Michael graduated from Birmingham Law School in 2012 with an LLB. He now works for Rayden Solicitors in Hertfordshire in the field of private family law.

Michael RadnorWhat first attracted you to study at Birmingham? 

I had visited a number of universities throughout the country on various open days and knew fairly early on that I wanted to study at a campus based university. I wanted the feel of lots of green space, a busy and bustling student community that didn’t feel overcrowded, and a good variety of shops, bars, pubs and restaurants on my doorstep. I also wanted to get a degree from a well-ranked redbrick university that had a good academic pedigree for law. Birmingham ticked all of these boxes.

Can you tell us a little about your career progression since graduation and how you got into the competitive legal sector?

I graduated with a law degree in 2012, and used the money saved up from part time work whilst at University to help pay for the legal practice course the following year. By the point that I graduated I had done enough work experience at enough different law firms to know that I wanted to be a solicitor, although I wasn’t entirely sure which area of law I was going to specialise in.

I found that a lot of the focus at law fairs was on applying for training contracts at the bigger mixed practice commercial firms in cities, and, knowing that I wanted to be exposed to as many different areas of law in my training contract as possible, that is the route I went down. I then applied for a number of training contracts at law firms back home in Manchester, and, shortly after starting the LPC, I was offered a training contract at a well-respected commercial law firm in Manchester city centre to begin in September 2014.

After completing the LPC in summer 2013, I knew that I wanted to make the most of the time that I had left before beginning my training contract and the exciting/dreaded start to full time work. I worked in a number of other temporary and part time roles in that year to save up enough spare cash to pay for as many plane tickets as I could afford before I started my training contract.

When I started my training contract, the firm gave brief talks by each department as to the different types of work that they did, and how they each fitted into the overriding “ethos” and business plan of the firm. One of the talks was delivered by a member of the family department, and piqued my interest.

To cut a (fairly) long story short, I arranged to meet to the head of the family department shortly after that talk for a chat, and did my best to convince her, the training principal, and everyone else involved in allocating seats to trainees, that I should have a seat during my training contract in the family department. I was lucky to be given that opportunity, and to stay in the department for two trainee seats (1 year), with a view to remaining in the department on qualification as a solicitor.

I stayed at that firm for just over a year on qualification before making the move down south to join Rayden Solicitors. 

Did you do any work experience/internships whilst studying?

In a word, yes! Throughout my law degree I did my very best to organise as many formal/informal work experience placements as possible, mostly around the summer and winter breaks from university. My view was that as I wasn’t entirely sure which area of law in which I wanted to practice, I would try to get a taster of as many different areas as possible, in as many different firms as possible, to make the decision easier. Even after all of that work experience, I still wasn’t entirely sure, but the work experience and placements that I had done enabled me to categorically rule out certain areas of law, and narrow my focus on which areas I did want to practice in. 

Can you tell us a little more about your current role?

I am working at an award winning law firm which deals exclusively in family law, with a large team of over 15 other solicitors working alongside me. On a day to day basis, I deal with and advise clients in relation to all aspects of private family law. This isn’t just advice in relation to divorces and child arrangements, but also includes more niche advice for unmarried couples, parties who wish to adopt children and surrogacy arrangements.

I really enjoy the variety of the clients that I work with, and the work that I do. Having a large and very experienced team around me allows us to bounce ideas of one another, and come up with the best (and sometimes creative) solutions to the various issues that a client may be facing. 

How do you feel your studies have influenced or helped you in your career?

Probably the most important skill I learnt from studying law is the ability (and/or patience) to analyse and read through large amounts of material, whilst maintaining a level of concentration. Of course, it does help if you have an interest in the material that you are reading.

I think Birmingham University, and in particular the law school, puts a big emphasis on making their students as employable as possible after graduation. Whilst I appreciate that not everyone who studies law wants to go on and practice, I think it is important that students have an understanding of what employers are looking for in the legal field, and how to best illustrate the skills that they will have learned through studying a law degree when making job applications. Birmingham Law School is really good at this.

What has been the highlight of your career so far? What is next for you?

One of my career highlights thus far has been my involvement in a high profile high court case that was heard at the Royal Courts of Justice. Not only was that case interesting from a factual point of view and the various arguments that both parties ran at court, but also gave me an insight as to how to manage press involvement when dealing with high profile divorce litigation.

Another career highlight of mine involved achieving a very favourable result for one particular client in relation to a very contentious children matter. By the time the case had been resolved, the client had attended close to twenty separate court hearings, and it was extremely rewarding to achieve a great result for the client at the end of that long running case.

In terms of what is next, I moved down south to my current job towards the end of last year, so I am focusing at the moment on building up my case-load and contacts in the area, whilst getting as much experience as possible.

What did you enjoy most about your time at Birmingham? 

I enjoyed the wide variety of activities that I was given the opportunity to try whilst at university. Some of the activities that I tried (not all of which successfully!) included: Ashtanga yoga, Fencing, Muay thai kick boxing, Boxing, Cricket, Table tennis, Volleyball, American football, salsa dancing, hip hop dancing, being a guide for student open days, and appearing in a drama production put on by the law school.

To put things in perspective, before going to university, of the above, I had only ever played cricket and table tennis!

Whilst the majority of the activities I tried are sports related, there are a huge number of societies and other groups on campus for students to get involved with. There is definitely some form of group of society to suit everyone’s interest.

What advice would you give to prospective students who may be thinking of a career in Law?

The advice I always give to anyone who is contemplating a career in law is to get as much work experience as possible. Not only does this make your CV a more attractive prospect for employers, but most importantly, allows you to find out if law, and in particular which area of law, is right for you. For me, the most important question to consider before embarking on a career in law, or, in fact any career is “can I see myself enjoying doing this for the next forty plus years of my working life?”

If the answer is no, then consider going down another route.

Fortunately, we live in an age where you can be successful in a career and be financially comfortable in almost any job, just as long as you apply yourself and your passion to that role, and keep pushing yourself to progress.

Ultimately, studying law, and the subsequent path to becoming a qualified solicitor or a barrister is not easy. It is made a lot easier though if you can see the light at the end of the tunnel by having an interest and a desire to practice in the profession itself. 

Are there any developments in the legal world that aspiring lawyers should be aware of?

Brexit, in either its hard, soft, or somewhere in between form,  is going to have an impact on how all lawyers practice. Whether it is as immediately obvious as overturning or amending key legislation, or whether it has a more subtle effect, such as affecting a divorcing couples’ ability to sell the family home at the price they want, Brexit is going to change the legal landscape for some time. Certainly, the EU law lectures that I had whilst at University are likely to be very different to the ones delivered by the law school in 2019!