Prologue: Getting to London
Updated: Jan 31, 2020
Before the true corporate commentary begins, I feel I should introduce myself and catch you up on my life so far, since I’ll be the narrator for most of the publications on this site. At least, you should probably be aware of my ongoing efforts to become a lawyer, where I’ve come from, where I am currently, and where I’m working towards. Let’s start with present day…
It’s July; the sun is high and hot. I find myself lounging on an outdoor sofa of an edgier-than-I-am bakery, two minutes’ walk from the flat I and a friend are renting in the Olympic village. I sit reading a textbook on my iPad, making notes in a Moleskin notebook, with a Parker pen, sipping an espresso served in one of those off-blue pottery cups, feeling quite the young professional. People with laptops populate the other tables, whilst those with prams and toddlers bustle along pathways, chatting happily in English, French, Italian and all manner of other languages. This is home, at least for the foreseeable future.
I’m reading materials for the Legal Practice Course (LPC), trying to convince my brain that it understands the differences between balance sheets, profit sheets, trial sheets, and all the other almost identical columns I’m looking at, numbers and letters all muddling together. I’ve had my first week of law school and the numbers now carry an exciting new thrill on the paper. Look for the gapsrings the advice of one of my undergraduate lecturers. Find the question marksechoes the advice of an LPC lecturer this week. Both are women who push, encourage and inspire their students to operate more quickly and efficiently, to grow in skill. They’re the kind of women you’d love to have as a supervisor, knowing their high expectations would be a challenge that pushes you to become the best you can be.
Whilst I’m still a student until February, the big shift to London feels like a new chapter in my student and working life. I’ve left behind my northern small-town, country-girl roots and begun a new life of Central line sweaty commutes, enjoying podcasts, audiobooks and everything from beginners Beethoven to exquisite Einaudi as passers-by play the station pianos along the way. My goal to become a corporate lawyer, which has shaped so much of the past ten years of my life, seems nearer than ever. I’ve been saying I wanted to be a corporate lawyer since I was about 11, well before I knew what that really meant. The reality still hasn’t put me off, and the LPC marks the final step of study before starting a two-year training contract, with a large corporate firm in the City.
I didn’t study in London. None of my family, and very few of my friends, are here. It’s a new, exciting adventure a million miles from my background. I grew up on a farm, outside a sleepy market town in north Nottinghamshire (a borderline ‘northerner’ I’ll accept, but I feel a resolute identity as a northerner, and won’t be shifting my definition of ‘North’ as ‘anything north of Nottingham’ throughout this blog!). My dad was the farm manager and worked similar hours to a typical London-based corporate lawyer throughout my childhood and teens. My mum worked term-time until about our mid-teens, and now works full time for a charity helping, often elderly, members of the community. University was never an inevitability, or an expectation, in the sense that it was never thrust upon myself or my brother. If it was useful, we would be wholly supported by our family to go, but there would be no shame in doing otherwise, and no harm in looking at other options.
My hometown, in many ways, reflects my family background: university attendance was never assumed, and most of my peers didn’t choose to go. To the best of my knowledge, none of my high-school classmates are currently living in London (though if you are, please do get in touch!). Many have settled down with their own families and children, living in and around the area I grew up; they have houses, cars, steady jobs and grown-up relationships. Of course, others are travelling the globe or are ready to start their own post-university career adventures, wherever that takes them.
I decided that I did want to go to university in the UK, and recently graduated from the University of Sheffield with a Law (with French Law) degree. I started university thinking I was on the back foot; my interview at Cambridge having flopped, I was never offered a place, and results day brought bitter disappointment as I missed my grades for Bristol and was enrolled at Sheffield, my insurance choice. In my mind, a law degree from Sheffield spelled the end of any magic circle hopes. I was wrong. Sheffield has been my home during some of the most fun and challenging moments of life. It's where I've found and fostered my loves of law, language, photography, reading and cooking. It's sent me in different directions, working locally, or in London, enjoying a year abroad in Aix-en-Provence and a research placement in Milan with a US corporate firm. I've met some wonderful people, staff and students, who have encouraged, taught and inspired me. Ultimately, I've finished university where I hoped to be all of those years ago: one step nearer to a magic circle training contract.
So, why am I writing a blog? Mostly because I hope to help others also at some stage on the road to a corporate, or legal, career.
Partly because I have come to believe that, alongside studies, one of the most important assets to any student, certainly one seeking a career in corporate law, is a network. This being a framework of contacts, built through education, work, family and friends which can be used to further insight, enthusiasm, experience, skill, and knowledge. It is one of the aims of this blog to provide a kind of digital network, providing readers with primary and secondary advice from those in the profession, directly from their contributions, and in pieces written by myself, having spoken with those more advanced than me at various stages of study and experience.
I’m writing partly because I’d like to remain faithful to my roots, particularly to encourage and support others who don’t come from corporate backgrounds. Two weeks into London living and already I have moments of feeling that I am either out of place here, or liable to abandon my roots. Throughout every level of corporate experience, being a non-Oxbridge, non-London undergraduate has placed me in a minority, and I still have moments of feeling that a country-girl from the North, a Sheffield grad, doesn’t live up to magic circle demands. This blog is a reminder to myself, and to others, that this need not be true. My background is no excuse for poor performance, and it need not inhibit anyone’s success progressing towards their chosen career.
If nothing else, blogging will be a record for myself of lessons learned, advice gained, experiences enjoyed and a much-appreciated distraction from my LPC and training contract work when I get home!
As I finish this blog I’m hurtling back to London in a bargain first-class seat, having graduated earlier today. The sun’s setting beautifully, I’ve enjoyed copious amounts of tea and sparkling water, even the crying baby further down the carriage seems to have finally fallen asleep – a miracle! I can still feel the buzz of family and friends, nostalgia and pride. The disbelief at all the past four years have been, and the fact that my university years are essentially over still lingers heavy.
I know that tomorrow the rush hour of the Central line awaits me, alongside lectures, reading, paperwork and the other day-to-day things life throws our way. But, as I sit in my jumpsuit on the train, or hear the clip-clop of my heels (a rarity for me that I’m thoroughly reveling in, since I never wear heels) as I stride through St Pancreas, I can look back on four years of undergraduate study and smile. Because tomorrow I get to join the millions on the same journey as me, heading towards the place I’ve worked all these years to get to. The corporate commute which takes me to the City.