What are you doing now?
I am a commercial solicitor at Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP, based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and specialising in construction contracts. I act for a wide variety of private and public sector clients, helping them to draft and negotiate agreements relating to construction projects across the UK. These have included new light rail systems, renewable energy projects, residential / retail property developments, a driving range, and working for central government departments in constructing and refurbishing school buildings.
What route did you take up to this point?
After leaving DHSB in 2010, I studied for three years at Exeter University to gain a Law degree. I then worked for a few years as a paralegal (working on matters ranging from intellectual property to employment, construction to oil and gas contracts) whilst annually applying for training contracts. I was finally successful in 2015 and moved to Newcastle to complete my Legal Practice Course at Northumbria University in 2016, before starting my training to become a solicitor in in 2017. I fully qualified in March 2019.
Any significant crossroads?
One major decision in law is to think about if you want to work as a solicitor or barrister. Barristers tend to work more in court (wearing the classic wig and gown) and are self-employed, whereas solicitors are hired by firms or companies to act for them directly as employees. Some solicitors can appear in court, but this is not often the case (certainly in commercial work). I initially wanted to be a criminal barrister, but doing my research into the area found it to be very underfunded and difficult to break into, so I opted for the commercial route as a solicitor instead.
What have you learnt most about yourself?
I have learnt the importance of self-belief and self-confidence when trying to make your way in a profession as crowded as law. I had no 'easy win in' to a career in law, without any contacts or previous family experience to draw on when it came to apply for training contracts. The job market for aspiring lawyers is crowded, and people need to usually deal with a number of setbacks and rejections before getting to where they want to be. I have been able to push through these setbacks myself, and I think they have helped shape me into a better lawyer.
What words of wisdom would you give to a student joining DHSB in Year 7?
I think students just joining DHSB should be aware of the real value of hard work - you have an opportunity to make it wherever you might want to, provided you put the groundwork in now. But this comes as a balancing exercise! Yes hard work is necessary, but so is making sure you have free time to reward yourself for doing that hard work! Top level employers will want to see rounded individuals coming to them for jobs, not robots from a conveyor belt, so make sure you have more life experience than just being good academically.
And for a Sixth Former leaving DHSB?
If moving into further education, make sure you check the websites of the colleges or universities you are applying to for any financial support that you might be eligible to apply for. It will save a lot of worries when studying if you have at least some money coming in, and this applies to finding some part-time work as well if possible.
If you're looking to go straight into work, make sure your CV is up-to-date and stays updated - set some time aside every few months or so to add in new and interesting projects you have been working on and the experience you have gained from them.
Any fond memories of school you can share?
I absolutely loved my time at DHSB - trips to Uzel were definitely a highlight, as was giving tours of the school to prospective Year 5 students' parents (learning about the history of the school buildings and its use as a naval hospital was probably something I seemed too keen to share!).
Do you have a message for any of your teachers?
To all of my teachers that might be reading this, whether you remain at DHSB or not - thank you for helping to provide me with a quality education that has encouraged me to fulfil my ambitions. I couldn't have done it without you all.