Bolton School Former Pupils
Alice Couriel (2000-2007)
Alice is a Trainee Solicitor at JMW Solicitors LLP. Here she explains how Bolton School has shaped her career.
What were your favourite subjects and who were your favourite teachers at School?
My favourite subjects were English Literature and Religious Studies and, unsurprisingly, my favourite teachers taught those subjects. Dr Brown was an absolutely superb teacher, and the main reason I chose to continue studying Religion and Philosophy after Sixth Form. She was sometimes stern, but was brilliant to learn from and pushed the whole class to the very best of their ability.
Mr Eccles taught English Literature and was, quite simply, the most inspirational teacher I’ve had. His passion for the subject was completely infectious, and he was looked up to by all of his students. I managed to achieve 100% in my A Level coursework on Disgrace by J M Coetzee, a novel and genre I probably never would have read if it wasn’t for studying in his class. He provided a perspective of so many different areas of literature, which meant you left each class more excited by and inquisitive about the subject than before.
What further study have you undertaken since leaving School?
I read Theology at the University of Bristol for three years. I then completed the Graduate Diploma of Law (GDL), more commonly known as the Law Conversion, and the Legal Practice Course (LPC). I completed both of these courses full-time at the Manchester College of Law.
What does your job involve and how did you progress to your current role?
As a Trainee Solicitor, you spend two years training in a law firm, in four different areas of law, for six months at a time. The tasks I am assigned have differed from department to department, but my role generally involves drafting documents, legal research, trial preparation, liaising with barristers, assisting more senior fee-earners, advising clients, and progressing cases.
I began my legal career as a paralegal, which is good practice for being a Trainee Solicitor as you understand the business of a law firm, and facilitate cases by assisting your supervisors.
I will soon be qualifying as a Solicitor and will have my own clients, meaning much more responsibility, and much less supervision. A daunting, but exciting career progression!
Who/what influenced your career choice?
The various lawyers I met during my work experience and training. I always wanted a career that would be both rewarding and challenging in equal measure. Seeing professionals in practice doing what they loved for a living inspired me to work hard to achieve that goal.
Which skills do you consider to be essential for your job?
There are a number of important skills required to succeed in law, but, in my opinion, the most essential are diligence, the ability to work in a team, prioritisation and attention to detail.
What do you like most about your job?
I like the challenge of being presented with a problem, and using my knowledge of the law to solve that problem, and in the process, help clients in the difficult scenarios they find themselves in. Additionally, the diversity of the subject means there is never a dull day in the office!
What is your biggest challenge in your current role?
I think there are two main challenges of law. Firstly, it’s taken as a given that your legal advice will be sound and up-to-date; however, clients will expect you to understand their business and have a general knowledge in addition to specialising in your own field. The rapid speed at which law changes means complacency will literally end your career.
Secondly, law isn’t the old fashioned profession it used to be. Law firms are businesses and there is a real pressure on us, as fee-earners, to generate that business. Therefore, in addition to being a legal expert in your field, you must also have strengths in business development and networking skills to ensure you promote yourself as a brand in the market and create clients which bring the work.
What do you consider to be your greatest career achievement?
My greatest career achievement to date is securing a newly-qualified position in the Family team at JMW Solicitors LLP, which has been ranked as a tier one department by Chambers and Partners 2015 and recently won Private Client Team of the Year at the Manchester Legal Awards 2015.
How did Bolton School help you to be successful in your chosen career?
I think it’s difficult to know exactly what you want to do when leaving school. The fantastic careers resources at Bolton School makes the decision-making process much easier, by providing all the information and support the students need.
What advice would you give to our pupils interested in your field of work?
Make sure you are 100% committed. Law is an extremely rewarding profession, but it’s a long, hard and expensive journey. Also,be aware of the competition from the outset and be mindful that your friends may become your competitors. Finally, work experience is essential. Students should try to secure as much work experience as possible to demonstrate their commitment, gain a genuine understanding of law firms and improve their commercial awareness.
Did you enjoy speaking with current pupils at the event?
I was delighted to re-visit Bolton School to share my experiences with Sixth Form students, whilst at the same time seeing some familiar faces. The ‘World of Work’ day is a fantastic opportunity for students to learn about a variety of career choices and professions.