Staff in the Spotlight – Melissa Russell

I have always had an interest in law. I recently found a journal that I had when I was in primary school and in it I’ve written that my dream was to become a solicitor who wears gold trousers with flashy trainers and earns lots of money… I clearly had a good insight into the profession (and fashion sense) from an early age!!

It was really my dad, who has been a police officer for as long as I can remember, who sparked my interest in the subject. I first studied law at Reigate College at 16 and it was by far my favourite subject and so it seemed an obvious choice for me to further my studies in the subject. So, in 2015 I embarked on the LLB (Law Degree) at the University of Gloucestershire.

2018 was finally the year to graduate. I was ready to say goodbye to the lecture halls, the late nights in the library and the town I had called home for the last 3 years. It was time for the job hunt to begin and the student life to end.

Graduation Day!

I had worked in my local pub for the last 7 and a half years and to say it was a comfort blanket would be a massive understatement. When you’ve worked in the same place since you were 15 you learn a lot about yourself. I have never been particularly shy but having a job in a pub certainly helped to bring me out of my shell. I’d grown up there and it taught me to be resilient no matter what life throws my way. Apart from learning vital customer service skills, how to change kegs and how to pull pints, you meet different people every day from all walks of life and learn to be able to communicate on all levels.  There is a massive sense of community at the pub, which I thrive on.

After university, I learnt to drive and took a trip of a lifetime to Brazil, but it was six months on from graduation and I hadn’t found my perfect grad job. I sent my CV to many local firms but had the same response from all of them – I was lacking in experience. For anyone who has tried to break into the legal profession, they will know it is a tough nut to crack! Then, one of the regulars at the pub who is connected with the firm, suggested I send my CV to Baldwin and Robinson. From there I was able to negotiate an invaluable week of work experience. By doing this, I was able to prove to myself and the firm that I had potential beyond what was written on my CV.

I found a team who saw potential in me and a firm who were willing to help me succeed in my career. I joined Baldwin and Robinson in June 2019 and I’ve been working as a Legal Assistant in the Commercial Property Department for them for the past six months.

Day to day, life in my role has me ‘front of house’ for the firm and not the front of house I’m used to at the pub! I am usually your first point of contact in the Commercial Department. Working in conveyancing often reminds me of being in the law school library on coursework submission day! There is a huge amount of paperwork and administration that needs to be done and on a tight schedule in order to meet deadlines. As well as my general admin duties, firm Partner, Simon has given me the responsibility of being in charge of some of my own files (with his expert assistance of course!).  This involves things like carrying out important title checks, raising enquiries, and preparing mortgage reports. I enjoy working with a great team in a fast pace environment, often under high pressure.

When I’m not working in the office I’m still committed to working at the pub.  I might be crazy, but it feels more like a hobby than my job and it’s always a good place for networking!

I would advise any future law graduate to grab any work experience opportunity that is given to them. You never know what it could lead to. Most importantly, you should believe in yourself, regardless of what anyone else thinks of your abilities.

With the support of Simon and the team I am hoping to go back to University in September 2020 to study the Legal Practice Course which will put me on the next rung of the ladder to becoming a Solicitor. My current goal is to be the first trainee solicitor at Baldwin and Robinson, albeit without the gold trousers and flashy trainers!