Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Why I chose not to become a lawyer.

By Rachel Speed, @Rachel_Speed
I realised I had a talent for law at A Level so with no other career calling me I set off to become a high flying city solicitor. It was at University when reality kicked in and I realised that being a lawyer isn’t all Legally Blonde made it out to be. I still really enjoyed what I was learning so undeterred, I continued on my journey to the big smoke, I dreamed of working in a top firm doing commercial law and earning a handsome wage packet each month. It wasn’t until I started to apply to said firms for vacation schemes and when I visited firms did I understand what the real working life of a solicitor was.

The competition for vacation scheme and training contract places is fierce. Anything less than a 2:1 and your chances of succeeding are severely limited. Furthermore, most law firms like their staff to be diverse academically – it’s usually an intake of around half law students and half from other disciplines (history being the favourite) which can create incredibly unrealistic odds of getting on the legal career ladder.

As the demand is so high, law firms set a series of hoops for each candidate to jump through. There are of course academic hurdles but then examples of team player skills, exemplary leadership and innovation skills are frequently requested in applications. What is truly bizarre is that law firms encourage diversity in extra-curricular activities but in order to jump through their hoops there are only limited posts and activities you can actually do. An avid knitter will not win points for leadership nor teamwork… It was whilst trying to jump through these hoops when I discovered my true passion and ultimately changed my career path.

Law in big corporate firms is sold as a glamorous profession where you’ll change the world handling big profile cases with the wealthy Dragons of the world. It is not like that. In reality you are a very small cog in a huge machine working terrible hours for admittedly, a lot of money but what’s the use in that when you have very little free time to enjoy it?

Firms have free canteens, free gyms, some even have beds. All these ‘perks’ are to me just a way of keeping you in work. And with the workloads which city solicitors have it may be easier to stay over instead of doing the two hour commute but at that point, being a solicitor becomes your life not just your job.

The work of a solicitor involves a lot of paperwork, contracts, admin and bureaucracy – there is very little opportunity to be creative and adventurous in the role. Over my three years at university I realised in myself that I need a job which is exciting and stimulating and journalism does that for me. It’s my creative outlet which allows me to put to good use the skills I gleaned from studying law.

To me, the top law firms in the UK and Worldwide are looking for candidates who see being a solicitor as a lifestyle choice rather than a job and I was not prepared to make that sacrifice for a job which my heart would not have been in.

Rachel Speed's blog can be found here: [Wordpress]
Copyright remains with the author.

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