A chance message on LinkedIn has led a law student from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) to land a prestigious role with one of the world’s largest legal firms.
Hope Abraham Makenga has a two-year training contract with Gowling WLG and will be working in their London office.
“I am still in shock,” she said. “It’s such an incredible opportunity for me and I am so excited to have such an incredible start to my legal career. Working for them is a dream come true.”
Hope had already identified the company as one she wanted to work for when her friend, a recruitment consultant, sent her details of a competition the firm was running via LinkedIn. It asked people to write an essay about sustainability.
“She was very insistent I entered,” said Hope. “She kept saying this is a great opportunity for you because you are so passionate about sustainability and so I entered, not expecting anything really, and I had written it off when suddenly they got in touch to say I had been selected as one of the runners-up.”
All the runners-up were invited to an insight day at the company, to introduce the students to the firm and its work. “The culture at the firm was very inviting. It was still a corporate environment but it was warm, and friendly and I liked it a lot. It helped me realise that I wanted to work there.”
When the company announced it would be opening up applications for places with its London and Birmingham offices, Hope was determined to win a place.
However, the application process itself was tough with interviews, video interviews, behaviour-based tests, assessment centres, a week’s internship and discussions built in.
She said: “I knew it would be a few stages, but it was really comprehensive. After each stage, you would get a notification to tell you whether you had made it through to the next group. I kept sending screen shots to my family after each one they sent saying I was through to the next round, and they were so supportive, and kept cheering me on.”
During the application process she was supported by her mentor, who she was matched with through the Black Lawyers Matter project and had helped her hone down what kind of law she wanted to practise and where she wanted to work.
She was also helped by senior lecturer Brett Koenig, who is head of postgraduate careers and employability at DMU’s Law School.
After successfully completing each interview stage, Hope was offered a choice of training contracts either in Birmingham for 2024 or London in 2025. The company is also funding her LPC LLM Master’s programme.
Training contracts are notoriously difficult to obtain in the legal industry. They are a compulsory, two-year period of practical training that law graduates must complete with a law firm before they can qualify as a solicitor. AllAboutLaw estimates that 30,000 candidates apply for 5,500 training contracts per year, with the majority going to graduates from Russell Group universities.
Even though she has officially finished her studies at DMU, Hope is still taking part in a DMU Global trip to Tanzania, where she is helping to teach English in schools. Her family are originally from Tanzania so she also plans to catch up with relatives while there.
Hope, from Reading, came to DMU on the recommendation of her sister who studied Accounting and Finance. During her first year Leicester went into lockdown and the campus had to close, so it was not until towards the end of her second year that the university re-opened.
She immediately took a year abroad, and spent a year studying in a Swiss university which she loved. “After Covid, where we felt like we had lost the university experience, being able to travel and to go and study alongside students from all over the world was brilliant. It was amazing and we all became so close, even now we are all still in touch keeping each other up to date with our lives. It was also great to expand my legal knowledge and develop new skills in modules such as programming.
“I’m really looking forward to the DMU Global trip next month. I’m taking up all the opportunities I can after lockdown, and DMU has been a great experience despite that.”
Posted on Tuesday 13th June 2023