Aspiring Lawyer Miniseries – Future Womble Bond Dickinson Trainee – Simranjeet Kaur Mann

This week on our Legally Speaking Podcast Miniseries, powered by KC Partners, our host Harrison Wilde is joined by guest feature, Simranjeet Kaur Mann.

Simranjeet studied her LLB at the University of Bristol before completing her LPC LLM at the University of Law where she obtained a distinction.

Simranjeet received 3 training contract offers, completed 3 vacation schemes, and has had 2 paralegal jobs. She currently works as a Data Protection Paralegal and is due to commence her training contract in March 2021.

Simranjeet is the Founder of Sim’s Legal Mentoring which she actively uses through both her Instagram and YouTube channels. She offers free legal mentoring for aspiring lawyers and uploads regular posts providing advice to others by sharing her experiences and documenting her legal journey.


[0:00:00.0] Harry Wilde: Hello everyone, and welcome to this week’s episode of the Legally Speaking Podcast miniseries, powered by Kissoon Carr. My name is Harry, head ambassador for Kissoon Carr and host for today’s episode. Today I’m delighted to be joined by our guest feature, LLB and LPC graduate and Future Trainee Solicitor at Womble Bond Dickinson, Simran Mann. Hi Simran, thank you for joining us on today’s episode. 

[0:00:22.1] Simran Mann: Thank you so much for the opportunity, really excited to be here.

[0:00:25.1] Harry Wilde: Simran graduated from the university of Bristol in 2018, completing three vacation schemes and receiving three training contract offers. She later achieved a distinction in her LPC and is currently working as a paralegal. She is due to commence her training contract in March 2021 in Womble Bond Dickinson’s London office. Simran also founded her own legal blog page and YouTube channel called Sim’s Legal Mentoring in which she documents her personal journey and provides free mentoring and guidance to aspiring solicitors. I wanted to start by asking you about your legal career so far and your achievements to date. What was the secret behind securing three training contract offers? 

[0:01:03.2] Simran Mann: So, gaining three training contract offers was obviously something that didn’t happen overnight. There was a lot of resilience involved and I think that was the main secret behind it. I was rejected from a vacation scheme at PwC, so I was back at square one, doing applications all over again. And it was really difficult to you know, think that you have a TC right at your fingertips and then watch it slip away was just something that took a while for me to get over.

So, I really do think that resilience played a part. Not even in, you know, picking yourself up, doing applications again but also recognizing that every single step of the way, you may not be successful, but it opens the doors and opportunities to something else. I definitely kind of adopted a mindset of a throughout the course of the year basically that I would not stop until I received a training contract offer.

And I think another secret that I had in terms of gaining my three training contract offers was being very self-critical, and putting your ego and pride aside sometimes and just really absorbing every piece of feedback that comes your way. I do get that sometimes when you get rejected from things, you’re feeling very bitter, quite upset. And you know, that’s very natural to feel but when you start looking at your application and thinking, “Okay, where can I start improving? Where are the weak points?” 

Then you start realizing that you are becoming more and more successful in your applications, and I think the final thing that really kind of helped me in securing my training contract offers particularly in the application stage was emphasizing the importance of all types of experience, whether it be legal, non-legal or personal. I’ve talked about this in a YouTube video once where I was asked the question in an interview and I provided quite a personal situation as an answer rather than talking about legal or non-legal.

And I think it just presented me as a human, so don’t be afraid to use all aspects of your life in your applications. I think that was one thing that really made me stand out. 

[0:02:48.2] Harry Wilde: Absolutely. What would you say the main obstacles you faced on your legal journey were?

[0:02:53.4] Simran Mann: I think one of the main ones and I think this is quite topical in the legal field right now is imposter syndrome. Obviously, I was sat there at assessment centres and interviews surrounded by other really talented candidates thinking, “Oh my God! This one’s an Oxford student, this one did a PhD.” And just looking at yourself and thinking, “How in hell am I going to compare to this?” and that kind of mindset really detrimented my performance when I went to assessment centres and interviews, because I would go into interviews thinking about those other people outside of the room rather than thinking about myself and my qualities and you know, how I was a strong candidate.

 So, how I kind of overcame this was, before every interview, before every assessment centre, I would repeat to myself, “I have every right to be there just like everyone else” and kind of adopting this positive mindset that there is a reason why the firm has picked me to be at this stage. I have every right to be there, I have shown myself to be special in some way and it’s just my job to kind of translate that.

 I think that’s one way I kind of overcame that obstacle. Of course, like I mentioned before, another obstacle was me getting rejected for my first Vac scheme. Being back at square one was not ideal and also at that moment in my life I had another grad job offer but this was for a tax advisor. After two weeks, I decided that accounting was not for me. I didn’t like it, and I took a massive risk and moved to a completely new city to do a new paralegal job.

 And I think that was big obstacle for me because I didn’t have to take that risk. Becoming an accountant would have been, you know, a very comfortable salary, I would have had a comfortable life, but it wasn’t really something that was engaging to me. And moving to a new city as well, I found that the training contract process was very lonely at times because I didn’t know anyone in that new city.

 So, I think that was another obstacle that I faced. And I think it’s one of the reasons why I’ve created my legal blog now, I wanted to create that sense of community and that people aren’t alone in the process. 

[0:04:38.6] Harry Wilde: Of course, and I think that your experience obviously through the training contract process and applying for Vac schemes, that can really help boost your confidence so I’m sure that really benefitted you. How did you decide which firm was right for you in the process? 

[0:04:51.8] Simran Mann: So, while I was at university, I knew I wanted to go down the corporate commercial kind of law firm, so the City law firm. And this is because I have done some work experience at high street law firms and realized that I didn’t like that personal aspect, so I knew that I wanted to work in the city. But in terms of specific, you know, what firm was right for me, I actually didn’t know what firm was right for me until I graduated, and I started paralegalling.  

 When I was paralegalling, for my first ever paralegal role, I was working in a really small team. So, there was no kind of trainee in between. So, all the kind of junior roles, trainee roles were ones that I was getting exposed to. And that was straight from the get-go. That really made me realize that I want to be a part of the firm where they have a small trainee intake. And I think it was really, really important for me to not be known in the firm as the trainee in real estate or the paralegal in litigation. I wanted people to know me by my name and I wanted to have that first name basis with partners and those higher up in the legal hierarchy as it were. 

So, that’s why I went for firms that had that small intake because I wanted that personalized training contract experience where I can build personal networks with the people that I work with. But I still wanted that international aspect where I’ll be working with lawyers and colleagues all across the globe. So, that really drew me to US law firms, with Womble Bond Dickinson in particular, it was more so the Vac scheme that really sold it to me.

 Everyone there was really wholesome, supportive and I think, one thing you’ve got to remember when you’re on a vacation scheme, it’s a two-way street. In the same way that they’re interviewing you and testing you as a candidate, you’re testing the firm and finding out whether they’re right for you. And I think that I certainly did that, and I found that Wombles was the right firm for me. 

 Everyone was so supportive and wholesome, and I could imagine myself working there. So, what I would really say in terms of deciding what firm is right for you is putting yourself out there, going to open days, insight days, networking with members of the firm on LinkedIn for example, especially, in this virtual climate. I think that would really help in terms of putting feelers out there for what kind of schemes or firms are right for you.

[0:06:48.4] Harry Wilde: Of course. What elements along the way in relation to the application process did you find most difficult? 

[0:06:53.9] Simran Mann: I think in terms of the elements that I found most difficult, it was – I think I’ve mentioned this before in terms of, you think you’ve mastered one stage of the process. So, I thought I mastered the application stage, and then I get to the video interviews and realize, “Okay, this is significantly weak for me as well.” Or you know, going to that practice stage test, getting rejected on that stage as well. So, every step of the way you’re just thinking, you have a positive and then it comes straight down because you get rejected after the next stage.

I was someone who learn by practice as well, so it took me many, many growths for me to master every single stage at a decent level. I would say Watson Glaser was my biggest enemy, I didn’t enjoy Watson Glaser at all. But I think the way I overcame that was practice, practice, practice. 

I used a website called the JobTestPrep, you do have to pay for a subscription, but you know, if you go like halves with a friend for example and share the password for example, I feel like it can be significantly cheap and affordable. And what I did was, I went through every single question, learnt the logic, make sure that I had the logic of every single section clued up in my head, and then did the questions again. 

So, essentially rinse and repeat. And I think also assessment centres were quite difficult at first because there’s lots of different things you can get involved in like negotiation exercises or case study interviews. But for me again as well the same thing that I can just give in terms of advice is practice. And also, I feel like a lot of people get a bit disheartened after their first assessment centre because if they’re not successful, they feel like, “Oh, you know, I was so close” but for me that’s such a massive learning opportunity. 

It took me two assessment centres. I was rejected from the first two but in the next two I was accepted from because I learnt from those experiences and I wrote everything down afterwards, and I really kind of absorbed all the feedback. So, that’s how I kind of overcame those difficult elements in the application process. 

[0:08:33.0] Harry Wilde: Of course, and do you really think that having that rejection, having that experience along the way really helped you to bounce back? Because obviously, you since received three training contract offers, accepted a training contract and later going on to start your own Instagram and YouTube channel, do you think that kind of helped motivate you?

[0:08:53.0] Simran Mann: Oh, for sure. I mean, I think about this all the time that if I wasn’t rejected from that first vacation scheme, I wouldn’t have created my YouTube channel, I wouldn’t have been helping Instagrammers right now. I probably would have been starting my training contract, yes but I wouldn’t have been able to build the character that I’ve built. And also, over the years I’ve learned a lot more significant qualities that are relevant for a legal career now. You know, even now the people that I’m meeting via my blog are so important.

Yesterday I was having a conversation with future trainees from CMS, for example and just getting involved in these opportunities and networking opportunities was something that I didn’t recognize at that time, but now it’s something that I’ve learned and really kind of – I love doing. So, if anything, it’s made me more motivated to like this career and you know, be more engaged in it. So, I definitely do think rejections – of course, they’re part of the process but in the bigger picture, when I look back, I’m so happy that they happened. 

[0:09:44.1] Harry Wilde: Certainly. And I think that really does show the determination and resilience you’ve had throughout the entire process. I wanted to conclude by asking you something I 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? 

[0:09:58.5] Simran Mann: I think – just speaking from personal perspective, firstly diversity and inclusion is something that I feel very strongly about and I feel, in order to make the legal profession more accessible to everyone, diversity and inclusion shouldn’t be performative measures. It should be something that’s actively implemented within every firm. So, it’s not just so that, you know, you recognize the rights of Black lawyers for example, when it’s Black history month or I just feel like there needs to be some kind of implementation that’s very active throughout the firm. Ultimately, I feel like people shouldn’t have to change themselves to fit into the workplace.

 For example, this is an example that I’ve encountered as well, obviously the legal career has a massive kind of drinking culture, and some people don’t drink, for example and then instead of questioning that person and thinking, “Oh, why don’t you drink?” maybe that’s something that should be accepted and just recognizing everyone’s differences essentially. I really do think also, when I’ve mentored people as well – like with my legal page, I feel like to make the legal career a lot more accessible, I wish there was less emphasis on A level grades.

 A lot of people that I mentor haven’t got the best A levels, but they did amazing at university and got first, or 2:1’s. And also, I feel like certain firms have put a lot more emphasis on Russell Group universities. So, they put more emphasis on attending like law fairs for example at these universities. Which places talented candidates who don’t go to Russell Group universities at a disadvantage. 

 So, I really do feel like, there needs to be that kind of accessibility of reaching out and gaining talent from all kinds of fields. Other professions are doing it. So, for example EY, they scratched their grade thresholds for example and they’re still recruiting talent. I think it just goes to show, you know, grades don’t define you – when I was 18 as well I wasn’t’ thinking I need three A’s in order to get a career as a solicitor, I was thinking I need three A’s to get into Uni. And I think, you know, the emphasis of that future career aspect isn’t involved when it comes to A levels. So, why is there so much emphasis on it now? But that’s just my personal opinion. 

[0:11:51.6] Harry Wilde: Of course. I just wanted to say thank you ever so much for joining us on today’s episode.

[0:11:55.6] Simran Mann: No worries at all, I had such a good time. 

[0:11:57.6] Harry Wilde: A real pleasure having you on and great to hear your insights alongside many of the things you’ve 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.

[0:12:08.1] Simran Mann: Thank you so much. 

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