Lee Baker, Trainee Solicitor, Clinical Negligence at Price Slater Gawne

17 July 2017

Interlink Recruitment meets Lee Baker and discusses his unique route into law, from Pharmacist to Trainee Solicitor, and the determination needed to get the career you want.

[Interlink Recruitment]
Q:  Thank you, Lee for taking the time to share your career journey with us.  Your route into law, starting as a Pharmacist is quite different, please tell us some more about your decision for the career change.

[Lee Baker]
A:  I chose to study Pharmacy at Nottingham University and it soon became clear it wasn’t for me, but I stuck with it because at the end of the day, it was a well-paid job.  I think when you are eighteen, it’s hard to make those career-defining decisions, you are still very young and it’s easy to put yourself on a path that you don’t necessarily want to go down.  
I got into pharmacy when it was quite different to what it is today and spent a good fourteen years as a Pharmacist.  Time passes quickly and you easily become dependent upon a certain salary. My decision to re-train eventually came in 2010; pharmacy was changing under the new Pharmacy Order and there was a noticeable disconnect between the supply and demand of Pharmacists.  Not only were pharmacies opening everywhere, in multiples and supermarkets for example but there was more regulatory involvement and they became more like businesses to run.  I realised I wanted a job that was more stimulating and challenging and decided to re-train in law.

[Interlink Recruitment]
Q:  That must have been a big decision to make, to go back to studying, especially after so many years spent working in pharmacy?  

[Lee Baker]
A:  It was and at the time my second child was only about six month’s old, so it was a decision that would impact my whole family.  But by this time, I was more focused and understood what I wanted from my career and my future.  I also knew I didn’t want to turn my back completely on all I had learnt with pharmacy, plus I always had an interest in clinical negligence, so it became the obvious choice to go down that route.  

[Interlink Recruitment]
Q:  Where did you start in terms of courses and getting the experience needed?      

[Lee Baker]
A:  I originally did a Graduate Diploma in Law with The College of Law, Manchester before going to bar school and doing the BPTC full-time at Manchester Metropolitan University.  However, pupillages were difficult to get and I knew if I was going to progress, I needed to get more experience in law and get it quickly. 
That’s when I took the role of Assistant Head of Care Costs at KG Solicitors, recovering care fees for clients from the NHS.  The position was ideal and I was lucky; they wanted someone with advocacy or clinical experience and I had both.  It got me on the first rung of the ladder so to speak, but after ten months I was keen to broaden my experience.  By this time, I realised the Bar wasn’t going to happen, so I started the LPC and had a training contract lined up at Goldsmith’s, where I spent three happy years managing the Care Costs department.  I enjoyed it, but in the back of my mind I never lost sight of my original goal, that I wanted to work in clinical negligence.
And pursuing that goal finally came for me when I approached Price Slater Gawne and was fortunate to secure a training contract there..  I’ve had a lot of luck but I’ve also been persistent and stayed true to my ambitions.

[Interlink Recruitment]
Q:  Do you think your first-hand experience of working in a clinical environment has helped with your re-training?

[Lee Baker]
A:  Yes definitely, it’s important to have something extra to bring to the table.  Even at bar school, barristers are encouraged to do or have something that makes them different because you need to stand out.  My clinical background certainly comes in useful with what I do now, it helps my   understanding of situations too.
And as part of my training contract I shall be taking a Higher Rights of Audience course with the aim of becoming a Solicitor Advocate, bringing together my best of both worlds.  I really am fortunate - from my original clinical background, I’ve taken the three things I always wanted to do and moulded them into one.  

[Interlink Recruitment]
What advice would you give to any law students considering a future in clinical negligence?    

[Lee Baker]
A:  I would tell them it’s a very rewarding and interesting area of law to get into, albeit very niche.  Clinical negligence is a different standard of litigation compared to others, which can be very automated.  With clinical negligence, the caseload is often smaller but the work per file is much more interesting and intellectually stimulating. 

[Interlink Recruitment]
How is your training contract going and when are you due to qualify?

[Lee Baker]
A:  I shall be qualifying in November 2018.  I’m really enjoying it and as I said before, the decision for the career change was a big one, especially when you’re forty years old, have a young family and financial commitments, like myself.  It’s something you must be very sure about, choosing to go in the complete opposite direction, and something you have to stick to.  I remember walking out of my last pharmacy exam and saying to myself, “I am never studying again,” and here I am.

[Interlink Recruitment]
How do you like to de-stress, especially when you’re a Trainee Solicitor with a family to look after?

[Lee Baker]
A:  Well, it helps a lot that Price Slater Gawne is quite different to traditional law firms with long working hours.  The firm offers a very good work/life balance. Thanks to that, I’m able to get to the gym a few times a week, and I do karate with my son twice a week too.  They also have an agile working programme, which starts after a period with the firm.  I am looking forward to that and the opportunity to work from home.  I will be able to save the hours spent commuting and to put them to good use.

[Interlink Recruitment]
How do you find it being a ‘mature’ student lawyer? 

[Lee Baker]
A:  Oh, I’m absolutely fine with it – it helps that I’m a big kid at heart!  I love working with younger people, doing so helps keep yourself young.  To some, the age thing is very important but it’s not so for me.  But I would say there is a lot more pressure at this age; I can’t plough away doing Paralegal work and enriching my CV, everything becomes much more time-sensitive when you have commitments.  But that pressure certainly helps drive determination, my approach this time is completely different to my time spent at University.  For me now, the race is on to complete my training contract and qualify as a lawyer.

[Interlink Recruitment]
What advice would you give to anyone considering an ambitious career change, as you did?

[Lee Baker]
A:  Back when I qualified as a Pharmacist, you did a three-year degree course and then applied for a one-year pre-registration position.  In those days, there was no competition and you got your pre-registration position, granted.  All you had to do was pass the exams.  Law on the other hand is very tough – the competition is fierce and not only do you need the highest grades, but you need to stand out as an individual. 
The frustration I experienced was that I got a 2:2 in my original degree at Nottingham University, back in 1997.  While it was good at the time, it did not translate as such some fifteen years later and as a result I couldn’t secure a pupillage, despite achieving a commendation on the GDL and a Very Competent on the BPTC.  I have since attained a 2:1 LLB and a distinction in the LPC.  These grades have certainly helped to secure a training contract.
My advice to anyone would be that it’s important to do the very best you can in your exams, from very early, on as you never know what the future brings. 

I think as well, it’s much more acceptable to change career path nowadays, there’s no real ‘job for life’ philosophy as our parents’ generation had.  For myself, staying in Pharmacy was going to get harder anyway with the new challenges, so it was an easy decision to make.  I say, if you want do it, then do it.  But, making such a big decision requires your whole heart and soul to be in it, because you really do have to put the hard work and effort in.    

[Interlink Recruitment]
Thank you again, Lee – it’s been a real pleasure to learn more about your experiences.  We wish you every success finishing your training contract and with your future in clinical negligence.  


Interlink meets is an opportunity for us to share career insights with like-minded legal professionals. We are fortunate enough to get to talk to many faces in the world of law, through 'Interlink meets...' we hope to inspire others with their legal future. 


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