Name: James Carpenter

Firm: Forsters

Position: Trainee solicitor

Degree: History

University: University of Manchester

Hobbies: Football/Cooking/TV

Current department: Property Litigation

Number of TC applications made and interviews attended: 12/4

James Carpenter, Forsters

Why did you decide to train as a solicitor?

After finishing university, I worked in retail for a year. I loved the client facing elements of this job, but, in the end, I felt that I wanted to continue to build upon the academic skills that I had developed at university. Training as a solicitor seemed to allow me to do both. On the one hand, lawyers provide a service, so are constantly client facing, but, equally, there are times when you need to sit down and grapple with complex legal issues.

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

I really disliked writing training contract applications. I always found myself cursing the fact that I had not swum the channel while holding my breath nor summited Everest blindfolded!

That said, with hindsight, I now realise that it is less about having those kind of accomplishments on your CV (although they are, of course, incredible), and more about using what you have achieved to demonstrate who you are and why you would be suited to a career in law.

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

I was once asked to explain a course I took during my degree (about the origins of Christianity in England) to my interviewer’s imaginary 5-year-old daughter who did not understand the words faith, religion or Christianity.

To be honest, I am still thinking about how to answer that one…

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

I have just started the fourth seat of my training contract, and I am now sitting in Forsters’ property ligation department. The department handles both residential and commercial work. On the residential side, the matters can range from party wall disputes to enfranchisement claims. The commercial side includes a wide variety of work such as lease renewals (both opposed and unopposed), dilapidations claims and break notices.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?

One of best aspects of being a trainee is the fact that you are constantly being asked to do things which are outside of your comfort zone. Although, at times, this is can be challenging, when I look back at how much I have learnt and developed over just the past year, it is hugely rewarding.

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

How important it is to have a sense of humour. Training contracts can be a steep learning curve, but one of the nicest things about the past year has been the jokes that I have shared with other trainees/members of the firm about our mutual successes (and occasional slip-ups!).

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

An associate has just emailed me to ask if I want to go for a drink with the department to get to know everyone.

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

You can’t beat the postroom for gossip.

Describe your training partner in three words.

Commercial, interesting, interested

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

  • I was an extra in The Only Way is Essex
  • I wrapped Ricky Gervais’ Christmas present
  • I once failed a driving test before I got into a car.

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

I would have liked to be a teacher.

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

I think that it is important to choose the type of firm that you apply to very carefully. Cultures can vary hugely between firms, so you should think what kind of firm best suits your personality. In this sense, work experience, open days and vacation schemes are as much about you assessing the firm as them assessing you.