Amelia is a Future Trainee Solicitor at CMS and will commence her Training Contract in August 2021.
She graduated from the University of Dundee in 2020 and will begin her Diploma in Professional Legal Practice.
Amelia was awarded the ‘Best Dissertation Price’ in 2019/20 alongside the ‘Green’s Prize’ for being the best overall Honours Student in all Honours modules.
In the summer of 2019, she was a participant on the CMS Academy, which is the firm’s Vacation Scheme before being offering a Training Contract with the firm.
Amelia founded her platform ‘See Through Law’ which is a blog website about her tips for the different stages of the application process. She also uses this to share collaborations, webinars, events and courses she is involved in.
You can access her blog website here.
[0:00:00.0] Harry Wilde: Welcome to this week’s episode of the Legally Speaking Podcast mini-series powered by Kissoon Carr. My name is Harry, head ambassador for Kissoon Carr and host for today’s episode. Today I am delighted to be joined by our guest feature, future trainee solicitor at CMS, Amelia Mah. Amelia is a recent Scots and English LLB graduate from the University of Dundee.
In October she will begin studying her diploma in professional legal practice which is the Scottish equivalent of the LPC. In 2019, she was a participant on the CMS Academy which is the firms vacation scheme. She was later offered a training contract which she will commence in August 2021 after the completion of her diploma in professional legal practice. Hi Amelia, thanks for joining us on today’s episode.
[0:00:41.1] Amelia Mah: Hi Harry, thanks so much for having me.
[0:00:42.8] Harry Wilde: No worries at all, I wanted to start by asking you about your legal career so far and your achievements to date. How did you find the whole application process when you were applying for vacation schemes?
[0:00:53.7] Amelia Mah: Yes, it’s a really good question and I think it’s fair to say that the whole application process was, you know, whether you were applying for the vacation schemes or training contract, it’s incredibly daunting, it’s long, it’s tiring, but it’s definitely worth it in the end. You see the whole process, because it’s so long, undoubtedly the best thing is to just start as early as possible with your research and deciding which firms you want to apply to and brushing up on your commercial awareness.
And I think because most firms they now have very long application processes, usually four stages, it is important to balance how many firms you are applying for. I’m sure you have heard lots of people who have applied for 20 plus firms and they only got a couple of interviews whereas those applying to say 5 or something firms are much more successful using this rate.
So, yeah definitely it’s a very daunting process I mean it’s a hard process to get going but definitely worth it in the end.
[0:01:38.8] Harry Wilde: Absolutely, how did you know that CMS was the right place for you to do your training contract with?
[0:01:43.1] Amelia Mah: So, I think it first came about when I was researching about my firm and then when you attend the events and get a feel for the culture at the firm. Mind you this was all pre pandemic so you know you could physically visit the firm and attend the presentation. But then obviously during the course of the vacation scheme I felt like my passion for the firm was really coming through itself.
And you know when you are on the vacation scheme you are thinking about whether you fit into the firm and not just on paper because even if you are on the vacation scheme it’s obviously much more real than when you are just applying and saying that you know you like the firm or you are planning to apply for the firm and so on. And the thing is when you are looking at whether the firm is right for you, I was looking at things like the people that worked there and the signs of the culture.
So, what I really enjoyed was the work that I was assigned on the vacation scheme at CMS and the culture was you know very supportive and cooperative. But at the same time, I was also given a lot of responsibility and independence. So, they do a lot of events, socials, you circulate and see if you click, that’s when I knew the firm was right for me. So, what I say is you know culture is obviously very important, then it’s just a waiting game to see if you’re a good fit for the firm.
And obviously I was quite relieved when the firm thought the same thing about me and then offered me a training contract in the end. But I do think that people end up in the right firm for them. If you feel like you don’t fit into firm X,generally you will fit into firm Y or another firm.
[0:02:52.3] Harry Wilde: Of course, and what do you think it was that made your application stand out?
[0:02:57.5] Amelia Mah: Yeah, it’s a really good question. I think for me when I was applying a wide variety of life experiences, so you know when I was younger I did a lot of competitive figure skating, also played piano till grade 8 and then also amassing a variety of legal experience but also non-legal work experience. To be honest you gain awide range of transferable skills and so if you are not able to gain legal work experience any work experience is good.
So, you can focus on what transferrable skills you do have, but now I also do a lot of figure skating coaching and also teaching piano. And so, I do this and from this you can talk about team working skills, communication skills that you gain and you can talk about where you can draw your skills from. And I would say all the different firms are looking for different skills and different personality traits.
I think what made me stand out in my application is that I fit each one of my skills to what my firm was looking for. Kind of like having a matching up game which was crucial in that sense that you have a clear link between yourself and why are you a good all-rounder and then why you fit well into the firm that you are applying to.
[0:03:55.6] Harry Wilde: Brilliant stuff and what did you find most daunting about the application process and how did you overcome it?
[0:04:00.9] Amelia Mah: So, I think the hardest part is sometimes actually just getting started and putting pen to paper or as far you know laptops and everything now, but I think what my particular technique was to always plan out the answers to the application questions first. Because usually there’s three of four questions on the online application and think about what skills and experiences I can bring to the table and what kind of value I can add to the firm.
I think about what kind of candidates the firm is looking for, what actually the firm highly values because it varies from firm to firm. And as I said on this each question and each answer goes to many, many drafts and redrafts so you can see why it’s important to start as early as you can. And so, starting is very daunting and overcoming this what I like to do is I write down all my different skills and then all my work experiences then I highlight what the main skills are the takeaway from each of the experiences.
It’s kind of like a matching of exercise. And then from this you can answer you know if there’s a question that says you know please talk about the time that were in a team and you had to communicate effectively. So, then I can easily pick out the skill or experience and then just write about that experience. And then it is the same sort of technique that I use for video interviews so you can write them in flashcards and just make the same for your answers and sort of the thing to do it much easier. But yes, definitely a daunting process but you know getting started is the hardest part.
[0:05:13.2] Harry Wilde: Absolutely, now you have a very active presence in the online legal community, did you want to tell our audience about any project that you are currently working on?
[0:05:20.6] Amelia Mah: Thank you. Yes, so after I got my training contract with the CMS, I started my website called See Through Law and it is a platform where I can share all my top tips and I blog about all the different stages of the application process. And I noticed that people were particularly interested in my experiences, and my time with CMS, so then I added in a specific CMS section so people could hear more about my time there.
So my website is constantly updated with new blogs and then when I get asked new questions or emails to cover a specific topic then I’ll blog about those. On See Through Law there are links to resources such as free practice tests for the online testing stage of the application process. So, yes See Through Law is kind of my main project at the moment.
But you know with the pandemic with a lot of things going virtual, I have been attending a lot of Webinars, panelling at some of the events, doing podcasts like these and so when I do something like this, I would also blog about it. And it’s also a chance for me to connect people with my readers and just share what I get up to during this year and then when I’m on the diploma as well. So it’s coming up for it’s first birthday as well, I’ll be doing a give away so lots of things going on at the moment so definitely keeping busy.
And then I’m also managing a couple of students during various semesters and providing advice to you know LinkedIn members or anybody that I get emails and things from. But yeah, lots of projects going on and definitely keeping busy even during this pandemic.
[0:06:39.3] Harry Wilde: Of course, congratulations on your project anyway, I’m sure it’s really beneficial for those aspiring lawyers out there. So, definitely guys be sure to check that out. I wanted to conclude by asking the thing I’d like to ask all of our guests, what changes do you think need to be made within the legal profession to make a career in law more accessible to everybody?
[0:06:57.0] Amelia Mah: Yeah, that’s definitely a really prevalent thing and professionally with diversity of inclusion it’s much more focused now. I think in terms of making the profession more accessible I think firms need to make sure that all the vacation schemes are accessible. If you think about it from a social mobility point of view, you know you hear about a lot of people who want to go to open days or want to attend the vacation schemes but can’t afford to take time off work or because you know perhaps the vacation scheme isn’t paid or you know expensive travel aren’t reimbursed and that sort of thing makes it quite difficult for some people to attend these events to then get into the profession.
So, I think definitely considering you know what support is available for these kinds of students who perhaps need a little bit more help with the travel expense or you know taking time off work if they’re on the vacation scheme and I think it will definitely help with the diversity and the inclusion as well within the firm. And something hopefully more and more firms will take up on to introduce accessibility into the profession.
[0:07:48.1] Harry Wilde: Absolutely, brilliant point, well thank you ever so much for coming on today.
[0:07:51.4] Amelia Mah: Thank you so much for having me it’s been a pleasure.
[0:07:53.5] Harry Wilde: It’s been a real pleasure having you on and great to hear your insights alongside many of the things that you have learnt throughout your legal journey. I wish you all the best for the future and good luck for when you start your training contract in 2021.
[0:08:04.1] Amelia Mah: Thank you so much Harry, lovely to meet you.
[0:08:05.4] Harry Wilde: Thank you very much for tuning in to today’s episode. I hope you enjoyed listening.