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How to become a solicitor
An Interview with Matthew Tuff, with advice on how to become a solicitor
Matthew Tuff is a Senior Solicitor at Hudgell Solicitors who specialises in personal injury law. He discusses how he got started in the field and provides helpful advice for any students who are hoping to pursue a career in law.
What made you decide to become a solicitor?
I came out of university with a degree in English Literature which, whilst interesting, is perhaps not the most useful degree to have when entering the job market! After converting to law and starting my legal career, I decided early on that I wanted to specialise in personal injury. The reason for this was the element of human interest, as it was distinct from commercial law, which seemed a bit dry to me.
How did you find your university experience as a law student?
I studied English Literature at university and then took the ‘law conversion course’ at the College of Law. The law conversion course attempts to pack into one year all the essential elements of a three year law degree, which is quite challenging!
Describe your typical day.
It sounds like a cliché, but there is no such thing as a typical day. I may be at court for a hearing, visiting a client at home or in hospital, or in the office preparing for a case. One of the best things about the job is its variety.
What is your favourite part of your job?
One of my favourite parts is getting out and meeting our clients. We are always happy to visit clients, whatever part of the country they may be in. There is no substitute for a face-to face-meeting.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
The job can be high-pressured with many tight court deadlines. However, as long as you are well organised this should not present problems.
Which has been your most interesting case to work on, and why?
I recently acted on behalf of a young man who suffered a spinal injury and head injury when he was cycling to work and a car collided with him. He had to give up a promising career in the army. We recovered £6 million for him. He was an inspiring young man who won a ‘Pride of Britain’ award after he gave £22,000 of his compensation to a young cerebral palsy sufferer, to enable him to have pioneering treatment in America.
What was the turning point in your career?
When I was asked to assist on my first serious injury case, over 10 years ago. This involved a young man who had suffered a spinal injury in West Wales, when travelling as a passenger in a car that was being chased by the police. Since then, I have worked on numerous complex injury cases, including spinal injury, brain injury and fatal accident cases.
What advice would you give an aspiring lawyer?
Try to obtain as much legal work experience as possible. This could be through working in a law firm, law centre or barrister’s chambers. It could be unpaid work experience or paid work as a paralegal. Before I started Law College, I spent a year doing unpaid work experience in law firms, barrister’s chambers and law centres. I even ‘shadowed’ a judge at the local county court!
How can an applicant stand out from the crowd?
It is important to have more than just good academic qualifications and to show that you have interests outside your studies. At university, join clubs or societies or take part in sports if you are a sporty person. If you are interested in working as a serious injury lawyer, you might consider working for charities such as Headway (a brain injury charity) or for the Backup Trust or the SIA (both of which are spinal injury charities).