Shanika Varga-Haynes

Shanika Varga-Haynes

I am currently undertaking my training contract at Stowe Family Law, the country’s largest specialist family law firm and recently relocated from the head office in Harrogate to the firm’s new office in Ilkley, West Yorkshire.  It was during my LPC that I decided to focus my attention on specialist family law firms. As cliché as it sounds, I felt like within this area of law I would really be able to help people whether it be aiding a victim of domestic violence, ensuring that a parent was able to maintain a relationship with their child or guiding a client through the difficult divorce and financial remedy process.  I had my eye on Stowe Family Law from the beginning, everyone knows who Marilyn Stowe is. After completing my LPC I worked for a local legal aid firm as a legal secretary which I saw as a way of getting my foot in the door. I spent my lunch breaks repeatedly checking the websites of local firms, I am sure that if my internet history was checked by my employer at the time I would have needed to search for a new job anyway. My persistence paid off when after a few weeks of continuously returning to Stowe's website an opening for a trainee was posted! I couldn’t believe my luck, working at the firm was my dream job.

Being a trainee solicitor

Now over a year and a half into my training contract, I can say that it was challenging to adapt to the transition from being a student to becoming a trainee solicitor but I wouldn’t have expected otherwise.  Despite the shift from student to trainee taking some getting used to, I noticed that from the very start I was putting the skills learnt during my studies into practice every day.  Although I was using many of the practical skills learnt during my LPC, I was also using the theory taught at Keele University and found that many of the tasks set that I secretly used to think were pointless, were finally making ueful!

Studying at the university

During the three years spent studying at Keele I learnt to really make the most of the opportunities presented to me! Even if it is something you don’t think will be of use to you, try it, you may learn something new or at the very least affirm your previous thoughts. The way the course is taught is unique, you really are thrown in at the deep end from the very start, I remember in my first term taking part in mooting as part of the course.

Thoughts of the university

Keele University is an absolute gem! The campus is beautiful and there really is a real community spirit, the people you meet become friends for life, they don’t call it the ‘bubble’ for no reason.

The teaching staff were always supportive as were student services. There was always somewhere that you could go if you needed help, support or just someone to listen to you.

I had a great social life whilst at Keele, there was always something to do, even at the weekend when a lot of people went home but also within the law school. During my third year I managed to get an all expenses paid trip to Brussel’s to visit the EU Parliament.

Advice for others

Take advantage of everything! Sign up to societies and go out as much as you can! Your three years will fly by so make the most of it! You won’t be able to get away with going out 5 nights a week when you are in the working world!

Make sure you try as many new things as possible! It is unlikely that you will have so many new opportunities at your fingertips in the way you do at Keele again.

Don’t forget to plan ahead, it’s very easy to get swept away and forget that once the three years are over you are out the real world! It is ok not to know what you want to do! Attend the career fairs, trips out and if you are in the law school, visit the chambers and LPC providers, it really does help make a decision and the contacts you make will be a real help when applying for training contracts or pupillages. It might not seem important to worry about that kind of thing in your first and second year but third year will be a whirlwind and you will need to focus on your exams during this time.

Most importantly though, enjoy it! The years you spend at University will be some of the best you have! It is a real chance to learn and grow as a person; you will make friends for life and memories you will never forget!