A message to my past self: words of motivation from Trainees

Every year I send my future self an email. I use this website, I write the email, and in exactly one year’s time it gets delivered to me. Sometimes reading it is funny, and sometimes it’s a bit sad. But I always always wish I could email my past-self back. There  have been so many periods in my life that I would have been happier had I just been certain that everything was going to work out ok. And the year or so I was making applications was 100% one of those times.

Unfortunately, I can’t pop into the future where you’re successful and happy (or at the very least, rich) and get you to write yourself a letter and bring it back. But what I can do is ask trainees and future trainees what they’d tell themselves a year ago. (By which I mean, what they’d tell their pre-training contract selves).

guilty dog
My face when I read my email from the past, telling me SPECIFICALLY not to do the dumb sh*t I went and did. 

So that’s what I did! I wrote a post on LinkedIn, and what follows is what I got sent in reply. I hope you read the messages, find them motivating, and save this article somewhere handy so you can re-read it when rejection is getting the better of you.


“What I would tell myself a year ago (well, just over a year ago)… I know that it is frustrating, but you will get there. Keep working hard, keep your head held high. Don’t throw it all away when you’re so close to getting where you wanted to be, what you’ve been working so hard for!” – Knights

“Never give up!! I finally got my training contract in May 2017 and I qualify this November, over 12 years after starting my law degree. Needless to say, I didn’t stick to the “beaten path”. I didn’t go to Oxbridge or a Russell university. I didn’t have a million extra-curricular activities, straight A’s or 5 languages. I didn’t go straight into a funded LPC and a training contract (essentially the ultimate dream for any budding solicitor, right?!). But did that make me any less worthy? Absolutely not.

I took time out, I studied abroad, I worked. I undertook unpaid internships in the UK and the US. I self-funded the LPC part time over two years alongside my full-time job. I tried out several different areas of law. I’ve faced negativity from many angles, but I stuck with it, to find my niche and prove why I’d make a brilliant solicitor. I’ve demonstrated commitment, resilience, willingness, a bag-load of common sense, and even commercial awareness.

I’m not a rising corporate star on track to make millions, but I have found my place. I’m happy. I have so much progression to make and my career is only just beginning. My experience and maturity (both in age, and in wisdom I suppose!) has, surprisingly, made me attractive to employers.

So to reiterate my point: never give up. You don’t have to follow the set path. It may not happen in the way you want or expect but trust me, when it does, you will appreciate every single hardship it took to get you there!!” -Horwich Farrelly

“Two years ago I received an offer for a TC, only to be told two weeks later that the company had made a systematic error and the offer had to be revoked. It was devastating. But I didn’t give up. I clung even harder to the belief that I would eventually reach the light at the end of the tunnel. And a year later, I did receive a TC offer; one with an amazing training programme and brilliant seat opportunities. I have just started working and I cannot overstate how much I believe in the statement ‘everything happens for a reason. Do not give up; you will get that offer and get your opportunity to shine.” -BT

Me if my TC gets revoked on a “systematic error” and I have to make applications again. 

“Don’t give up, you’re closer than you think”- Gowling WLG

“I’ve just been awarded a training contract to start next month at a firm in Liverpool, but I speak from the perspective of someone who has been about to give up. And I don’t mean that I applied for one year before almost admitting defeat – it took me 6 years of cycles. I saw the people I mentored in uni get offered training contracts at top firms, and had to wonder why I kept getting rejected. Hit after hit can crush your confidence. It becomes demoralising. Hence why it’s so important to look after your mental health. Thankfully, something clicked and I got offered a TC at my new firm to be – who didn’t even ask me to do an assessment or interview. My biggest bit of advice is to get contacts! I think this is where I fell short; I knew nobody in the legal world. But networking saved me!” -Irving’s law

“Be confident in your abilities and believe in yourself. Sounds a bit self-helpy, but it worked for me!” -Bond Turner

“One thing I’d tell myself a year ago is to not constantly compare yourself to everyone else regarding attending open days and assessment centres etc; don’t put yourself down when you hear everything everyone else has done. You are just as worthy, as you’re there too!” -RPC

“I remember post-graduation working long days/nights in retail, and finding it difficult to get an opportunity despite having legal experience. I moved onto an estate agency role, because I knew I enjoyed property law. It gave me transferable skills and networking opportunities, which reaffirmed that this was the area I wanted to practice in. Around my training contract search, I emailed numerous firms and was privileged to get a secretarial role, which gave me another foundation. I started my part-time weekend LPC with masters, and then the anxiety to find a role was heightened because I was working crazy hours to self-fund, sacrificing all weekends to study (with the fear that it would impact my grades.) Not being able to see the future means the risks we take are scary. Darn, human powers. But in reality, we are our own superheroes!

My main message to those searching for a legal or any other role is to not take rejection personally. Don’t let rejections stop you. They get easier, and most importantly, you can learn from them by building on skills that will take you further.” -Feldon Dunsmore

cat snot
Sometimes you’re going to completely nail the assessment day. Sometimes you’re going to feel more like this cat. Rejection happens. Move on. 

“I got a training contract about a month ago. I’d tell myself last year to stop worrying! I am now a big believer that everything happens for a reason. It all works out in the end.” -George Green

“Think of rejections positively. If the firm doesn’t think you’re the right fit as a trainee, then they’ve done you a favour in the long run, as you wouldn’t be happy in a place you don’t fit in. The right fit is just around the corner, so keep being tenacious!” -Muckle

“I considered the CILEX route early on, but I wanted to qualify the traditional way and get a TC. When applying, I focused too much on how tough and competitive the application process was, and failed to consider all the experience and skills I was gaining through my employment. I made so many friends and had so many experiences that I could have been putting into my applications. I felt like it was never going to happen for me, that it was all about luck, and I was disheartened. After years of knock-backs and low self-esteem, I started the CILEX. But I still didn’t let go of the dream of a TC.

Applying for a paralegal role with no experience forced me to reflect on the transferable skills that I had. I became more confident in interviews and realised what I was capable of. With this attitude, I applied to one more TC. And now, 7 years after completing the LPC, I have just started my TC.

It’s important to believe in yourself. If you don’t, how is the graduate recruiter going to? Think of the positives and use those to your advantage. If there is something you feel you are lacking experience-wise, seek them out. We are always learning, and we can always improve on the applications we make. I know for a fact I am not the same person I was a year ago because I certainly didn’t have the confidence I do now.

Remember with perseverance, your dreams can come true. It may take a little longer than expected, but you will get there.” -LGSS Law

“I’d tell myself “all of these rejections are pushing you in the right direction!”-Shoosmiths

“This time last year, I felt overwhelmed thinking about how to even begin. In retrospect, I’d tell myself – at the risk of sounding cliché – to just go one step at a time, which is exactly what I did. I started with research, to determine which firms I most drawn to, which helped me to demonstrate clear motivation in my application. Then I analysed my past experiences, and sought to fill any gaps I identified. By following a structured plan, I reassured myself that I was persevering on the right path. It gave me the confidence to build myself up piece by piece, and to make a stronger application. One step at a time.”  -White & Case

“I would always say to myself “you only need one”, which kept me going!” -Norton Rose Fulbright

I hate to say I-told-you-so, but click here to see the post where I told you so. 

“To my  first-year, scheme-less international student self: failure doesn’t matter as much as you think it does – it’s all a matter of perspective. Don’t discount yourself, and don’t look left or right; just keep your chin up and your best foot forward. That’s all you can control. Make everything you do the best that you can make it. It’ll happen someday if you keep trying. Good luck!” -Freshfields

“I would say that just being friendly rather than overly formal can go a long way, to everyone in the firm regardless of seniority. Those things gets noticed.” -Linklaters

“Listen to those that tell you to focus on a small handful of applications. You’re going to have wobbles when you get rejections – you will tell yourself you don’t want the position that much, to soften the blow. That’s fine on the surface, but don’t lose sight of the fact that you do actually want this.

Appreciate those around you who have helped you on your way. Whether it’s a parent remembering your redeeming qualities when you are focused on your faults, or a partner or housemate forgiving you for not staying on top of everything because they understand the stakes and support you.” -Squire Patton Boggs


I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone who sent me their messages of encouragement. It’s clear how much time and thought went into your replies. And it’s always lovely to be reminded that there are a lot of people who want to build other people up. That law isn’t as dog-eat-dog as we imagine it is sometimes.

If you liked this article, but fancied a bit more encouragement (it is February after all), why not have a look at my Confidence Boost posts?



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