OULS News Editor Victoria-Jayne goes behind the scenes with an exclusive interview with OU Alumni and Trainee Solicitor at Shoosmiths, Sophia Hampton.
With rollers in her hair and the camera switched off, Sophia prepared for her interview with me, proving at the same time that a solicitor’s job is not always all work and no play.
Having started her career at Shoosmiths back in 2016 as a PA, being a solicitor was not even on Sophia's horizon. However, the bug crept in not long after starting, and the desire to become a solicitor overtook her.
OPEN UNIVERSITY/OULS AND MOOTING
Sophia had joined the OU just before starting in her position at Shoosmiths, not knowing the path she wanted to take. While studying, Sophia joined the OULS and, in 2016, became vice-chair of society. Sophia went on to exclaim, 'without Shoosmiths and the OULS, I wouldn't be where I am today.' Working as both a PA and volunteering at the society cemented Sophia's future desire to become a solicitor.
Sophia recommends anyone wishing to pursue a career in law to get involved with the OULS. Sophia became part of the OULS mooting team, and one of her proudest moments was winning one of the internal moots against the previous years' winners.
'Mooting throws you in at the deep end. It teaches you how to conduct legal research and how to highlight the pertinent points in a case.'
OU v. TRADITIONAL UNIVERISITIES
I went on to ask Sophia a question that has come up amongst OU students many times ‘will studying at the OU put me at a disadvantage in the real world over those from a tradition brick uni?’
At this Sophia scoffed and said, ‘I hate this assumption!’ She went on to advise she had not come across this at all yet in the industry and the education received from the OU is top class. ‘Top universities use OU research to form their modules’
‘There’s got to be some kudos given to us, we’ve got other commitments in our lives, we’re not all going out partying all the time. It’s not easy else everyone would be doing it.’
Sophia graduated in 2019 with first-class honours and secured her place with the University of Law for the LPC LLM online course.
SQE CHANGES & APPLICATIONS
Discussing the upcoming changes with the introduction of the SQE, Sophia advised that she was overwhelmingly positive about the change and hoped it would widen access to the profession.
After gaining her LPC LLM in 2020 Sophia went on to obtain a training contract at Shoosmiths.
Questioning Sophia on whether having a job within a firm helped with securing a training contract she replied, that whilst she knew she wanted to work at Shoosmiths as it was a home from home, she had to apply externally like everyone else and had no preferential treatment.
Inquisitive as to Sophia’s top tips that she would give to other students, she kindly offered them up advising others to make sure they check their spelling and grammar. She advised that mistakes in this area can easily put a student at a disadvantage but at the same time can easily be fixed.
Another part of the application form she advised to look at carefully, was to make sure you are actually answering the questions. It can be easy to write an answer without answering. Sophia continued with ‘this is your opportunity to sell yourself!’
Sophia added that work experience on your CV will always be a benefit and can demonstrate you have the necessary skills when it comes to the assessment centre. The experience does not have to be within the legal sector, as long as it can relate to the skills needed for the position applied for. Her examples included retail work, offices, or a totally different carer sector.
LIFE WITHIN THE OFFICE
Sophia is stepping into the second year of her training contract and her third seat with Shoosmiths having already completed a seat in Real Estate and Banking and Finance. Her third seat comprises of Commercial Litigation.
Intrigued, I enquired as to what area of law Sophia hoped to go into at the end of her training contract, Sophia revealed that this is something she is still undecided on but urged others who are thinking about the area of law they wish to study to keep an open mind. Once in a training contract if you find an area that interests you, express that interest to the people you work with.
From the office talk, Sophia and I chattered our way onto her Charity climb a few years ago. On International Women’s Day and with other’s from Shoosmiths including PAs to HR receptionists the team took on the O2 climbing challenge in aid of Mind Mental Health charity.
Sophia started the day was a great team-building opportunity and when asked how she found it, she replied, ‘I don’t know if I was brave or stupid?’ Well from my point of view and the fact you would never find me 170ft off the ground, I would say she was incredibly brave.
I challenged Sophia with the question, do you plan to do anything like this again? Laughing she exclaimed – ‘We’ll see
Wondering what it is that Sophia likes to do to chill and relax, she remarked that between walking her dog, and the cycling that she does not do enough of, she loves nothing more than chilling with a good Netflix binge.
Asking about the working hours and how much spare time a training contract leaves her, Sophia spoke about finding a good work/life balance. She explained that the time spent in the office depends on what seat you are doing as different ones demand your time differently.
‘Whilst it is a chance to prove yourself, no-one favours burning yourself out'
She went on to express how Shoosmiths’s is good at making sure you are not overworking, if you are still there after hours, they will advise you to go home.
Once home, I asked Sophia if she had a go-to recipe she would like to share. On this topic, we agreed and might have spent a little too long on zoom getting excited as she exclaimed her favourite soup was Cully and Sully’s Chicken and Vegetable soup.
She then went on to share whilst this can be brought in a container to be popped into the microwave, if you scour the internet, Tesco’s have actually put the recipe up of how to make the soup yourself. Something that has now gone on my to-do list.
THE FINAL QUESTION!
Drawing the interview to a close I had one last question for Sophia and that was if you could change anything, what would it be? She concluded with ‘I honestly don’t think I would change anything as it’s all led to where I am today. However, I suppose looking back I would probably not wait until the last minute before preparing and submitting all my uni assignments if you can, try to get ahead and save yourself loads of stress!’
Bidding our farewells and leaving Sophia to continue getting ready for her day, her interview left me with a feeling of hope. With a nostalgia that OU students are out there putting the university’s name in lights, and if they can then so can we!
Written By Victoria-Jayne Scholes
OULS News Editor