Why you decided to become a solicitor?

I decided to become a solicitor because I was looking for a career I could be proud of, that offered enormous scope for variety and career direction. I wanted something that would push me intellectually too. I want to know everything about everything - and the law is a good place to start because of its broad and pervasive nature. Also, I like rules but I also like living in the uncertain grey space where you don't always know whether the rules apply, to whom and when in a given situation.

What made Womble Bond Dickinson stand out to you?

I was lucky enough to be accepted for work experience at two other major Bristol firms. Having heard what they said about having a good culture, it was not always apparent that their words were put into practice. When I came to Womble Bond Dickinson it was the opposite; they didn’t shout about their culture, they just lived it. They listen to their employees, foster good relationships within the firm and jump on any opportunity to improve the lives and work-life balance for everyone here. I also did work experience in a high street firm. I loved the legal subject matter but I wasn't too keen on a public-facing role, I learned that I was more suited to a business-to-business environment.

Tell us about your journey through university and your time at WBD so far

My undergrad degree was in critical journalism and broadcasting at Cardiff – which incidentally is also a good course for learning everything about everything.

I studied the GDL at ULaw in Bristol and the LPC online through ULaw. They were tough courses and required a full-time work mindset. Even when the study was done for the day, I had applications, interviews and personal statements to write, applying for training contracts and vacation schemes.

I came to WBD after I met a recruiter at a law fair and she was so different from all the others. I knew I wanted to try out WBD but at the time no paralegal positions were available. I joined as an HR assistant until a paralegal job came up in the Planning and Infrastructure team (although it may sound boring, it is actually fascinating and really worthwhile work!). Very quickly, I knew this was the firm I wanted to be in long term and I stopped apply for training contracts anywhere else. I saw how the firm was always striving to be better to its people and that I could affect meaningful change if I wanted to here.

The biggest highlight for me was the WBD team day. My Bristol-based Commercial Digital team travelled up to the Newcastle office to spend a day with our team counterparts from across all WBD UK offices. We had training sessions and lots of socialising and activities to help build a sense of unity. It worked, and I really felt part of something bigger than just my local office.

What struggles did you overcome?

I was a career changer, previously having been the head of a private college in the events industry for 13 years - so it was a big change to go from being the boss to being entry-level. That’s why I was drawn to WBD where there are good relationships between colleagues of all levels and being entry-level didn't feel like a step down. I studied for the GDL with a baby and a toddler at home. Using your brain for 45 hours per week on minimal sleep was hellish at times, but I knew I wanted to do this so the end goal kept me focussed. If you want it badly enough you'll put yourself through anything, but you can't do it alone – you must build a support network of friends, family, colleagues to help keep you going emotionally and practically through the tough spells. Now that I'm working, the firm is part of this support network.

What were your expectations vs the reality of becoming a trainee solicitor?

Being a trainee is fairly similar to being a paralegal, there are just a few more appraisals and short courses to undergo. There are ample opportunities to get involved in the extra-curricular and ESG/CSR initiatives as a trainee, not because the trainees are left to do the dirty work, but because such roles help you to build your networks by exposing you to people at all levels across the firm and join the work family.

How did your first seat rotation go?

My first seat has gone well, the first half is long but the last three months flew by as the subject starts to make sense. I really bonded with my team and the work has been quite different from what I expected. It was an easier start for me compared to some other trainees because I already knew the systems, so if you are new to a firm, go easy on yourself for the first month while you settle into the technology. 

I have no idea where I will be placed next and will probably have just a few days' notice but it's exciting that way. I enjoy finding out what I like and what I am good at by trying out legal disciplines I hadn't studied much at law school. In particular I would like to undertake a secondment to a client business, partly to try out the in-house lawyer experience, but more to get a peek behind the client curtain and get to know their industry from the inside out.

What volunteering and social opportunities are available at WBD?

There are ample social activities here, a football team, netball, I joined a choir and a book club and I have signed up for regular lunchtime walks with colleagues. We have support networks for underrepresented groups including LGBTQ, people of colour, carers and parents and those with chronic health conditions. These groups can feed back helpful initiatives to the firm to boost our understanding of the challenges our colleagues face and provide practical support.

Volunteering is good fun and great networking. WBD gave me paid time to take part in a mentoring programme for teens with difficult backgrounds to help them with confidence, presentation skills and career awareness. I have also enjoyed the charity bake sales, office-wide drinks, and talks from the mayor and local charity leaders. Some colleagues are doing a firewalk across hot coals at the time of writing for one of our favourite charities and there are frequently litter picking, rewilding, and food bank volunteering opportunities for all.