From a young age I always knew what I wanted to do. I only ever wanted to be a lawyer and this single vision has driven me throughout my life. For me there was never a plan B, it was only the law I was interested in and I was determined to achieve my goal.
It wasn’t easy getting through Highers at school and then my LLB at university while working full time in waitressing and kitchen porter jobs. There were times when I genuinely felt like I was failing and would feel so defeated because I had never imagined just how hard it would be. I can’t even count the amount of times I would call my parents upset because I thought I was letting them and myself down because I didn’t think I would make it through. It was all worth it though to be awarded a 2:1 because it made me finally realise that whatever I set my mind to I could achieve so long as I put in the hard work and didn’t just give up when things got tough. The sense of accomplishment when my name was called at graduation and I walked across the stage to get my degree with my family watching was incredible. It just goes to show that a good work ethic and great support system can do wonders.
After graduation I took 2 years out because I wasn’t in the financial position to put myself through the diploma. My parents said that when I decided the time was right then they would give me whatever help I needed. They have always worked so hard for everything that they have and I wasn’t sure that I would get a traineeship straight after the diploma or even before the 2 year expiry. I didn’t want to feel like I had wasted their money so instead I worked full time whilst I figured out my next steps.
I have always believed that when the right opportunity comes around it is best to grab it with both hands and figure out a way to make it work. I was living in Dundee and was given the opportunity to work as a trainee Paralegal in a well-known law firm in Aberdeen. For 5 and a half months I commuted on the train adding several hours onto my workday. It was exhausting but the experience I was gaining was invaluable and I was finally on track to continue pursuing my legal career.
After finally moving to Aberdeen and working at the firm for over a year I started thinking about traineeships and I knew that my best chance to secure one would be by going ahead with finally completing the diploma in professional legal practice. It was intimidating going back into education, especially when everyone else was fresh off of the LLB but that didn’t stop me working hard and excelling in my classes.
When I was back into the groove of balancing work and university work everything changed. COVID-19 meant that instead of enjoying an on-campus experience with my classmates everything moved online, which isn’t easy for someone who admits to being inept when it comes to technology. Being adaptable is so important in the legal sector so I just had to take it in my stride and not let it affect my studies.
I clearly remember telling my parents that I wouldn’t be happy if I achieved anything less than a distinction in the diploma and even though they said they would be proud no matter what I was determined to meet my goal. With a lot of hard work, late nights and a ridiculous amount of caffeine I did it! Although I never got to have a proper graduation experience this time it didn’t really matter, the elation of knowing that I had set a goal and smashed it with obtaining A’s in all my modules was enough. I had proven to myself that regardless of the obstacles I could still achieve whatever I set my mind to.
Searching for traineeships was another necessary step in my career journey which at times proved a lot harder than studying ever was. Spending hours completing application after application to just get a standard email rejecting you was crushing. Facing rejection is never fun, especially when it’s getting to the point it’s near enough a weekly occurrence. It takes a strong person to face what feels like constant rejection and not let it make you give up. I have so much respect for everyone that has chosen this career and stuck it out through those tough times where it feels like no one is willing to give you the chance you so desperately need to get qualified.
An application to Caritas Legal Services for an executry paralegal job to gain more experience turned out to be a traineeship interview opportunity with a great firm that shared very similar values to me. Interviews can be daunting especially when you feel like your career dreams are hanging in the balance but after two interviews, I was feeling confident. I kept having to remind myself that even if I didn’t get it then I had great experiences talking with two qualified solicitors and I could carry that forward if I ever got any future opportunities. I don’t like to think negatively but managing expectations is so important even if it’s just to stop it feeling so bad if you don’t get the job you are going for.
I always said that if I could just sit in front of someone and tell them how badly I wanted to progress and get qualified and show them what a determined, hardworking and ambitious person that I was then I would finally get somewhere. When Lorna gave me the call to offer me the position as trainee solicitor it was all I could do to stop myself from laughing and crying at the same time because finally someone in the legal sector believed in me enough to give me a chance! Finally I did what I set out to do by being able to sit in front of someone and show them who I was and what I can do and they believed in me enough to take me on.
It just goes to show that not everything runs smoothly even when there is a clear path in what you need to do to get where you want to go. If I can give any advice to anyone that wants to pursue a career in law it would be that what is for you won’t go by you, the right opportunity will come along so don’t be disheartened if you don’t get accepted at the first firm that you apply to. Persistence, dedication and determination are qualities that every prospective solicitor should embody. Ours is not an easy journey but that one yes from the right firm is worth a thousand no’s from the wrong ones.
I am just about to start my next step and begin my traineeship and I have never felt such a mix of excitement and nerves, but it is honestly the greatest feeling in the world and I wouldn’t give it up for anything.
By Rebecca West