Middlesex University first-year LLB students were able to benefit from the careers advice of Law Society President Jonathan Smithers when he visited the University this week on a visit organised by the head of Clinical Legal Education at Middlesex, Associate Professor Susan Scott-Hunt.
After meeting with Professor Philip Leach, who won the Law Society's inaugural Human Rights Lawyer of the Year Award in 2015, Mr Smithers talked to the students studying the Legal Methods module taught by Dr Joseph Corkin about the changing nature of the solicitor profession.
"The paths to becoming a solicitor are much wider than they used to be," Mr Smithers said. "However, the standards remain unchanged and you have to be prepared to meet those standards."
"It's not just what you do, it becomes who you are" - Law Society President Jonathan Smithers
Mr Smithers said that when he hires junior solicitors from the "incredibly competitive" pool of candidates in the UK, the key personally traits he is looking for are "passion, energy and someone who works hard". He also advised students not to become fixated on a career in a particular area of law as this can reduce your opportunities and what you enjoy studying now may not reflect what you will actually enjoy working on as a career. "Keep your mind open to various types of law," he said.
He then addressed the issue of diversity in the profession, pointing out that the proportion of female and BME solicitors is continuing to grow and that this is vital so that the industry properly reflects the clients it serves.
Dispelling the 'Suits' myth, he spelled out some of the realities of the profession including the long hours and the responsibility that comes with "dealing with people at absolute crisis points in their life".
Describing solicitors as part of the "fabric of society" who are "responsible for upholding the rule of law", he said that for those who seek a career in the profession, "it's not just what you do, it becomes who you are".
Students interested in becoming solicitors can learn more through the Law Society's Junior Lawyers Division, which features advice and news from the industry, as well as take advantage of the pro bono opportunities offered at Middlesex by the School of Law.