The Path to Success:
It’s a well-trodden path: breeze through a Law degree, do the LPC, bag a training contract, and finally qualify on a £75k+ NQ salary. Bish, bash, bosh.
If only it was this easy.
From apprenticeships to the CILEx route, there are many established ways to break into the legal profession. Some paths are even less straightforward than others…it may take many twists, turns, ups, downs, opportunities and plenty of losses before you realise that you have been following a journey to a career in law without even knowing it…
This is what happened to Stephanie Anais.
Stephanie is currently a Marketing Assistant at Radcliffe Chambers and an aspiring commercial lawyer. She is also studying Law LLB part-time at Birbeck, University of London. Stephanie has had a pretty unconventional route to law to say the least…
Before we start, tell me a little bit about yourself! I was born in Slough, but moved to Newbury (West Berkshire), with my mum and two sisters when I was nine years old. At the age of 19, I left home and moved to London to pursue a career as a hairdresser (colour technician), however, soon learnt that this industry wasn’t for me. Since then, I have lived in LA and worked in a number of other industries which have helped me to decide that a career in law is the only one for me.
How did your childhood impact your career aspirations? My sisters and I were raised entirely by my mum, which was really tough for her as she wasn’t able to return to work after my dad left. Despite the fact she had to rely on the support of council benefits, and couldn’t afford to take us on holidays, she made sure that we had everything that we needed and went for years without buying anything for herself so that she could pay for our horse-riding lessons and take us to the theatre.
Seeing what my mum had to sacrifice has made me determined to succeed in life. From a young age I have wanted to surround myself with successful people and have aspired to learn from ‘the best of the best’ who will push me beyond my comfort zone.
The Early Years…
So, Stephanie, how did it all begin? I got my first job at age 12! I visited all the hairdressers in my village and the neighbouring town to see if there were any vacancies. Of course, most people were a bit apprehensive about hiring a 12-year-old but eventually I received a job offer. I continued working in various salons until I eventually sat my GCSE’s and left school.
Can you tell me about your experience at school? I really enjoyed my time at school, but I found it very difficult. It’s tough to enjoy something but not do well in it, and while I knew I was really applying myself to my work, my teachers had little faith in me. This was also before my dyslexia was diagnosed. I left school with 2C’s, a few D’s, and an E.
So, where did life take you next? After leaving school, I went to college to study performing arts. I have always been creative, and at the time I was passionate about dance and drama, so I wanted to take this interest further. However, for various reasons I decided it wasn’t the right industry for me.
What was the next step in your career journey? I returned back to what I knew…hairdressing. I wanted a stable career and it was something that I really enjoyed. I have always loved making people feel good about themselves and a strength of mine has always been building and maintaining good relationships with colleagues and clients.
How was your experience in hairdressing different this time? This time, I secured a job at Toni&Guy. It was a great experience, but the expectations were of a much higher standard than previous salons. I worked very long hours and even had to clean the skirting boards with a toothbrush! However, this didn’t bother me. I knew if I wanted to be successful, I had to work somewhere that would challenge me and push me out of my comfort zone.
I take it that the story continues? Yes, it does! After I completed my NVQ (hairdressing qualification), I moved to London to become a session stylist (a hairdresser/stylist that works on photoshoots and campaigns).
Wow, that sounds very glamorous! Did you work with any celebrities? I did meet quite a few! I used to assist Nicola Clarke – she styles many celebrities including Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Moss and Sienna Miller.
Why did you leave? It wasn’t a quick decision. I still love the hairdressing industry for the positive impact it has on a person’s well-being. However, it wasn’t an industry that I wanted to have a career in.
My sister had a corporate job and the lifestyle seemed very attractive to me. Therefore, I decided to take the necessary steps to change my career path with the intention of breaking into the corporate world.
The Big Leap!
Well, it seems like your next ‘office’ seemed to be a bit further than just one village away? Indeed! By this point I had built a network of creative contacts and found out about a PA internship with a journalist. I was ecstatic when I found out that I was successful, not only because it was going to be intellectually challenging, but because the role was based in Hollywood, Los Angeles!
Can you tell me a little more about your role? I assisted my boss with her celebrity interviews and reviews of exclusive bars and restaurants for PR purposes. She would often publish these reviews on well-established blogs and newspapers such as The Sunday Times. I would transcribe her interviews, and occasionally help her edit articles. The job carried lots of responsibilities, and I was involved throughout the whole journalism process, including brainstorming potential interviewees and researching who will be ‘hot’ in the coming months’.
It often felt like a dream come true! One day I was working in a hairdresser’s salon washing a client’s hair, and the next month I was in West Hollywood Soho House, sunbathing next to Rihanna, and shopping in Barney’s with Kylie Jenner!
How does the work culture differ in LA compared to London? London and LA are both unique, but they have similarities and differences, and because of this I adore them both for different reasons. Whilst people in LA strive for success, the LA lifestyle is actually quite chilled. Business is conducted over brunch in Beverly Hills, or even on a hike in Runyon Canyon! Whereas in London, business is business. People are equally as passionate, but the traditional 9-5 business model, the structure of the city, and the weather all make a big difference.
Why did you not return to LA for work? When my visa expired and I returned to the UK, I was desperate to go back to LA. However, over time I realised that I was satisfied with my experience and felt like I was ready to move on with my career.
Back to the City…
Tell me a little bit about your next job. Sure! After a few temporary roles including the Warner Brothers recording studio on Kensington High Street, I secured a receptionist job at the Cadogan Clinic, a dermatology and cosmetic surgery clinic in Chelsea. I really enjoyed my time there and still keep in touch with many of my ex-colleagues!
What made you enjoy your experience at the Clinic so much? By the time that I joined the Cadogan Clinic, I was 25 years old. Admittedly, I was at crossroads with my career – I felt very lost. I wanted a stable career, but I didn’t know where to direct myself. I didn’t have great GCSE’s and by that point, it wasn’t worth re-taking them. My colleagues, some of which I still class as my role models, were extremely supportive of me, and being surrounded by these people, who were at the top of their game, gave me a much-needed confidence boost.
I can’t help but ask…what is the secret to healthy skin? WEAR SPF EVERY SINGLE DAY!
The Road to Radcliffe…
You left the Clinic after two years – what happened next? I took a month out and came back with a refreshed mind and quite an important realisation. I knew that I liked working in an industry that changed how people lived. However, I was ready to progress to an industry that helped the world develop, not just an individual. I shortly secured a receptionist job at Radcliffe Chambers.
What was the interview process like? The first interview was fairly casual. I think that they were genuinely just trying to get a feel of who I was and how I would interact with the barristers. In a sense, the work environment at Radcliffe Chambers was quite similar to the Cadogan Clinic – barristers and surgeons are both self-employed and work to an extremely high standard – so therefore, I found it quite easy to fit in and transfer my existing skills.
Tell me a little bit about your current role. After a few months on reception, the opportunity to interview for the marketing assistant position arose (my current role). No two days are ever the same, however, my role is mainly focused on in-person events and webinars, website and social media development, and general business development tasks. I am also on the social responsibility and wellbeing committee.
How would you describe the culture at Radcliffe Chambers? The culture at Radcliffe Chambers is second to none. We are all on a first name basis and there is a real sense of community. Pre-coronavirus, we would have regular social events such as a chambers’ breakfast every term and evening drinks. We are all regularly rewarded for our hard work!
What advice would you give to students aiming to pursue the barrister route? Dig deep and try to understand the real reasons you are aspiring to pursue a career at the Bar. Apply for mini-pupillages at a range of sets and in different areas of the law. This will enable you to experience a day in the life of a barrister, and also get a feel for different practice areas.
Mooting and debating clubs are also a great way to practise your advocacy skills, an important part of a barrister’s practice.
Barrister’s also spend a considerable amount of time providing written opinions. If you’re looking to improve your writing skills, try reading a news article from a quality paper, going to the comments section, and then constructing a counterargument. It’s a great brain training and writing exercise.
It’s also important to rule out what you don’t want to do. So, it’s worth getting some work experience in other legal professions too.
Ultimately, the more research into the profession you can do the better! A big part of a barrister’s job is to research, so if you are committed to a career at the bar, it will be great practise!
STEPHANIEANAIS.COM, #NoFilter, and The Student Lawyer:
I hear that you are a keen blogger, tell me a little more about this! I first started blogging in LA for fun and the focus was mainly on skincare and aesthetics, style, and wellness. Continuity was once a weakness of mine so I used the blog as a personal development project and documented my progress through my articles. Also, because I am dyslexic, I thought it would be a great way to improve my writing skills.
I am still very passionate about skincare, wellbeing, and personal development, so I wanted to combine these interests of mine with my love of the legal industry.
I noticed that law students with a large social media following used their platform to provide aspiring lawyers with useful advice, which is fantastic! However, I found that there was little advice beyond the academic side of securing an interview. Furthermore, from my time working in a prestigious hair salon, where I helped style and colour the hair of many partners (men and women) at Magic Circle law firms, I’m aware of how important it is for legal professionals to feel comfortable with their treatment provider. Therefore, I decided to rebrand and devote my blog to helping aspiring professionals and professionals alike look and feel confident; also vital ingredients of securing a job and having a successful career.
Off the back of my blog, I am launching a podcast series called #NoFilter. The podcast is in pre-production stages, but as an overview, I’ll be chatting candidly to an expert in their own right about wellbeing and entrepreneurship.
You are also involved in The Student Lawyer, right? Yes! The Student Lawyer (TSL) is an online publication platform set up by students for students. I joined TSL in 2019 as Editor of Interviews and in December 2019 co-founded, and now host TSL’s podcast.
What do you look for when you are looking for a potential interviewee? Two things. Firstly, experience. Our listeners range from secondary school students to undergraduates and graduates, so we are looking for a range of guests so that we can provide valuable advice to all of our listeners.
Secondly, people with a unique career journey. Social mobility and equality have always been important to me, so I try to secure guests that don’t come from a traditional legal background.
The Final Destination?
It seems that you have had a whirlwind of a journey into law! What are your plans for the future? Are you thinking of taking the barrister route? At the moment, I am just aiming to make it out of university alive! Balancing a full-time job with a part-time degree has been extremely challenging. I am open to any opportunities, however I am interested in exploring opportunities within law firms rather than chambers. I regularly listen to legal podcasts and have found commercial law and family law to be quite interesting.
It seems that you are balancing quite a lot of responsibility! What is your secret to multitasking effectively? For me, the most important thing is knowing what I need to do and knowing when it needs to be completed, without it turning into an urgent task. This can often be a little challenging due to my dyslexia but I have found using a calendar and scheduling a time for all my tasks (and sticking to it!) works best for me. My schedule is quite regimented and strict, but I know that it will pay off.
Thank you for letting me interview you. Do you have any last words?
- Never stop educating yourself,
- Keep an open mind and try new things,
- If you want something bad enough, have confidence in yourself to go and get it,
- Don’t let setbacks hold you back.
You can follow Stephanie’s blog here and follow her on Instagram @iamstephanieanais.