Updated: May 23
It’s been one week since it happened.
And this is how I really feel.
My routine has disappeared. I’m confused as to my daily goals. I’m back at square one, all the way back at the beginning. The sheer thought of what lies ahead is daunting. I feel like my whole entire dream is self-destructing in front of my eyes and I am helpless.
Covid-19 has bought global devastation and quite frankly, I am extremely lucky not to have suffered this horrible virus. For that, I am grateful.
We are surrounded by death, businesses are going bust, the economy is collapsing and people are losing their jobs, livelihoods and families.
Times really are unprecedented and comparable to nothing in my lifetime.
In all honestly, I really hadn’t been affected by Covid-19. Living in a small village, my only inconvenience was being unable to go to the pub or local curry house and in the grand scheme of things, this is minute.
Working in a law firm, I knew about the commercial and financial risks to this sector caused by Covid-19 and looking back, perhaps I was naïve to ever think that my job would be secure, that I would ever be valued as an employee. From my tone of writing, you might think I’m a partner in a law firm, with my reputation to lose as well as my mortgage and a house. Quite the contrary, I am at the bottom of the pecking order, a law graduate working as a legal assistant, and undoubtedly the first out of the door from a business perspective.
I am unemployed. I never thought these three words would be spoken. I have always worked; throughout school, university and ever since I graduated. But like thousands of others, I am now looking for employment in a market that is stagnant.
I have absolutely no idea what my immediate future entails and to some extent, I can’t control it either. I am such a person of routine, organisation and structure that this new situation I find myself in is a shake-up.
I do see light at the end of the tunnel but I just don’t know if, when and how I can reach this.
I would say my career journey, so far, has been an unconventional one.
I wanted to be a family lawyer. I enjoyed exploring this area of law and I was good at it too. Consequently, my modules and work experience reflected this.
Family law firms don’t tend to operate in the same way as commercial law firms, so I left university without a training contract or a vacation scheme. Instead, I went straight into a paralegal job at a family law firm in Birmingham that I had previously undertaken work experience at.
I also commenced my LPC part time, studying every Wednesday.
I soon learned that a high street firm was not the place for me. I've always been ambitious and so I wanted something bigger. After four months, I left to join the family department of a national law firm.
For a while, I did enjoy working at this firm. The work was varied, there was more supervision and my colleagues were friendly. But I soon found myself getting frustrated and becoming less interested. I started to care less and less about my clients and I felt like an agony aunt. I had my own problems and I didn’t need theirs burdening me too.
At this moment, I realised family law wasn’t for me. I wasn’t sympathetic enough, I didn’t want to listen and reassure the client and I just didn’t have the requisite time and empathy to be a family lawyer. I wanted to move to a commercial law firm.
My younger self did have some exposure to commercial law. I had worked within the legal department of an international construction company in London. I used this experience coupled with the fact I didn’t want to be a family lawyer and any connections I had to find a role at a commercial law firm. And it worked. That’s how I became a Real Estate Legal Assistant.
I have acquired a wealth of knowledge in the last eighteen months working in Real Estate. To the extent that I feel I wouldn’t really need to do a seat in this area. I had a really friendly team and a great office. I thought that my career would start here. I heard that the majority of Legal Assistants were offered training contracts after being there for nine months.
I didn’t get offered a training contract at my nine-month review. To this date, I don’t think I’ll ever truly know the reasons why. I worked so, so hard. I never had a day off sick. I was never late. My work was high quality and praised by my seniors. I was professional and communicated well. And additionally, I was captain of the Netball team and on various committees. Perhaps this firm just wasn’t right for me.
I also did a vacation scheme last year. I managed to pass the application AND assessment centre stage. This is where my interest in corporate law stemmed. I didn’t get a training contract from this vacation scheme. I was quite shocked and didn’t really understand why as I had worked really hard and got on with all the team. Again, perhaps I just wasn’t the right fit for the firm.
I’ve managed to pass the application stage of many reputed law firms; even two magic circle firms. But I always seem to fail on the psychometric tests. These are clearly my area of weakness and something I need to work on. But working full time and doing my LPC was completely exhausting and I found it so hard to fully immerse myself in training contract applications. To blow my own trumpet, I have so much experience and dedication to offer a law firm but I rarely get the opportunity to demonstrate this to them in person.
I try to turn my career journey into one to be proud of and to differentiate myself from others. I am confident that this diversity of thought and experience is unique but it still hasn’t got me to where I want to be yet.
No one said it was going to be easy. But I didn’t realise it would be this hard.
Legal blogger. Influencer. Instagram famous. I guess I have the privilege of labelling myself as one of these.
LegallyRun always achieves so much. The collaborations with reputed organisations, the frequent networking events, the charity work and, apparently, inspiring others in the legal community. It’s great that I do all these, and I am proud of my achievements, but I find it hard to really celebrate when I don’t have the thing that so many others do; a training contract.
Social media is a platform for flourishing and it functions this way the majority of the time.
But sometimes, it can facilitate the production of anxious thoughts, sadness and the feelings of inadequacy.
I always pride myself on being able to compartmentalise my emotions, deal with stress and not to compare myself with others.
But it‘s hard, it‘s so hard to see everyone succeeding when I am failing. I don’t often use this word because I know I am not a failure. But for me, I haven’t achieved what I set out to achieve, and so, I am failing.
‘This year will be your year,’ ‘good things are coming your way,’ people say; but they don’t. I’ve forgotten the number of times I have read ‘ we are unable to progress your application to the next stage.’
I find it hard sometimes to digest the fact that a nineteen or twenty year old has secured a training contract yet here I am, aged 25, having worked in a law firm for over two years with a wealth of experience. I’m sure they are deserving but do they know when a lawyer can give an undertaking? Or how long you are supposed to keep funds in client account for? I expect not but I guess these aren’t the questions asked on an application form.
I experience similar feelings at that fact that some of my university peers are already qualified and I’m not even on the route to qualification. They have now established their career and can concentrate on other aspects of life. And it saddens me sometimes that I am not at the same point.
I think it is really, really hard not to succumb to the pressures of social media. I, too, am only human and I can’t always dispense with my feelings.
Stay positive. Everything happens for a reason. When one door closes, another door opens. That’s what I keep telling myself anyway.
I am trying to remain positive about the whole situation. There are so many people far worse off than I am.
My life didn’t revolve around my job and I am lucky to have other interests and hobbies I can occupy my time with.
I am trying to embrace this whole unemployment thing by immersing myself in volunteering projects, online collaborations and courses and keeping up my sport. I do feel positive and motivated by taking on all these challenges. Even if they don’t help lead me to my end goal, I know myself that I will become a better person because of them.
I’ve never really thought about having to maintain a healthy mind-set, but now I am forced to make sure I don’t embark on a downward spiral. Maintaining a positive and hopeful mind-set is so important because quite frankly, it is so so easy to let your mind become subsumed by negativity, thoughts of despair and thinking there is no way out. To some extent, I think the situation warrants these thoughts; sometimes.
I keep a book next to my bed called ‘She Believed She Could So She Did.’ When I feel sad or deflated, I read the quotes in the book. ‘To succeed you need to believe something with so much passion that it becomes a reality’- I read these words and I envisage myself as a partner walking into a City law firm, with my Mulberry handbag, ready to complete one of the biggest corporate deals in the City. Cliché perhaps, but this vision keeps me motivated, driven and determined to succeed. I have never believed in becoming a successful international lawyer as much as I do now. I know I am capable of turning this into a reality. It is this vision that keeps me positive during such uncertain times.
There is no force equal to a woman determined to rise
W. E.B. DU BOIS
An Uncertain Future
I envisage my future as a lawyer, nothing else. If anything, this experience has only made me more driven and determined to strive for success. I can’t bear the thought of giving up on a career I have worked so hard to achieve.
But often, I find these emotions conflicted with reality and I remember the wider aspects of my life such as buying a house, getting married, starting a family.
This rigid timeline set out by reality does not align with that of my ambition. I start to panic that I wont be able to achieve it all and compromises will have to be made. A successful legal career but an older mother? Or a career change and settling down? My mind is in a constant battle and I don’t know my direction.
I often get told ‘you’re only young’ or ‘everyone is on their own journey,’ and I too have advocated this advice. But since we were little children playing at nursery, we have always thought about the timeline of our life events. It is hard to sway from this.
I have a plan. I think I have a plan. Plans can change. I want a few weeks of concentrating on my training contract applications. Deadlines are looming and I want them to be perfect. Ideally, I then want another job in the legal profession. An opportunity to expand my network even further and perhaps explore a new area of law to acquire even more experience. I want to make my CV even stronger by finding volunteering opportunities, participating in online courses and writing legal articles. I have no doubt that law firms will ask what did you achieve during lockdown or how did you use your time productively. I want to be prepared.
I used to plan for the long-term, what I would be doing in two or three months time, where I would be going. But for now, I have to plan one day at a time, because I am genuinely clueless to what I will be doing in two or three months time. Whilst I feel I have control of some of this, it’s all conditional. And mostly dependant on the economy and the state of the UK after this long battle.
My future is uncertain. I am entering into the realms of the unknown.
I have dedicated my whole life to becoming a lawyer. I hope my dream doesn’t shatter into a million pieces.
***I wanted this post to give a true reflection of how I feel as an aspiring lawyer, trying to chase my dream in such unprecedented times. Social media doesn’t always portray how you really, really feel and I think its just as important to share the lows as it is the highs. I am certain that many people will be experiencing similar feelings and with this week being Mental Health Awareness Week, I thought this is the appropriate time to share this with you all.