Jessica Collings

I studied English Literature at Cardiff University. I had wanted to be a lawyer since I was at school, though admittedly the early ‘being a lawyer’ image in my head was some kind of saving the world with a gavel comic book character.

I began to get a more realistic view of the options for a legal career from various high street work experience stints and then secured a job as a legal secretary at a commercial firm in Cardiff whilst at University. I was lucky enough to progress to a paralegal position after three months at the firm as the partner I worked for left (or the firm decided my dictation understanding ability was terrible and wanted to politely reposition me) and I became the general paralegal support for the commercial property team. Whilst I enjoyed the technical aspects of the work and being able to solve a client’s problems, I found that I was having something of a quarter life crisis (if I’m being optimistic about my longevity and we ignore the toll that four years of through the night essay writing has done to my health) between my more altruistic goals and my enjoyment of working in a commercial legal environment. I had been volunteering for Marie Curie Cancer Care throughout my undergraduate degree and also teaching to refugees through a student society. I really enjoyed helping enterprises that inspired me and reached out to the fringes of society and this was something that I was reticent to forgo by jumping straight into the corporate world of London city law firms.

I spoke to my colleagues in the voluntary sector and found that when they did outsource their legal work it was often to a firm called, and this will be an unexpected narrative turn I’m sure, Bates Wells Braithwaite. I researched the firm further and found that their work and in particular their client base really interested me and felt like a natural merger of my passion for the third sector and my enjoyment of the skills required for a commercial legal career.

I was lucky enough to get a training contract but as firms recruit two years in advance, I had a two year gap before starting, so I completed the LPC part time whilst working at other commercial law firms as a paralegal and working pro-bono for an East London legal clinic. I think that the paralegal experience has helped me to feel more confident starting my training contract at BWB, but the variety of experience and background at all levels of the firm means that there is no typical ‘BWB trainee’ – even without a paralegal background, you will find everyone very willing to explain concepts to you and nobody takes your level of knowledge for granted.

Currently in the Charity and Social Enterprise department, what I have enjoyed so far is how inspiring much of the client base can be and how much that affects your motivation to perform at your best. I also have had access to a huge variety of tasks, very few of which have been administrative, from the more corporate side such as drafting governing documents for charitable companies to more nuanced work such as researching and rebutting serious allegations in the media.

Another real selling point of the firm is the fact that I have so far managed to maintain my interests outside of work easily, which include a volunteer role, being in a choir and working on a project for a large Charity outside of my capacity as a BWB Trainee. You are actively encouraged to pursue your outside interests and the work life balance here reflects that