How I got into law – Amber Matheson’s Story

An honest look at my route into the profession with the hope of inspiring others. 

Many people say that they have always wanted to be a lawyer, but for me, I had no idea about law when I was growing up. I grew up in the North East and had more common aspirations, including becoming a teacher and then a builder – although I wanted to run an all-female building company (less common I should think!).  I also didn’t have any contacts in the legal profession to give me insight and encouragement.

So, where did it all start? 

I did well academically at school and when attending a college open day, I spoke to a law tutor who sold the subject to me. I previously enjoyed English and Maths and wasn’t afraid of an argument (I think it’s a northern thing), so she encouraged me to take law at A-Level. I can honestly say that I have never looked back since and that tutor set me on my path to becoming a solicitor by sharing her passion for the subject (thank you, Cheryl).  

I’m a person that likes to get as much information as possible when making decisions and I knew I would need to work hard to build connections. So, for the next two years I tried to get as much work experience as possible. I applied to 50+ law firms, from cold calling local high street firms to applying for vacation schemes at magic circle firms. I lined up various weeks’ work experience and got my first practical experience of the law – I loved it!  

During this time, I also successfully applied for work experience through PRIME – an alliance of law firms aimed at improving access to the profession for those with a low-socio economic background. I secured a vacation scheme with a top 100 firm which paid for my transport, accommodation and food. The exposure and training I received during that week was invaluable and I can’t recommend PRIME enough (https://primecommitment.co.uk/). I also successfully applied for the annual University of Cambridge Law Conference. One student is picked from the region each year and again, travel, accommodation and food were all provided. We stayed in the halls of residence and fully immersed ourselves in university life. This was my first insight into university (OK, it was on the extreme scale and spoiler – I didn’t end up going to Cambridge), but it opened my mind to attending and enjoying university.

Studying law at university

I studied Law at Surrey University and took the opportunity to do a placement year. I worked in-house at a global tech company for 18 months and came out with a better idea of the varied opportunities available in law and with greater confidence in my abilities. I would recommend this to anyone who would like more experience in the law before undertaking the LPC/SQE.  

Whilst at university I attended a law dinner, quite randomly, and was seated next to a solicitor from Barlow Robbins (now Moore Barlow). The solicitor had a real passion for the law and loved where he worked, which encouraged me to apply for work experience with the firm. I completed a week’s work experience and later a vacation scheme with the firm before applying for a training contract.

Getting a training contract

I wasn’t successful the first-time round, and I’m open about that. The firm explained that I needed to get more experience in a regional firm and deepen my commercial knowledge. I went away, got the experience and knowledge, and came back the next year. The interviewers remembered me well and focussed on what I had done since the previous year. Straight after my interview they called me back in the room to say that I was successful – I was delighted and I remember welling up whilst driving home saying, “I’ve actually done it!”.  

I then had 2 years to wait until my TC so I studied the LPC part-time and continued to work as a paralegal. While this was really hard, studying and working at the same time was the best way for me to afford this stage and is a very popular option. I had the pleasure of being mentored by some fantastic people who gave me invaluable advice for my career and working as a paralegal has hugely helped my performance as a Trainee as I wasn’t coming to everything for the first time (e.g. time recording and case management systems). 

My TC was unfortunately pushed back by 6 months due to Covid, but I am hoping to qualify in September 2022. You can qualify early with some firms if you have relevant qualifying experience and I hope to use my experience as a paralegal to shorten my training contract – another benefit of being a paralegal.

Networking and getting stuck in

As a Trainee I have tried to grow my network as much as possible. I am the Equality & Diversity Representative and Events Representative on the Surrey Junior Lawyers Division committee member, an Equality & Diversity Sub-Committee member for the Surrey Law Society and a keen member of the Surrey Association of Women Solicitors and Surrey Chambers of Commerce. I am also an active member on the D&I and Wellbeing committees at Moore Barlow which play a large part in the firm’s culture and governance and am involved with the Surrey Young Professionals Group. I am looking forward to qualifying when I am sure the hard work will start all over again. I’m determined to become an expert in my chosen field and a trusted advisor to my clients. Watch this space! 

If you don’t come from a background in law, you can feel like you have to work doubly hard to get to where you want. You probably don’t have to do as much as you think, but if you do, you will achieve more than you ever thought you could. A career in law is for anyone and if you are willing to put in the hard work and can access support when needed, you can succeed.  

I do various forms of mentoring so if you can resonate with any of this article or you would like to ask a question, please get in touch – amber.matheson@moorebarlow.com


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