Law School alumna Leigh Leach has secured a training contract with a leading law firm in Kent thanks to a networking event organised as part of the School’s Professional Mentoring Scheme.
Leigh, who graduated last summer with a Law LLB degree, attended the scheme’s annual networking evening with legal professionals in London last year where she met Solicitor David Bowers from Thackray Williams Solicitors.
Leigh said: ‘Initially, we all took part in a small workshop where we played a few games to practice introducing ourselves, shaking hands and asking open questions. We were then encouraged to put our newly enhanced skills into practice by networking with the mentors. Unfortunately, my mentor could not attend the event but, I approached David and spoke to him about his experience as a newly qualified solicitor and his work in the personal injury department. I was particularly interested in this field and David kindly gave me his business card along with an invitation for work experience at Thackray Williams.
‘Following the networking event I emailed David and arranged a week’s work experience in the personal injury department. During the week I was lucky enough to attend court, meet with clients and work on some personal injury cases with David. My work experience was key in my decision to apply for a training contract at Thackray Williams and David also kindly assisted me with my application form.’
Since graduation, Leigh has obtained an LLM in Professional Legal Practice at the University of Law in Guildford. During her studies, she also worked three days a week as a Client Services Assistant at Mayo Wynne Baxter’s Solicitors. She is due to begin her Training Contract at Thackray Williams on 1 September 2017.
Leigh said: ‘I am excited for my first seat in the Business Services Department. I would encourage anyone looking for a career in the legal profession to participate in the Professional Mentoring Scheme. Like so many law students I did not know anyone in the legal profession and this scheme gave me the opportunity to gain an insight into the legal sector and make some important contacts. I was also lucky to be assigned a mentor who guided me, answered my questions and helped me improve my CV. Most importantly the scheme has been crucial to my career development as without it I may not have met David and secured my training contract.’
David said the scheme’s networking evening is a great way for mentees to start building up their own connections: ‘It’s something that Thackray Williams is trying to do itself through hosting our own Young Professional Networking Events. The benefits for us are found in our trainee recruitment, the mentees are committed and hardworking, and it is a chance for us to meet high calibre candidates before they apply. We have had a number of work experience students go on to be successful in applying for a training contract here.’
David urges all mentees to do their research and to find out who will be present before attending the scheme’s annual event: ‘Make sure you do approach the mentors. These events are a great way to build your own network and opportunities will follow.’
The Professional Mentoring Scheme aims to help students make career choices, understand the way the legal world works and navigate the application process for both work and study. It is coordinated by Kent Law School’s Employability, Career Development and Alumni Relations Officer Jayne Instone.
Jayne said: ‘One of the many benefits of the scheme is that mentees receive training in “How to Network Successfully” and hone their skills at a professional networking event attended by mentors (ie legal professionals). This affords the opportunity for mentees to expand their network beyond their assigned mentor. Mentees who prepare well will leave this event with new contacts in their professional network. Those who follow up invitations to connect and/or take action have frequently enjoyed additional career development opportunities including additional mentoring, introductions to a wider network and work experience.
‘I am delighted that this scheme has proven to be such a key event in Leigh’s own personal journey to become a lawyer. It is crucial that students invest time in learning the art of networking and take advantage of the many opportunities to practice in a safe environment whilst at Kent. This skill is highly sought after by employers and, in my opinion, it is those students who embrace this activity that have most success in progressing into the careers they seek, be it law or otherwise.’