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June 22 2020

How Flex Legal Helped Umar Secure a Training Contract

Flex Paralegals

Harry Mellor

Harry Mellor

How Flex Legal Helped Umar Secure a Training Contract

How Flex Legal helped Umar secure a training contract

Securing a training contract can be a long and difficult process, however determination pays off…and we have proof! We recently caught up with Umar Jamil, future trainee at Macfarlanes LLP, to hear about his training contract journey and how F-LEX helped him along the way.

Can you tell me a bit about your background and education?

Everyone has their own journey to the law, and I am certainly no different. My background is a fairly non-traditional one, being state-school educated, from a BAME background and not knowing anyone in my immediate family or circle of friends in the legal profession. Having left school with only just sufficient grades to study A-levels at sixth form, I could never have dreamt of accepting a training contract offer at a leading law firm.

From my A Levels, I enjoyed economics and law, particularly the commercial mindset required in economics and the critical thinking aspect of law. I then went on to study law at the University of Birmingham and graduated in 2018. After graduating, I commenced the LLM LPC on a part-time basis, whilst also building my practical skills through paralegal placements at international law firms.

Were you always set on a legal career during/after your degree?

No, even after graduating I wasn’t sure whether a legal career was for me! Although I knew that I had an interest in corporate law (through studying electives like Company Law), I also wanted to explore other professions such as accounting, banking and consulting. After graduating, I attended open days and insight events at various law firms and other professional services firms, with the aim of gaining an insight into what a career at each of these involved. From this, I realised that I was attracted to a legal career because of the breadth of work offered by commercial law firms, and the opportunity to collaborate across departments when working on a complex transaction.

What attracted you to Flex Legal? Would you recommend Flex Legal to others seeking paralegal positions?

When I joined Flex Legal, I was at a low point in my search for legal work experience, since I had been applying to law firms of all sizes and through many recruiters, but I was being turned away because I lacked experience. This is where Flex Legal was a game changer, because a significant part of the work offered (e.g. flexible and short term placements) is targeted towards students and recent graduates. The ease of registration and accessibility were attractive, as a simple form was required to be completed along with a short video submission, and when relevant opportunities became available, I would be notified immediately through text and email.

I would definitely recommend F-LEX to all candidates seeking paralegal positions because of the flexibility offered by the platform, its accessibility and the excellent range of clients that F-LEX works with.

You completed a F-LEX placement in Gowling WLG's Birmingham office in May 2019. Could you tell me a bit about this experience and how it helped you?

My placement with Gowling WLG was in the firm’s Commercial Litigation Team, undertaking a document review exercise on behalf of a high-profile client. The matter itself was a complex one, so I particularly enjoyed being able to absorb large quantities of information and break down complex issues – a bit like solving a puzzle!

We worked as part of team of around 15 paralegals, supported by associates and partners across the firm, so the placement really helped to develop my interpersonal skills in a professional environment. The placement at Gowling WLG was also instrumental because it kick-started my journey into a legal career, as it paved the way for further paralegal opportunities which I would not have obtained had it not been for the initial placement offered through F-LEX. Additionally, the placement helped instil in me confidence that I could succeed in a legal career, which I was then able to transfer to my applications and demonstrate at assessment days.

You were recently offered a training contract at Macfarlanes, commencing September 2022. Could you tell me why you decided this was the firm for you?

From my studies and interactions with various law firms, I had realised that my interest was in corporate law, and so I began to research firms with strong corporate practices. This is when I came across Macfarlanes, a firm that is highly ranked for high-end and mid-market M&A deals. But this alone was not enough to distinguish Macfarlanes, as there are many other firms with strong corporate practices, so why specifically Macfarlanes?

For me, this came down to two things: the size of the firm and its intake, as well as Macfarlanes’ excellent reputation for training. The size is ideal for me because it is small enough to ensure that trainees have plenty of responsibility and the opportunity to get to know everyone in the firm, yet large enough to provide exposure to complex international work through the firm’s distinct model. The high quality of training provided at the start of every seat and throughout was also an important factor, because ultimately I want to achieve my potential, and with the support available to trainees at Macfarlanes, I truly believe that I will be able to do this.

How does it feel now that all of your hard-work has paid off?

Initially, there was a feeling of relief having realised that the years of hard work I had put in had finally paid off. Looking back now, I feel proud of my achievements, particularly knowing that I did not give up even though I could have at many points, and indebted to those who have supported me on the journey, including the wonderful people at F-LEX.

What tips would you offer to those currently applying for training contracts?

Tip 1... Take every opportunity to engage with firms – whether it be through law fairs, open days or social platforms, networking with the firm can really help to make your application stand out.

Tip 2... Target your applications – identify early on which firms you are interested in, and ask yourself why? For example, this may be because of a firm’s strength in a specific practice area, diversity and CSR initiatives, small intake or secondment opportunities.

Tip 3... Remember that rejection builds resilience – do not be deterred by rejection, rather use it as an opportunity to reflect and improve in the next application. Remember that when you do get the offer of a training contract, it will all be worth it and you’ll become a better trainee as a result of the obstacles you have had to overcome.

What do you plan on doing between now and the commencement of your training contract in 2022?

My plan is to complete the LLM and LPC this summer, and then to continue building my commercial and legal skills through paralegal work until early 2022. I then plan on going travelling for a while and undertaking some voluntary work, before commencing my training contract in September 2022.

In the meantime, I hope my experience inspires other students and graduates in a similar position to continue striving towards their goals.

Post written by Umar Jamil and edited by Harry Mellor