Philip Hoult tracks down his fellow class mates from the College of Law and asks them about life five years on
You are about to leave law school, with your LPC and CPE in the bag and trying to prepare yourself for a life of sober clothes, all-night meetings and, worst of all, unfeasibly short holidays.
You may be questioning whether you want to be a solicitor at all, let alone having a clue as what sort of work you want to do. You have probably not stopped to think what you might be doing in five years' time – five years seems a long, long way off at the moment.
To give you an idea, Philip Hoult – a former solicitor but now a reporter on The Lawyer – asked four fellow members of the class of “93 at the College of Law in Lancaster Gate (now Store Street) if they are doing what they expected to do, and whether law school was much use to them professionally:
Helen Burridge (above left) trained at Westminster firm Radcliffes Crossman Block, moving shortly after qualification to Richards Butler's corporate department. She has spent time on secondment to MTV and to the firm's Hong Kong office.
“This isn't what I pictured myself doing five years ago. I expected to be a litigator at a mid-sized London firm or in a large provincial firm. I would say that being a corporate lawyer in a City firm was exactly what I was determined I did not want to do – my perception was that you were a number, not a name, in a City firm, which is certainly not true of Richards Butler.
“Law school prepared me academically. I did the CPE and have found that most of what I learned is still in my head. I've forgotten most of what I learned for my degree. But law school did not prepare me for how commercial you have to be, even in private practice.
“I also found it difficult to cope financially during articles. I even had to take another loan out and I know I was not alone. I've paid them [the loans] both off – great feeling!
“My advice to students now is to keep an open mind about what you want to qualify into until half or three-quarters of the way through your training contract. Go for breadth of training and experience – there will be plenty of time to specialise later. Enjoy the long holidays – you will miss them!”
James Greenslade trained at Slaughter and May and qualified into the firm's corporate department, before joining leading entertainment firm Eatons almost a year ago.
“This is what I always wanted to do and it was what I expected when I was at law school. Training at Slaughter and May was a means to an end.
“Still, my training didn't really prepare me for the real world. In some ways you had to re-learn how to do it all. Law school does not prepare you for the workload or the responsibility of having to do deals with minimal supervision.
“Like others I incurred debt, but I've paid it off.
“Trainees entering the profession now should make sure they get good training. All-round training is as important as specific entertainment knowledge.”
Andrew Scott (above right) trained at Linklaters, qualified into the corporate tax department and is now a government lawyer at the Law Commission. He heads a team looking at the reform of partnership law in England, Wales and Scotland.
“I certainly didn't expect to be working here when I left law school. In common with many people on the CPE, I did not know what the Law Commission did. However, I did have vaguely in my mind the thought of doing something more policy-oriented.
“As to whether law school is relevant, it depends on the areas of practice. The first thing I did was investment funds and obviously law school would not prepare me for that. A lot of skills at a junior level relate to organisation and management of time. Only doing the job prepares you for that.
“My advice to today's students would be to try to get a good balance between work and your outside interests. Work should not become all-defining as it can be in some City firms.”
Justin Thompson-Glover trained at Denton Hall, moved to film firm Marriott Harrison and is now a senior business affairs executive at Channel 4.
“I didn't appreciate at law school quite how much concentration and attention to detail is really required in the workplace. But this is almost what I envisaged I would be doing as a lawyer – I thought I would be working for a film rather than a TV company by now.
“Student debt hasn't proven too much of a problem as my old employer Denton Hall was quite generous. I expect to pay it all off by the year 2000.
“I believe that as a lawyer you should do whatever law you want, as long as you are interested enough.”