Aston University Law student’s journey to becoming a commercial corporate solicitor
Gurdev Riyat graduated from Aston University in 2020 with a first class degree in LLB (Hons) Law. He is currently completing the legal practice course (LPC) at the University of Law, which is being funded by the multinational law firm Pinsent Masons.
While studying law at Aston University, Gurdev discovered a passion for commercial law and decided this was the area he wanted to go into upon graduating. During his third year of university, he began applying to all of the commercial law firms within the UK, and he successfully secured a training contract with Pinsent Masons. This law firm was named the most innovative firm in Europe by the Financial Times in 2020. As a trainee solicitor at Pinsent Masons, Gurdev will undertake four, six-month long placements over a two year period. He is particularly interested in working in the banking, finance, restructuring and commercial real estate sectors.
Before being able to work as a trainee solicitor, Gurdev needs to complete the LPC, which he is currently undertaking at the University of Law in Birmingham. The LPC is a yearlong postgraduate course where training solicitors are taught the basics of how to conduct client meetings, complete watertight contracts, and much more. “The LPC is a lot different to the undergraduate law degree. It is super practical and I am learning the things that I will be doing daily at work as a solicitor”, Gurdev said.
When asked how he secured a training contract at Pinsent Masons, Gurdev said: “it was a combination of work experience and good grades. With law, having a first class degree or a 2:1 is not enough. You need more to you as a candidate.” Gurdev has undertaken huge amounts of work experience throughout his time at Aston University.
His first work experience was completing summer internships at various city banks, which introduced him to the finance sector and helped him to determine whether to go into finance or law. He also completed a mini pupillage at a barristers chambers, and got to experience criminal trials first-hand. Gurdev also secured a place on the Discuss Law Programme, ran by Rare Recruitment - a social mobility charity sponsored by six top law firms. This charity aims to give exceptional students who are interested in city law into work experience placements at top firms. Through this programme, Gurdev completed work experience throughout the country at firms including Clifford Chance, Allen and Overy and Slaughter and May to name a few.
Gurdev also decided to complete a placement year during his time at university, where he worked as a paralegal at the Birmingham People’s Centre.
The Birmingham People’s Centre assists with a wide range of employment issues, providing free advice and information, and offering casework services to those most in need. The charity assists with a wide range of employment problems, from disciplinary hearings right up the employment tribunal, which might include representation in certain cases. Volunteering with this charity was important to Gurdev personally, as he wanted to use his placement year to help those who needed it most. Gurdev said: “As a Sikh, we believe in something called Sewa, which means ‘selfless service’. It was important to me to do something to help others, before joining the corporate world”.
During this year, Gurdev got to assist with issues such as wrongful dismissals and incorrect wage payments. He said: “as a student, I had never encountered these issues before, the placement year was eye-opening and instrumental for my development. It showed me a different way of working”.
Studying at Aston
Gurdev decided to study at Aston University as he liked how Aston had a small law school, which meant that students were able to form tight bonds with the lecturers. “I once had an interview for a barrister role. I emailed one of my lecturers, Dr Adam Shaw-Mellors, the day before and asked him what colour suit I should wear. He got back to me straight away!”.
He also got involved with the Law Society at Aston Students' Union, where he had the role of events co-ordinator. The society organised a trip to the Manchester Law Fair, where they got to meet people from all of the major law firms across the country. They also organised pizza nights for first year law students to help them settle in, and provide them with valuable tips and advice.
“We had some amazing speakers come to the law school as well, such as Lord Neurberger, who is the former president of the supreme court of the UK. This was all thanks to the reputation of the Aston Business School”, Gurdev recalled.
Gurdev’s advice for future students is to be proactive, and take it upon yourself to achieve your goals.
Put your career in your own hands. Use the facilities Aston University has to offer, if you take a proactive approach, you will make a lot of out of it.
He also advises prospective students to “find a balance between working as hard as you can, and enjoying yourself as much as you can. University was the best four years of my life!”