Interview: 'I switched from science to law'

Siddharth Kusumakar, 30, is a trainee solicitor at Olswang
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The Independent Online

I was born in India and raised in Scotland and Canada. I attended McGill University in Canada, where I studied science for curiosity's sake and with no career path in mind. I came back to the UK to study for a Masters degree in immunology at Imperial College, London, before working as a biomedical research scientist at Guy's Hospital, London, for a number of years.

Working as a scientist, I had been increasingly interested in the legal and commercial aspects concerning technological innovation, and became aware subsequently that a career in research science was not for me. So, at the age of 27 I decided to embark upon a graduate diploma in law (GDL) at the College of Law, London.

The GDL is a one-year course covering the seven foundations of legal knowledge: contract; tort; property; equity and trusts; EU; public; and criminal. In effect, the GDL replaces the law degree. It is assessed by a final examination comprising a three-hour paper in each of the core areas.

I chose law for a number of reasons. It offers amazing diversity: solicitors can apply their knowledge to almost any industry or environment you can think of and, in my case, it would allow me to make use of my scientific background. I also wanted to work in an environment where hard work and talent are recognised and rewarded.

As a career changer, I had to work hard to demonstrate to law firms that my decision to pursue law was an informed and reasoned one. In addition to volunteering at Tottenham Law Centre and gaining work experience at law firms, I participated in various commercial activities at the College of Law. I believe that the most important element in securing a training contract with Olswang was the ability to convey a genuine enthusiasm for a career as a solicitor, as well as presenting my career change as an asset rather than a drawback.

Although I came from a science background, during the GDL I realised that I was interested in a variety of legal topics. I was attracted to Olswang because of its specialities in intellectual property and technology law. As a more experienced trainee, I also wanted the opportunity to take on the greater responsibility that is afforded to trainees at mid-size, rather than large, law firms.

I initially applied for a two-week summer work placement scheme at Olswang by submitting an online application form. Following an interview and psychometric test, I was offered a summer placement. The placement provided an excellent opportunity to experience the type of work undertaken by a trainee solicitor, as well as a valuable opportunity to introduce myself to the firm. Following more tests and interviews during the placement, Olswang offered me a training contract.

At Olswang, my first seat was in EU and competition law, where I mainly undertook research to assist senior lawyers so that they could advise clients in the broadcast, telecoms and gaming sectors. I have recently started my third seat in banking and finance.

I have also enjoyed the chance to spend six months at the BBC on secondment. I worked in the legal and business affairs department where I assisted production staff when they were procuring new media services - such as elements for the BBC website or computer-generated graphics for television programmes - by drafting contracts and advising on legal issues as they arose.

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