The cautionary tale of a failed legal career, Part 2

A Rake's Progress: II - The Levée (Public Domain)

Part 2: Very tentative beginnings

My post-uni year spent contemplating what I should do with my life had drawn a blank. I don’t remember what other possible career paths I had considered and rejected, save that I did do the Civil Service exam, but turned down the rather less than tempting job offer I got as a result. Maybe that was another bad decision (a Civil Service pension would certainly come in handy right now).

Whatever, there seemed to be nothing for it but to go into the law after all. Maybe the painful memory of studying law at uni had faded, I don't know, but what was to be my final career choice was made on the basis of “I can’t think of anything better to do”. Probably not the best mindset with which to embark upon a career...

My procrastination had caused a problem, however. I was too late to get into law college the next year, so I had to find something to do meanwhile. I therefore looked for articles (as they were then called) in a local firm - you had to do two years of articles before you qualified. Most people did their articles after law college (provided they passed their law finals), but it was possible to do up to six months before, with the balance after.

It also seemed like a good idea to actually get some experience working in a solicitor's office.

So it was that I joined Firm #1, as an articled clerk. It was a little two-partner firm, situated in a village (well, a small dormitory town, more like), in the Kent countryside.

I remember being taught all the usual things, like how to sew documents together, and being given the usual articled clerk run-around tasks, like attending completions (many conveyancing completions were ‘in person’ back then, physically exchanging a banker’s draft for the deeds), delivering urgent documents to court, etc.

As for experience, it was mostly non-contentious: a bit of domestic conveyancing, the odd will (I can still recall the name of the testator of the first will I ever drafted), and a bit of probate. The only contentious stuff I recall doing was some debt collection. The firm did do a bit of divorce work, but that remained a mystery to me.

In the end I stayed there for two years, thereby delaying my qualification still further. Whereas my university contemporaries will have qualified in 1982, I did not do so until 1985, putting me behind before my career had even really begun.

The other thing to say about my experience at Firm #1 is something that became a feature of my legal career: whilst I always got on well with other members of (support) staff and legal executives, I virtually never struck up any sort of real friendship with (other) solicitors. I've often wondered about this. I won't say they were unfriendly towards me, and I don’t think I was unfriendly towards them. Was it that I didn't have anything in common with them, or was it something more? Was I different from them? Could it be that I simply wasn't made of 'lawyer material'? Perhaps I'll never know.

Anyway, my legal career was up and running. Just.