Simon Stempien explains why he chose to train as a solicitor with Furley Page

Posted by Simon Stempien

Senior Associate

Q: Where and what did you study at university before you were accepted for a Training Contract with Furley Page?

I studied Law at the University of Kent. I am from Chichester and Canterbury had a similar feeling and energy. I somehow managed to gain a first!

Q: What work had you done before you started your training, including work placements and voluntary work? Did your work experience prove useful?

My work experience was pretty varied and I do truly believe that any experience is good experience (even if it doesn’t feel that way at the time!). I’ve packed envelopes, completed data entry jobs, worked in pubs, as a receptionist, closed the pensions of a large number of miners, worked at a Child and Adolescent mental health service and had a number of placements in law firms. Each, to varying degrees, helped show me how to deal with people and systems. As a lawyer that is your bread-and-butter. If you can’t meet the expectations of your clients, you’re going to struggle and I’m still learning the hard way every day.

When I left university (2008) it was at the height of the recession. Firms everywhere reduced or stopped the number of applicants they were accepting. I applied to a large number of firms without any luck in 2008, so I sought further experience to help my applications. I worked for a year and a half at a niche law form on the edge of the City of London. I was the paralegal to the two directors and the three of us comprised the entire firm. It was incredibly useful and I still feel it was the reason why I was offered training contracts. To be able to say that I had lengthy, hands on experience of being a lawyer and that I still wanted to do it was enough!

Q: When and why did you decide to become a trainee solicitor with Furley Page? What were you hoping to get out of your training and what appealed to you about the firm?

I was fortunate that I had three interviews at different firms for training contracts and each was very different. The first firm felt like a corporate machine and I did not believe I would be given much assistance – merely being a number. I had a horrible interview where the interviewers offered very little in response; so it felt more like an interrogation. I did very well in the tests so they had to offer me the position. The second was an excellent interview (the partner even asked if I could play in his band!) but I felt the firm was not forward-thinking enough. Finally during my interview at Furley Page I felt the right level of interest and ambition, also for want of a better word, compassion. Of the three options I still think I chose well.

I was hoping to get assistance as a trainee and experience of a varied case load. Whilst working in London at the Royal Courts of Justice I spoke to a Slaughter and May trainee who said he had spent the last month looking through thousands of documents trying to find one piece of information. I wanted my training contract to help me qualify with real skills. I didn’t just want to be a number and wanted to be able to go to someone senior to ask the question you feel embarrassed to ask. I’m glad that it’s possible to do that at Furley Page.

Q. Did your training live up to your expectations? Did it prepare you well for your current position?

Absolutely. I trained in three different departments with a double-seat in the Commercial Property team. You soon work out that some areas are not suited to you but I always felt I was supported. At times (the early part of the seat) I was protected and eased into matters, but you are soon given the chance to be a real-fee earner running your own cases. As a trainee I was able to create some great relationships with clients which continue today. It is nice to help the new trainees and see just how quickly you can develop.

I had never worked at Furley Page before, it meant that I could have felt very out of place – thankfully that was never the case.

Q. What position do you hold with Furley Page? Is it where you’d planned to be or have you exceeded your expectations?

I’m a solicitor in the Commercial Property Team. When I first wanted to do law (pre GCSE!) I wanted to be in a high street firm helping whoever came through the door (but ideally conveyancing). By the time I left university I realised that that the legal landscape would now mean that kind of practice was not sustainable, so my aim changed. I am where I wanted to be at this stage of my career. Having recently considered the different areas of work I can complete, I have realised just how much progress I have made in such a short period of time.

Q. If you were to meet your younger self, what advice would you give about applying to becoming a trainee solicitor?

Get experience. Being a solicitor is tough and to have worked in that environment for a sustained period will help show if it is for you.

Visit our Careers pages for information about our Undergraduate Work Placement scheme and applying to become a Trainee Solicitor with Furley Page.


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