Megan Stewart went from vac schemer to future trainee and now she wants to help others realise their lawyer dreams
Megan Stewart knew very early on in her legal studies that she wanted to be a corporate lawyer. Thankfully, the University of Nottingham law student has received support from social mobility programme Pathways Plus along the way, and has now secured a training contract at global firm Hogan Lovells.
“The scheme is very useful for students considering a career in law,” Stewart tells Legal Cheek Careers. “I attended a low-performing state school that didn’t, when I was there at least, offer the same level of career support and exposure to the legal profession that you may receive at a better performing school. I was also the first in my family to attend university, so I couldn’t rely on my parents or their work contacts to help guide me through the process or offer me advice.”
Established in 2013, the Pathways Plus programme is operated by charitable foundation the Sutton Trust and offers support to school leavers and undergraduates who want to practice law. Its aim is to make the legal profession more accessible to diverse candidates through a mix of: work experience placements, mentoring and networking with lawyers.
One of the firms that works closely with the scheme is global law firm Hogan Lovells. Final year law student Stewart — who will start the accelerated Legal Practice Course (LPC) at BPP Law School in February 2019 — explains:
“The programme gave me my first real taste of what life in corporate law looks like. During the first year of my law degree I completed a three-day open day with a number of big City firms. We were then given the opportunity to apply for another work experience placement at our favourite of these. I opted to apply to Hogan Lovells because I was really impressed with the people, the inclusive nature of the firm and how friendly and approachable everyone was. It was really refreshing.”
Her application was a success, and Stewart was accepted onto a four-day placement. During this, she shadowed Hogan Lovells trainees, met with partners and attended application workshops: the latter proved “invaluable” when it came to applying to the firm’s popular vacation scheme. The Nottingham undergrad says:
“Thanks to the application advice and tips I received during the Pathways Plus programme, I secured a spot on Hogan Lovells’ summer vacation scheme, which I completed earlier this year. Unsurprisingly, it was more challenging and hands-on than the four-day work placement I completed in my first year. It is three weeks long and you rotate departments and supervisors each week.”
The 21-year-old — who urges aspiring lawyers to gain frontline experience in as many areas of law as possible before committing to one — continues:
“Hogan Lovells immediately made me feel like a valued member of the team. The firm provided me with my own desk, computer and email address. I also had an opportunity to tackle real legal work and attend presentations and workshops on a range of topics including corporate finance, advocacy and pro bono.”
And it would appear the experience paid off. “Shortly after completing the vacation scheme I received a training contract offer from the firm,” she tells us. And yes, she accepted, Legal Cheek Careers is pleased to report.
Securing that all-important vacation scheme proved a vital step in Stewart’s corporate law journey; does she have any top tips for those hoping to do the same?
“You need to be proactive and think about your career at a very early stage. When I explain to friends and family that I applied for a job in 2016 but don’t start until 2019, they are usually quite shocked,” says Stewart. “Get involved with absolutely everything in your first year of your undergraduate degree, when your workload is still fairly manageable and not as intense as years two and three. Your experience will stand you in good stead when it comes to applying for vacation schemes and training contracts. It will be difficult to stand out from the crowd if you have nothing on your CV.”
Stewart will start her training contract at Hogan Lovells in September 2019 and, in the meantime and beyond, is keen to help others realise their lawyer dreams. She is helping to mentor participants on a Pathways programme directed at school pupils who want to study law at university. This includes helping prospective undergraduate students with their personal statements and university applications, as well as leading Nottingham campus tours.
She will also be speaking at a member conference hosted by Hogan Lovells as a member firm of City legal social mobility charity PRIME. She continues:
“I am really looking forward to sharing my story and flagging up the important role social mobility programmes play in society. Pathways Plus helped me to secure a training contract at a very supportive firm.”
Despite still having another year of her LLB to go, Stewart is already relishing the challenges ahead. She says: “I know the accelerated LPC is going to be intense but I feel I am up to the challenge — you just have to treat it like a nine-to-five job.”
And how does Stewart feel about moving to London for her training contract? She continues:
“Coming from a rural background — I live near Sherwood Forest in Nottingham — relocating to London is going to be a bit of a culture shock. But the whole process will be a good transition between university life and a life in law. If I am honest, I am just really excited to start my dream career.”