By Rhea Darroch
PRIME Student to Trainee Solicitor? If only the transition was as smooth sailing as five simple words. My experience has been one that felt like a constant battle with imposter syndrome, social barriers and a revolving door of rejections. Overcome with sheer dread whilst filling in another application form often made me wonder if I was “right” for a career in law. As I completed the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice in March and have just commenced my traineeship with Brodies LLP, I believe now is the perfect time to reflect upon how I managed to get here (admittedly, I am still very low on the profession ladder).
I am only one of the many aspiring lawyers who come from a working-class background and live in an area that is classed as highly deprived in Scotland. A career aspiration for law and attending school in such an area is not exactly a match made in heaven; but, without this background I would never have been given the opportunity to take part in the PRIME Commitment. It was this initiative that introduced the world of commercial law to me and enhanced my drive to pursue a career in the area.
For those who have not heard of the initiative, “PRIME is an alliance of law firms across the UK and Republic of Ireland, committed to improving access to the legal profession through work experience”. The PRIME Commitment is firmly focused on improving social mobility within the legal profession and providing high school students from low-income and disadvantaged backgrounds a fair opportunity. At current, PRIME has 60 member firms offering work experience and each law firm conducts this work experience differently.
I applied to take part in PRIME work experience through Brodies LLP’s programme while I was in my fourth year of high school, with the work experience taking place in the summer before fifth year. The application process is fairly straightforward, and all information can be found on the PRIME website or on the firm’s website you wish to apply to.
My work experience with Brodies was a five-day programme in the firm’s Glasgow office. It was aimed at providing an insight into a career in commercial law, and the profession more generally. The week was centred around sessions and workshops focusing on the practice areas of the firm with the opportunity to shadow trainees and visit the Sheriff Court. There were various opportunities to ask questions and seek advice from the trainees and newly qualified solicitors on their route into the profession. The PRIME work experience at Brodies was diverse with insight sessions held by HR, Finance, IT and Marketing. I believe this is such an important feature as it widens young students’ horizons while trying to map out their career.
It is worth mentioning that completing PRIME with a particular firm is not a fast-track to obtaining a traineeship with them. It is merely an opportunity for work experience. My motivation to pursue my career at Brodies stemmed from my work experience with the firm through PRIME, and it wasn’t an easy journey securing a traineeship. It was on my third application when I was invited to the assessment centre. The moral of the story being that perseverance is necessary, even when you feel like giving up.
My experience with PRIME and Brodies was invaluable. It gave me an opportunity of quality work experience and a connection to the commercial law world that previously, I never would have had. Ultimately, it acted as that stepping-stone that so many of us desperately need when trying to enter a profession that has been so overwhelmingly regarded as middle class. Changes are being made to widen access to the profession and eradicate the bias in recruitment which is evident through initiatives like PRIME. However, there is still a battle to diversify the legal professional and this is not solely about encouraging social mobility, but race and gender too.
Do not be ashamed of your background, no matter how much the legal profession makes you feel incapable of excelling at times. Use your background to seek out opportunities through PRIME and other initiatives (Legable can help with this!). Your background is what makes you unique against other candidates, and so you should preach about it. Just because you are not from an affluent background, or because you didn’t attend a Russell Group university does not mean you are any less deserving of pursuing a career at a top law firm. However, this thinking seems to be inextricably linked to those who are fighting the social mobility barriers.
Honestly, I still suffer from imposter syndrome. I often put my gaining a traineeship down to luck, but a friend always kindly reminds me that it is because I deserve it. I am only one of many who feel like this.
If there is one lesson taken from this blog, let it be this: it is not you who needs to alter yourself to become the “right” fit for the profession, but it is the profession that needs to alter its perception of students, in order to break down those solid social barriers and embrace talent that is too often overlooked.