I am a BLS trainee solicitor based in Irwin Mitchell’s Sheffield office. My first seat is within Commercial Litigation dealing with both legal expenses insurance work and privately-funded clients.

My journey to becoming a trainee solicitor with at Irwin Mitchell was quite an unusual one. I was unable to secure a training contract by the time I finished university. After facing a number of rejections, I decided to approach training contract applications in a different way. I was determined to obtain a role within a legal firm, gain experience, develop my commercial acumen and tackle training contract applications this way.

In October 2014, I was able to secure a position as a legal helpline advisor at Irwin Mitchell. My role involved providing legal advice to legal expenses insurance holders and private clients over the phone. I never knew what to expect and could literally be asked to advise on any aspect of UK law. No two calls were the same – I could speak to someone regarding a standard breach of contract claim, then move on to discussing a medical negligence case and finish my day by talking with the landlord who wants to evict their tenant for failing to pay the rent. My time as a legal helpline advisor was invaluable as I was able to develop my listening, communication and questioning skills. Furthermore, I learned to think on my feet and deal with a variety of different clients without relying on my facial expressions and gestures, something that is very important as solicitors do not usually get to meet every single client they are dealing with.

Most importantly, I was able to find out more about Irwin Mitchell as a firm. I understood that it ticks every single box in my prospective employer criteria. It is vibrant, growing firm, offering high quality work and treating you as an individual and not just another employee. Irrespective of how busy someone was, they made sure that they took their time to explain the issues to me and make me feel as comfortable as possible. I was never afraid to ask any questions or approach anyone if I was finding something challenging.

Having gained the necessary experience, I decided to apply for a training contract with Irwin Mitchell. In June 2015, I had my assessment centre which consisted of listening exercise, group task and an interview. I can honestly say that my Irwin Mitchell interview was the best one I had. Previous training contract interviews were quite intimidating and felt like a box ticking exercise where I had to fit into certain criteria. My interview at Irwin Mitchell was something else – a partner who conducted my interview was genuinely interested in me as a person and wanted to find out more about what inspires me. We had an amazing conversation and when I left the interview, I felt like the firm was interested in me as a potential candidate. As you may guess, I was over the moon when I was offered a training contract with the firm and I had no doubts about accepting the offer.

If anyone can get anything from my story, it is that there are other ways of getting a training contract. More and more people are applying to the firms internally and I honestly believe that these people are better equipped at making an informed choice regarding their future career and the firm to train at. My role as a Legal Helpline Advisor did exactly that – it provided me with skills and experience that boosted my CV and gave me a great head start when it came to starting the training contract itself. I would recommend Irwin Mitchell to anyone who is looking to train at a dynamic, client-focused firm offering a lot of responsibility with the necessary support.