Five minutes with... Alex Monaco, founder of Monaco Solicitors
We asked Alex Monaco, founder of Monaco Solicitors, about his experiences of qualifying as a lawyer, finding a balance between 'making a difference' and money in employment law and becoming a solicitor-advocate.
I managed to find work which enabled me to help people who needed it and still get paid at the end of the day
Why did you choose to become a lawyer?
I did maths, physics and chemistry at A level and was going to study a biochemistry degree. However, I found that, with the sciences, you seemed to ask more questions than get answers. Whereas with law I felt that I could do something more tangible in terms of changing ‘the system’. I applied to study law at university and found the process easy; maths and science subjects are hard and so I got lots of offers.
Can you describe your experience of finding a job after graduation?
Really hard. After studying law at the University of Leeds, I went backpacking in South America. I ended up getting a job with Trading Standards at Bedfordshire County Council. This helped me to get a foot in the door with a law firm.
My legal career started off in legal aid in 2004, doing criminal defence law. I was going to prisons and visiting some quite horrific criminals. This didn’t sit well with me, so I got out of that after a year and went into refugee, asylum and immigration law.
What advice do you have for students and graduates interested in a career in law?
Try to volunteer to get yourself in front of real clients, which gives you something to talk about at interview and will help you find out what areas of law really make you tick. My university course did what it said on the tin, and with law you obviously need to learn the ins and outs, but at the end of the day I believe there’s no substitute for experience of the real world.
Other than my job at Trading Standards, I also did a lot of advocacy with FRU (Free Representation Unit) to get employment tribunal experience. I also volunteered at Luton Law Centre.
Why did you choose to specialise in employment law?
I unfortunately had to move on from legal aid work, as it wasn’t paying enough to support living in London. I went into private law, but I managed to find work which enabled me to help people who needed it and still get paid at the end of the day. Employment law is a good middle ground, if you are on the claimant side. It often involves lots of very human stories and I like that about it.
Why did you choose to qualify as a solicitor advocate?
As I had done the done the Bar Vocational Course (also known as the Bar course), it was a way for me to get my higher rights without having to complete a pupillage, which I couldn’t do at the time, partly because of cuts to legal aid and partly because I had a 2.2 degree.
How did you set up your own law practice?
I set up my own company in 2010, called Compromise Agreements Limited, and I continued to work full time as well as running this on the side. I eventually shifted to working full time on my own company in 2011 – I later rebranded as Monaco Solicitors and, now, Lex.
We’re keen to use technology to improve our legal service. When we first began, we got clients through search engine optimisation, getting to the top of Google search results for key terms related to our services. Now, we’re developing an AI-powered chat bot that will eventually be able to advise visitors to our website with their legal queries. We’re also hoping to use innovative AI technology to provide free legal advice to thousands of people through a not-for-profit organisation called freelaw.