choose you, but also to really understand why you are choosing them. This will then shine through in your application and give you a genuine answer to the inevitable question, “Why do you want to work at this particular firm?”