Why Train For Your SQE At Acuity Law?
We caught up with SQE 2 trainee Sophie Azzopardi to get her impressions of SQE life at Acuity Law.
Acuity Law (AL): When you were applying for training contracts, what did Acuity offer that you felt was missing at other firms?
Sophie Azzopardi (SA): I took part in a two-week summer vacation scheme at Acuity, which gave me the insight to know that I wanted to work for the firm. Everyone was very friendly and approachable, from junior to senior level. I always encourage people who are going through the TC application process to also apply for vacation schemes. At the end of the day, you’ll be training at a firm for over two years, so it needs to be a good fit for you. In my opinion, there’s no better way of knowing if the culture is somewhere you’d thrive than by experiencing the day-to-day running and atmosphere of the firm.
The firm was also offering the SQE route which was the cherry on top. It was embracing the SQE like no other medium-sized firm and trying to put as many trainees through the process as possible. As someone who was leaning heavily towards the SQE route, accepting my TC offer was a bit of a no-brainer!
AL: What does Acuity offer you as a trainee?
SA: The huge selling point is the exposure we get as trainees. I have friends at other firms who are taken aback by the opportunities I’ve had here and the hands-on approach the firm has to training. Essentially, Acuity looks to build its trainees up from day one; you get put on leading deals in Wales and beyond, coupled with client exposure that you can usually only dream of getting as a trainee.
Recently, someone pointed out how much Acuity helps trainees in building their own brand. I couldn’t agree more with this. Whilst the firm does want us to be the best solicitors we can be, we’re also encouraged to seek-out BD opportunities and get really stuck-in with committee work. It’s great we can bring ideas to the table and see them all the way through – building up our connections within the firm and in the Welsh legal scene more broadly.
AL: Is Acuity a good place to study for the SQE?
SA: Yes, the firm has partnered with the College of Legal Practice and we have weekly timetables in place.
It’s also a firm that is committed to learning from its current SQE trainees. As we all know, the SQE will completely shake-up the qualification process and there isn’t a success formula in place yet. Acuity has been really good at adapting to SQE changes and trends, figuring out how they can support both trainees and the business. That’s a firm you want to work for.
I’ve also really valued people’s openness here. Working full-time whilst studying full-time is stressful, and the exams are mentally challenging, but I’ve never felt pressure from anyone. People have been really friendly and have always made an effort to ask whether there’s anything that can be done to alleviate some of the stress. Small gestures like this are always appreciated and make you feel really valued in the team.
AL: Do you have any tips for people studying for SQE 1?
SA: The exams were a big learning curve – I won’t beat around the bush, they were hard! SQE 1, for example, is made up of two exams, where you have five hours to answer 180 multiple-choice questions. To make it even more challenging, there is more than one right answer, as the questions ask for the best possible answer. I’d advise others to prepare themselves mentally for the exams; the better the headspace you’re in, the better you will do. Also, practice, practice, practice!
However, working alongside practising lawyers helps more than you can imagine. You don’t realise how much you’re learning by osmosis in the office – picking up information subconsciously. Getting really stuck into client work places you at a further advantage, as although the exams require a lot of theoretical knowledge, they also test how well you can apply the knowledge in practice. There were questions in the exams similar to queries I’d come across or worked on as a trainee, so I knew the right answer.
By the time I sat SQE 1, I had completed a non-contentious seat and was coming to the end of a contentious seat. Whilst both developed different skills and covered different areas of law, this was a real advantage when it came to the exams as I’d already covered a large portion of the topics contained within the SQE 1 syllabus. For those looking for qualifying work experience, I’d really recommend gaining exposure in as many different areas and sectors as the guidance allows. Not only will it assist with picking up knowledge for the SQE exams but you’ll also get a much better idea of where it is you want to qualify at the end.
Technically, you could pass the SQE and qualify never having worked a day at a law firm. But I think going through the firm structure is the best approach. You get the broader knowledge from seat rotations, whilst also gaining opportunities and relationships that will be integral to you as a NQ.
I’m always more than happy to discuss the SQE or answer any questions candidates considering this route may have- so please feel free to reach out.
Our Acuity Law Training Contract application window is open for both SQE and LPC candidates. Apply now!