As the first member of her family to go into a legal career, Anne Spetch now works as a successful in-house solicitor and has travelled all over the world.
Where do you call home?
Durham. I grew up a few miles from where I live now.
Tell us about your role?
I am an in-house solicitor. This involves me working with the business across a broad range of areas including drafting and reviewing contracts for goods and services, putting in place collaborative agreements where we work with other parties on a project, and providing legal advice on anything from employment law, disputes, property issues or any other legal question the business has. We are normally busy and do a broad range of different legal work which is very interesting.
How did you get to where you are today?
I went to a comprehensive school in Durham and did A levels (English literature, sociology and history) following that. From there I did a four-year law degree at the University of Northumbria, which combined a law degree and the legal practice course. Following that, I completed a training contract in Newcastle and qualified as a solicitor in 1999.
I worked in commercial law firms as a corporate solicitor from when I qualified as a solicitor in 1999 until 2017. In 2017 I moved in house to work in a leisure company. When I left there in 2019, I had six months off, then joined the company I work in now.
I knew what I wanted to do from when I was about 14. I don’t know what put the idea in my mind but once I’d made my mind up, I pursued it. I chose my A levels as subjects I thought I would enjoy and could do well in because I knew I’d need strong A levels to get onto a law degree.
What struggles or obstacles did you face along the way?
No-one in my family worked in law so it was a new area for me to find my way around.
I still remember a careers advisor at my school telling me it would be hard to qualify as a solicitor and it might be easier to find an administrative position. All that did was make me more determined!
I was fortunate to find a temporary summer job in a law firm in Durham when I’d just finished my A levels. I was lucky enough to be invited back every summer throughout my law degree, which gave me great experience and meant I earned some money to help with my time at university. I’ll be forever grateful to them for the help and support they gave me.
You apply for training contracts in large law firms two years before you start, so in your second year at university. There were lots of interviews and selection days. It was disheartening not to get jobs I’d applied for, but I succeeded later in my second year.
I was nervous starting my training contract. I think perhaps I had a bit of “imposter syndrome”, but it all worked out fine and has done ever since.
Describe the moment you first got a feel for success?
I don’t know that I ever had a lightbulb moment exactly. It’s not all glitz and glamour, you work very hard (and at times even harder than that) and not all of it is interesting!
I have been lucky enough in my career, though, to do some great work, to meet some really interesting and inspirational people and to visit other countries to do some of it. I visited France, Spain, Italy, Germany and America as part of work I’ve been involved in and I’ve dealt with businesses in all sorts of different areas – from engineering to deep sea work to hotels and nightclubs.
Do you have any advice for aspiring young females?
If you decide on a career (legal or otherwise) and you’re serious about it, find out as much as you can about the job itself, what qualifications you need and anything else you can find about how to get into it. It might mean that you need to be studying certain subjects. If you can find people to talk to who do that job, do that too. They’ll have helpful hints and tips. Dig in and get the best exam results you can.
Also consider what things outside studying you can do to make yourself stand out from other candidates. That can be anything at all – maybe you’re doing your Duke of Edinburgh’s awards (I did), maybe you do paid or voluntary work somewhere and learn skills from that, you might be on the student council, the list is endless. Think about the sort of skills you’d need to do a job like that and find ways to demonstrate those skills where you can. Hard though it is, you need to make yourself stand out from other applicants.
Most of all, believe in yourself. If you don’t, no-one else will (other than your family and maybe a teacher or two). No-one else can do it for you so if you want something, go after it and be prepared to persevere. It may not be easy, but you’ll never know if you don’t try.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I wish I’d had the confidence I have now and I’d worried less about whether it would all work out. I stayed local to do my degree for good reasons but if I could change one thing it would be that – I should (and could) have gone away to university, but I didn’t. I had a great time at Northumbria, though, and I wouldn’t have some of the friends I have now if I’d gone somewhere else.
I’d also say to my younger self to enjoy the social side of university more. I worked really hard, but I’m sure I could have done both!
What three words inspire you and encourage a positive path?
Best foot forwards!
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