Andrew Spence

Andrew is a trainee solicitor in our Manchester office. He talks about his career journey and shares his advice for late bloomers and career changers.

What did you do before becoming a lawyer? 

I grew up in a traditional working-class part of the North West. None of my family were educated beyond high school and I was encouraged as a teenager to get a “proper job” instead of going to university. So, that’s what I did, and spent a decade working mainly in the hospitality sector. Whilst I enjoyed aspects of these roles, hospitality never truly felt like a long-term career for me. I was 27 when I reevaluated what I wanted to achieve with my life and began to consider enrolling at university. 

Can you describe your journey from mature student to trainee solicitor?

I needed to complete an access to higher education course (the equivalent of A levels) before I could go to university. There was no maintenance funding, so I worked full time alongside my studies. I found juggling study and work challenging, but I left college with the skills, confidence, and qualifications I needed to go on to study Law at the University of York. 

My decision to pursue a career in law was pragmatic (which, as my friends would attest, is true to my personality). I considered my strengths (analysing and solving problems, building and maintaining relationships with customers, communicating clearly and persuasively) and the things I enjoyed most about my previous careers (helping customers achieve their goals, developing others), and reached the conclusion that a career in law was right for me.  

I initially considered training as a barrister. Ultimately, however, I realised that I can be my best work-self when working collaboratively and bouncing ideas off others. So instead I started looking at firms to train at following graduation. 

Why did you pick Mills & Reeve?

I was drawn to Mills & Reeve because it had an established office in the North West, offered hands-on training across diverse practice areas for commercial and private clients, and shared my values. I applied for the summer placement and training contract in my second year at university but was unsuccessful. The following year I completed placements with three firms and was ecstatic when I was offered a training contract with Mills & Reeve. 

One of the things I like most about training at Mills & Reeve is that trainees are valued for our differences and unique life experiences. We have the freedom from day one to build our careers in the way we want. That may mean being involved in the staff networks, charitable efforts or organising social events. For example, last year I co-ordinated 12 people who ran the relay event in the Manchester marathon, and I’m currently organising a networking event in our office for local LGBTQ business leaders. 

Any advice for late bloomers and career changers?  

(Warning: this section may contain cliches.)  

There were a few reasons I put off going to university and changing careers for so long. I worried I wouldn’t be good enough. I worried being older than other trainees would mean I would struggle adapting or training. I worried being gay and having an accent might limit my opportunities. None of these things have held me back at Mills & Reeve – if anything, they’ve only made me a better trainee.  

My biggest piece of advice to someone thinking of making the change into law would be to resist giving into fears of “what if?” and give yourself the benefit of the doubt. You never know what you can or can’t achieve unless you give it a go. 

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