A solicitor is on a mission to inspire the legal profession to provide greater encouragement and open up opportunities for the next generation of lawyers.
Dynamic Amanda Adeola, an associate at BHP Law, in Darlington, is hoping to help kickstart the careers of aspiring professionals by starting a new network for law students, graduates, trainees and newly qualified solicitors.
She has begun by hosting a discussion session following an open invitation on the professional social platform LinkedIn to anyone interested in, or already pursuing, a career in law.
For those in employment, she has also launched the hashtag #meetayounglawyer on the network to showcase young professionals and inviting them to share their experience to help others.
Amanda explained: “I receive many requests from aspiring lawyers asking for advice and talking about being rejected for work experience and training contracts. It’s so disappointing and disheartening to hear about their struggles and I’ve always tried to respond by saying ‘don’t give up’.
“However, I started to think that while encouraging words are all well and good, I could do something more constructive to help and, at the same time, give something back to our industry.
“I’ve only been at BHP Law for six months but it’s been really refreshing to work in a firm that’s willing to give me the freedom to run with my ideas without limitation and where there is a culture of supporting young lawyers.”
In the first meeting, 12 people met at BHP Law in Darlington to hear Amanda, who has been qualified for nine years, and fellow family law specialist Gemma Holmes, who qualified eight years ago, share their experiences and advice.
The guests included university law students, graduates following masters programmes and legal practice courses, a school administrator studying law part-time, a paralegal, trainees and a newly qualified solicitor.
They were asked to share their experiences of trying to secure work experience and training contracts, which “can be really difficult and very competitive”, said Amanda.
“I started to apply during the second year of my degree and sent over 100 applications, so I know what it’s like. At BHP Law, we take students at paralegal level which gives a really good foundation before training. They need our support and I do think there is more that the industry can do.
“I want any aspiring lawyer who is at the point of possibly giving up to pick up the phone to me or write an email. I need them to feel that they’re not alone.”
Amanda’s advice included being bold, staying focused and being persistent, leaving your footprint in every role you have, building connections and finding mentors, with which she will assist.
“I’m not ashamed to say I still mentor-collect because you never stop learning and gaining fresh experience,” she said. “Mentors have had a huge impact on my career, they really can change a person’s life, so I encourage all young lawyers to develop those connections and relationships.”
One of the trainees at the session gained her position after doing work experience at a small high street firm in Spennymoor.
Kathryn Boyd explained: “I knew I didn’t want to be a small cog in the wheel or in a big city firm, but then I realised I didn’t want to be somewhere too small either. I wrote to all the firms in Darlington for work experience and only BHP replied and offered me a paralegal role. I don’t think it’s that firms are not interested, solicitors love to help but I think it’s just the pressure of time.”
Her trainee colleague Simone Kent added: “I think a lot of people apply to the big firms because they think there are more opportunities there, but actually you’re more likely to get a training contract with a smaller firm.”
The guests also discussed the benefits of doing voluntary week to boost CVs, which included roles at HMP Low Newton, the Probation Service and Citizens Advice Bureaux, joining organisations such as the Junior Lawyers Division, Young Resolution Group and the student section of Tees Valley Law Society, and attending courts.
As well as supporting younger people in the profession, Amanda has also become the regional representative of the North East Women Lawyers and Mothers Network, encouraging female solicitors to continue striving for career success and recognition while raising a family.