A quote which comes to me in those difficult times on the path to becoming a solicitor was one given by Thomas A. Edison.
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up”
Thomas A. Edison
Imagine you are in a race which you will run completely blindfolded. You have been running for about thirty minutes; you are absolutely exhausted and there is no telling how far away you are from the finish line. Could you imagine if you gave up and disqualified yourself from the race, only to find that you were three metres from the finish line?
Of course, this statement was given in the earlier years of the 19th century when the legal profession was enjoying better weather, but it is highly relevant to the present date. Our current legal economy enjoys thousands of legal graduates, many have already completed their LPC, and this saturates the market with plenty of raw talent to be exploited for nearly half a salary of what a newly qualified solicitor would be paid.
It is now more important than ever to do what you can to stand out in that market, and I have no doubt that many of you are already taking steps by participating in pro bono opportunities and the like. If you are already doing paralegal work along side your studies, then that is fantastic.
But I do not think that it should end there – there are a few more points I think are missing from the record. I will elaborate on three points which I think are absolutely fundamental, albeit not the characteristics or qualities you can simply learn by reading profession magazines or becoming ‘commercially aware’.
1. Desire to change the world
A desire to, as Steve Jobs put it, ‘make a little dent in the universe’ sounds quite ambiguous, but do not let that discern you. Are you sure that earning lots of money and making it to partner level will offer all of the fulfilment you need in your life? If so, is this really the career for you? There is more to becoming a solicitor than working 9 to 5; you will be placed in a position where people will want and respect your opinion – they will be paying for it.
When you finally embark on your ambit, keep it to yourself. Just as the Colonel did not let on about his secret 11 herbs and spices, neither should you. Be careful who you share those ambitions with; some people will be on board with your goals and offer their full support, whilst others will do all they can to stand in your path. It is true that people with big ambitions have broad horizons, and many (but not all) recruiters will be looking for this rare and genuine quality.
Furthermore, a genuine desire to exact change will give you the persistent and resilience you will need to face the obstacles ahead. It will also serve as a constant reminder of who you are and what you are doing here. You cannot walk down a path that you cannot see.
2. Show some persistence
Imagine you are told that 10 of the doors you knock on will open. There are 150 doors to choose from, and so because you favour the probabilities, you get straight to it and start knocking on every door. This is the logic of many law students, and I think it is flawed. Imagine that doors numbered 141-150 were all those which would open, and by door 80 you had given up. To even further complicate the scenario, perhaps the reason why only 10 of the doors would open was due to the remaining 140 occupiers being out at that time. You did not even think to go back at a mutually convenient time.
Now just to bring you back into the room, cold calling is very much illegal and I do not intent to encourage it. The point I am trying to make is that perhaps 2015 was not a convenient time for you or the firm when you submitted your application. The amazing thing about university is that you develop rapidly in such a short space of time. There are new opportunities which just keep unfolding, and in turn you develop skills you never had. A little persistence, with a hint of pragmatism, could eventually work out in your favour.
In summary, the message is to never be discerned by your present situation; even if that involves rejection. Part of being a solicitor involves being a proactive forward-thinker and thus it is no excuse to be idle minded, fooling yourself into thinking that your current situation is the be all end all.
3. Be resilient at all costs
Night terrors, day dreams and tears – I am not shy in admitting that I have suffered from all of the above on many occasions. If you truly are likewise devoted to a legal career, you may have also shared these experiences – absolutely nothing wrong with that what so ever. And as rightly stated by Douglass, these are all the result of being steps closer to the things you want in life.
“Without struggle, there is no progress”
I was downhearted to discover that 8.1% of paralegals surveyed by LAWYER2BE had given up on their ambitions to become a lawyer. Not ‘wasted-talent’, I would rather describe these people as ‘potential yet to be unlocked’.
Having an above-average fortitude is something which does not grow on trees, but it grows around the times of adversity in your life. Elasticity increases the more something has been stretched. Therefore, putting yourself outside of your comfort zone, and braving the unknown (for me, this will be going to China) will serve you in both the medium and long term.
Resilience will get you through the late nights at the office, the unhappy clients and chiefly the many rejections you will face as a student looking for a place in the working world. Celebrate and nurture this quality, rather than avoiding the situations which might harm your self-esteem.
And so to draw to a conclusion, I hope you that have found some strength in this article despite my many confusing analogies. I offer solace for all of those undergraduates, graduates and paralegals who begin to write their training contract applications, and I wish you all the strength in this hard month. Best of luck to you all!