LSE Careers recently hosted an amazing panel of LSE alumni from across the legal sector to share their professional experience with students considering careers in law. During the session, the panellists delivered thoughtful insights and reflections on their individual career journeys, with some very useful advice for aspiring legal professionals.
Meet the panel:
- Shakti Bhagwansingh – Shakti is a civil liberties and human rights solicitor at Hodge Jones and Allen. She works primarily on the Grenfell Tower Inquiry and civil claims, as part of a team representing the victims of the tragedy. Shakti also assists with inquests and actions against the police. Before her formal training, Shakti was a paralegal at the same firm. Earlier in her career, Shakti worked at Amnesty UK, as a legal clerk in Trinidad, at a law centre, and as a paralegal in a high street firm. Shakti studied Law at LSE.
- Joe Collison – Joe graduated with a BSc (Hons) International Relations from the LSE in 2016. Working briefly in consultancy before moving into the legal sector at Deloitte Toronto where Joe worked as a Legal Administrator. Joe then moved on to work as a Paralegal for a niche US law firm in London and subsequently worked as a Paralegal for the Cabinet Office and most recently for major City law firms. In 2021, Joe completed his Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) from the University of Law which has opened up new opportunities.
- Ece Sarica – Ece is a dual qualified lawyer/solicitor in England Wales and Turkey working as an Intellectual Property law counsel at the Coca-Cola Company London office responsible for Europe region and also the global lead counsel for certain accounts. She took up her current position after serving as the general counsel for Turkey region at the same company. Before becoming an in-house counsel, she spent around eight years in private practice at top tier law firms specialising in M&A (Transactional wok), Regulatory & Compliance, IP. Ece earned her LLM degree in Corporate & Commercial Law (International Business Law) from LSE in 2013.
- Izaan Khan – Izaan graduated with an LLB from LSE in 2018, and since then he has been involved in a variety of pursuits. He interned at the Irish Data Protection Commission during his second year and co-founded a hospitality tech startup as part of the LSE Generate entrepreneurship program straight out of university. His past roles include working as a researcher in a crypto fund, as a paralegal for a local government authority, and as a consultant with a focus on privacy compliance. Along the way, he received the Lord Denning Scholarship from Lincoln’s Inn to pursue the BPTC and was called to the Bar of England & Wales in July 2022. He currently works in-house as a data protection analyst for a fintech company.
Experience is key
Any experience is valuable. Shakti says you should never underestimate the value of a part-time role whilst studying. The experience is handy for later on in life, no matter how small it is. You have to put yourself out there and be open to all types of opportunities that come your way! Try your best to keep tabs on the different opportunities advertised on CareerHub to optimise your job search. Consider what skills will be valuable in a legal role, such as communication, working under pressure, negotiation skills and the different ways you can build these skills.
Similarly, Joe advises students to stay open to different opportunities and avoid careers idealism. Young professionals may have a specific image in mind of the career they want and how they plan to achieve it. However, it’s worth experimenting in different areas of law to find out which is your favourite, and early on in your career is the perfect time to get experience in a range of sectors. For example, Joe started out in the corporate sector and then transitioned into the private sector when a recruiter reached out to him. He also enjoyed working for cabinet office and realised the importance of exploring career pathways. Always remember that there is no perfect path but the experience you gather along the way is invaluable.
Focus on an area of law
Izaan’s advice to students is to choose an area of law that combines your personal interests. Try to determine what you care about then see how that applies to your field, and don’t be scared to follow an unconventional route. It’s perfectly fine (and completely normal!) to not know exactly what you want to do, but don’t go into something half-heartedly – especially not in a field such as law. It is a very intense profession and so you must be content that you are doing what you want to do. Try not to rush into anything and instead make time to discover what matters to you before sending out applications.
Show commitment and motivation
Joe stressed that firms can see if you’re not invested in a certain area of law or have clear motivation for a particular law firm. Your application must clarify and evidence your motivation, you can use any previous experience to help here.
Shakti recalls applying to all the big commercial law firms in hopes of securing a training contract, but the feedback she received was that commercial law wasn’t the right fit for her. Companies can often see through candidates who are just hoping to secure a free LPC, which is why you must have a genuine interest in that area and some experience to back it up.
Find where you fit in
Search for a company that aligns with your personal values and goals. Joe reminds students to look out for opportunities with firms in your field of interest that are willing to sponsor the LPC*, or other stages of your professional development, to find a working environment that will support your growth. Shakti says it’s important to keep in mind that the interview is a two-way process to see if you can work with them and, likewise, whether they can work for you. You can find out more about the different roles in the law and legal sector via resources such as LSE Careers and lawcareers.net.
In-house council roles might be another option. In-house law departments exist in many big businesses and organisations. Ece mentioned it took some time to secure her in-house job at Coca-Cola which she is very much enjoying. However, in the lead up to securing the role, she worked at multiple law firms clocking up long days to achieve this. Other lawyers report achieving a sense of balance with in-house roles that is not always possible within a law firm.
Consider different routes
In the public sector, significant time spent working as a paralegal (i.e. three to four years), can often count as relevant legal experience and contribute towards your qualification. The Solicitor’s Regulation Authority has information on qualifying. In Izaan’s experience of working as a paralegal for a local government authority, he had the right to conduct certain legal activities as part of his role. Your role as a paralegal will largely depend on the firm you work for. In Canada, for example, paralegals can represent clients in court whereas, in the UK, a paralegal typically performs admin duties. By comparison, in the US, paralegals are responsible for full case management, document reviews, and client care – the role effectively mimics the work of a trainee solicitor.
You could also start off as a solicitor in a private practice to keep your options open for in-house roles the future. The SQE is a very new pathway which law firms are still attempting to navigate but is much cheaper and less time-consuming for aspiring solicitors than an LPC.
Seek professional mentorship
According to Shakti, networking is key. And the more you do it, the easier it gets. Utilise the LSE Careers service and Online tools as much as you can. Similarly, Ece voices the importance of building a strong professional network and the value of having good mentors. A good mentor can change the trajectory of your career journey and propel you towards your short- and long-term goals. It’s vital that you reach out to LSE alumni and professionals in the legal sector to support you along the way.
You can also book an appointment with one of our careers consultants to discuss your what your next steps should be – no matter what stage you’re at in your career planning.
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*The LPC forms part of the former qualification pathway and therefore will not be relevant to all readers