Henrietta Dunkley, Lester AldridgeName: Henrietta Dunkley

Firm: Lester Aldridge

Position: Trainee solicitor

Degree: Law

University: University of Reading

Hobbies: Running and fitness, piano, attending gigs

Current department: Commercial dispute resolution

Number of TC applications made and interviews attended: 7 applications / 4 interviews – accepted training contract with Lester Aldridge before attending any others

Why did you decide to train as a solicitor?

The work is challenging, varied and interesting. I like the fact that I never quite know what I will be faced with each day.

What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to secure a training contract?

Not having any connections to the legal profession. I had to work a little harder to make myself stand out in order to secure work experience and/or training contract interviews. I faced a vicious circle of trying to get work experience without having had any previously – it can be very difficult to get law firms to just give you a break in that situation!

What was the toughest training contract interview question you were asked (at any firm) and how did you answer?

“Tell us a time when you faced an ethical dilemma and what did you do about it?” I had to take a minute to really think about it, but drew on a situation that had arisen during the pro bono projects I participated in at university.

Tell us a bit about the type of work handled by the department you’re in at the moment…

Commercial dispute resolution in our firm includes debt recovery, professional negligence, marine disputes, intellectual property disputes, health and safety executive work (more criminal based), defamation, arbitration, mediation and much more. Usually fast track and multi track cases with higher value.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?

I have a variety of work either working on a few of my own smaller cases or assisting on larger ones. I am given a good level of responsibility that encourages me to take initiative, and am part of a friendly and supportive team.

What about your job didn’t you expect before you started?

There is a lot that they do not teach you in law school or on the LPC that you simply have to pick up and run with when you start your training contract. That is why it really does help to have work experience and, in my view, I found that working as a paralegal for a year before starting my training contract meant I felt a lot more comfortable and could do more than expected when I actually started training – when it really matters.

Who’s the most recent email in your inbox from, and what’s it about?

Another trainee about an upcoming commercial networking event we plan to attend.

Where’s the best place to go to get your office’s gossip?

The kitchen is where some people congregate

Describe your training partner in three words.

Friendly + encyclopaedic knowledge

Tell us two truths and one lie about yourself (in any order).

  • I run half marathons
  • I am a huge Harry Potter fan
  • I am afraid of worms.

If you had not decided to become a lawyer, what career would you have chosen?

I would have taken a totally different path and become a nutritionist, because I love all things health and fitness.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in law?

Make yourself stand out from the crowd, having a 2:1 is not enough. Participate in as much pro bono work as you can – universities offer it for a reason! Get work experience as early as possible, even if you are just working as a legal secretary or equivalent in your holidays.

Showing that you are dedicated and willing to go the extra mile really helps – I ended up doing just that in my second year, and it was that legal secretary work that allowed me to break the vicious circle and get a vacation scheme and TC in my third year!