A career in law: Lucy argues the case for being yourself

Past pupil LUCY WICKS briefs us on what’s involved in taking on a law conversion course and argues the case for being yourself, rather than conforming to a stereotype, to stand out at interview

Lucy left RGS in 2017 after taking A-levels in history, classics and chemistry and went on to study history at Durham University. She is now studying for a graduate diploma in law at the University of Law in Leeds, having secured a commercial solicitor training contract with the law firm Addleshaw Goddard

“THANKS to many fascinating stories from my dad during his time as a magistrate, I have known from quite a young age that I wanted to pursue a legal career. During my time at RGS I took mainly humanities as I enjoyed the thought-provoking debates involved. I opted to read history at university as I was encouraged to choose a subject I would enjoy and engage with for the full three years.

“During my time at Durham, I studied medieval history and explored the public and private lives of women in Viking society for my dissertation. The variety of a history degree allowed me to study legal aspects, and I took a module on crime and culture in early medieval England, which contained quite a few gory elements I was not expecting!

“During my degree I completed two legal placement vacation schemes in order to get a taste for life as a solicitor and was afforded an insight into many different areas of the law, my favourites including employment law and dispute resolution. These placements were demanding, and despite having no legal knowledge or experience, I was working on real cases and meeting clients.

“I quickly discovered that the legal industry is fast-paced and every day is different, with the variety of the work and the genuine passion of the people around me convincing me this was the path I wanted to follow.

“To qualify as a solicitor, you have to undertake recognised training with a law firm, known as a training contract. These are notoriously difficult to secure, and so after graduating I threw myself into the applications (thanks Covid for ensuring I had no social life!).

“I won’t sugar-coat the application process. Law firms want to know why you have chosen to apply to them specifically which involves hours of focused research and crafted answers. It was disheartening to be rejected by eight firms, but eventually receiving my offer in my first round of applications was a surreal experience, having tried to take positives from each rejection in order to strengthen future applications.

“My advice for those going through interviews and assessment days is to be yourself as much as possible. Large companies see so many clone-like applications and I really believe having something personal to say makes you stand out. Interviewers asked me lots of questions about the history I had studied and wanted to hear all about my World Challenge experience. Interviews are always intimidating but having a strong grasp of your own identity will make you stand out; don’t feel like you must conform to a stereotype.

“I am completing my graduate diploma, essentially a three-year law degree condensed down into one, in Leeds. The course is intense, but the content is interesting. Out of my class of nine, four of us took history as undergraduates but there are also people who did physics and nursing! No matter what you choose for your degree it won’t stop you beginning a career in law if you later decide this is the path for you. Next year I will complete the legal practical course and will start my two-year training period at Addleshaw Goddard in September 2023, qualifying in 2025.

“RGS taught me a lot about self-assurance and the importance of persevering even when things get tough. The inevitable stress of A-levels was always balanced out by light-hearted relief; cake Thursdays in classics and Mrs Caldwell’s inventive and entertaining methods of helping me with chemistry are memories I will never forget.

“Furthermore, the many opportunities to get involved in sport meant I was able to continue playing at university. The expectations of students are high, but from first year all the way to sixth form I was taught by teachers with a real passion for their subjects and friends who supported all my endeavours.

“Surrounding yourself with a support network is important, and I know the friendships I made at RGS will be ones which stay with me for life.

“I consider myself lucky to have studied at RGS and I believe it provided me with a strong bedrock of confidence and ambition that set me up well for my future.”

Students who want to find out more about the path Lucy has taken can contact her on lucywicks1@btinternet.com