Welcome to the newest instalment of our ‘What I know now’ series on the Brooke Thornham NQ blog. Each month, we speak to a qualified legal professional about their career journey: what set them on the path to becoming a solicitor, and the steps they took to achieving that goal, as well as exploring their personal experience of working in the legal sector (ups, downs, and everything in between).
Today’s ‘What I know now’ blog comes from Caroline Deathe, solicitor in the dispute resolution department at LCF Law’s Bradford office.
After completing her undergraduate degree in History, Caroline began her legal career with a graduate diploma and her LPC at the University of Law. She then trained at Myerson, qualified in 2017 and moved to LCF Law on qualification. Caroline primarily deals with contentious probate matters, specifically inheritance disputes, capacity issues and disputes arising out of trusts and estates; she also handles a wide range of property disputes.
Read on to find out Caroline’s interview tips, the challenges she thinks trainee solicitors face today, and why her secret ambition is to be the next JK Rowling…
Hi, Caroline. First things first: why did you decide to train as a solicitor?
I decided to train as a solicitor as I knew that I wanted a varied and challenging career. I’m a people person and I wanted a working environment where I could use this skill. Law seemed a natural fit for me.
How well did your experience as a trainee prepare you for becoming qualified?
My experience as a trainee was very hands on and I was encouraged to ‘get stuck in’, and be accountable for decisions I made. I had good exposure to a mixture of cases and it was a good grounding for being qualified.
What was the biggest difference for you when you were admitted and took on a full solicitor role?
The biggest difference for me was the jump from Manchester to Leeds. I qualified and moved practices, cities and house, so the first few weeks were challenging getting used to a new firm, stepping up to the responsibility of qualification, and settling into Yorkshire life.
What were the factors behind you choosing the area of law that you specialise in?
I chose to specialise quite early on because I enjoyed probate litigation and property law. Chancery litigation allows me the perfect mix of practicing contentious probate and property litigation. The personal element of this type of law appealed to me because you can assist clients through a difficult and often highly charged emotional situation.
Compared to your own experience, how similar or different do you perceive the challenges facing NQs to be in 2018?
I qualified at a time when the NQ job market was picking up and had been catching momentum. It is always a challenge picking a popular area of law and this is no different a year on. With the large numbers of law graduates emerging, there is more competition now than ever for NQ roles and the challenges NQs face are to set themselves apart. I imagine this difficulty will plague the NQ market for the foreseeable future.
What piece of practical advice would you give to someone who is at the start of their legal career?
Start early, get as much practical experience in a law firm as you can. Any experience is good experience. And don’t ignore your hobbies and interests; these are what set you apart from other candidates and give you chance to re-charge.
With hindsight, what do you wish you had known when you were NQ?
I have been very fortunate to qualify into a very supportive team so my first year as an NQ was entirely enjoyable although not without challenges. The best advice I can give new NQs is not to be too complacent and know when to ask for help. You will make mistakes but working openly, honestly and transparently will get you a long way.
If you were to recruit a lawyer at NQ level to work closely with you, what would be the most important thing you’d look for?
Someone conscientious and eager to be involved in our work and our team.
What is the strangest experience you’ve had in an interview, and how did you handle it?
I was once asked to do several long multiplication questions without a calculator. Think 367 x 896! These questions are designed to catch you off guard and see how you cope on the spot. I took a stab at the multiplication, got it wrong and advised it was a good thing I did not want to be an accountant which raised a smile and paved the way into the next question.
What is your best interview tip?
Be prepared, and smile as soon as you greet your interviewer. Greet them with a firm handshake and always accept a drink. It gives you a good chance to take a moment when a difficult question is asked.
To date, what is your ‘career highlight’?
Getting my training contract is my career highlight. As I graduated in the recession I worked as a paralegal for a few years at various firms and I was the first alternative on at least two occasions. I was very proud I had the determination to stick my head down and keep applying. It really is a question of ‘right time, right place’.
What is the funniest thing that has happened to you at work?
The look on people’s faces when they try to pronounce my name.
Besides being a lawyer, if money were no object and you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you most like to try or do?
I think I would give a stab at writing the next big children’s book series. Either that or to visit every country in the world at least once.
Thanks for talking to us, Caroline (we’re glad you’re a lawyer rather than an accountant, anyway!)