Young lawyer rejected 600 times wins top legal award

The man who was last week named assistant solicitor of the year received almost 600 job rejection letters, including one from a magic circle firm telling him: “You must be joking”, before finally landing a training contract.

Owen Williams was judged the UK's best assistant in The Lawyer's Fifth Annual Awards by a panel of eminent judges including senior partners from City firms, High Court judges and leading QCs.

However, Williams suffered hundreds of humiliating rejections before finally landing a training contract with Bristol firm Clarke Willmott & Clarke.

One rejection, which came from a magic circle firm, included a copy of his CV. His 2:2 university degree grade had been highlighted with “you must be joking” scribbled alongside it.

Williams declines to name the firm but when asked if he would work for them now, he replies: “God no – not in a million years.”

Williams received 585 rejection letters when he was looking for a training contract in 1996. He says: “I have a pile at the back of my mother's house. It is in alphabetical order and it is about four or five inches thick. It was a depressing time.”

He recalls applying to another big firm once only. The firm sent him a rejection letter which was then followed by another seven.

Of the firms that refused him a training place, he says: “They must be kicking themselves”.