Name: Krysteen Ormond
Job Title: In-House Trainee Solicitor
Backstory: I grew up in the Falkland Islands, a British Overseas Territory 8,000 miles away from London. With no post-GCSE education in the Islands, I travelled alone to the UK to finish my education, studying languages, cultures and propaganda, before heading home and running the civil service government communications and diplomatic lobbying service. In 2016, I packed my bags and came back to the UK to study the law conversion course (Graduate Diploma in Law or GDL) and Legal Practice Course (LPC) with the University of Law in Birmingham. Now, I am a trainee solicitor in an independent oil and gas exploration and production company in London.
Who or what influenced you to change careers to law?
I’d always been interested in law, but for a very long time kept convincing myself that people with my background (from overseas, first in family to go to uni, working class, female) just weren’t right for a career in the legal sector. Then aged 24, I was appointed as a Justice of the Peace (lay Magistrate) and soon realised it takes all sorts to make the law work and decided to take the gamble on myself and signed up for law school.
If you didn’t pursue a legal career what would you be doing now?
There are a lot of synergies between communications/PR and law, so I imagine I’d be doing something in the comms vein still. I adored working for the public sector, so if I weren’t where I am now, I think I’d probably be working on communication strategies for the FCDO, or Cabinet Office – got to reach high, right?
What does success mean to you?
Success means being where I fit and putting my skills to good use. To be paid the world but dread going to the office, or having a fancy job title but no voice or agency, is my worst nightmare.
What would you say is a common misconception or misunderstanding aspiring or junior lawyers have about the legal profession?
The only way in is via private practice. Yes, training in a law firm gives you a standardised, structured, predictable way to train, but in-house has its benefits, and more organisations are bringing their legal functions in-house. I get to be the client and counsel at the same time. I’m across every aspect of our business and I might start the day negotiating joint operating agreements with exploration and finish it executing security documents with treasury. I work at the coalface and every day is different – it is really rewarding.
Imagine a time when you felt like giving up. What helped you bounce back?
In June 2020, I was ready to leave law. I’d been trying for a training contract (TC) for four years, never getting further than telephone interviews. I just knew I was never going to make it. I suddenly found myself living alone during lockdown, the pandemic had hit my industry hard and I was sure there would be lay-offs and I panicked. Then the time alone gave me perspective – yes, I was still a paralegal, but was working in a team I liked, doing a job that was rewarding, my skills were being put to use and I had a place to grow. My trajectory might have been a little less rocket and a little more Catherine wheel, but I was moving. That thought helped me get my mojo back and in December 2020 I was offered my TC.
What careers advice would you give to your younger self?
Stop waiting for the other shoe to drop, girl! You earned your role. Your background gives you a different perspective; your life story can be your greatest strength and not your biggest weakness. Closed doors and TC rejections will hurt, but you will end up right where you need to be. Keep the faith.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt about life and / or work outside of a formal education setting or away from the office?
Avoid saying no to meeting invites with caution. The worst that will happen is someone buys you a coffee and the best – a chance to do something you love. Everything I have ever done is because someone randomly asked to speak to me about something and it always pushed me down the road less travelled. I was doing my GDL in 2017 when I was copied an email from a member of the legal team at Premier Oil, which led to an internship, then a paralegal role and eventually to my TC.
Your route into law has been quite unusual. What advice would you give to mature students / career changers who are considering a switch?
My advice is: back yourself. You ‘can’ do the challenging stuff and do them well. I moved 8,000 miles to a city I’d never lived in to study a subject I knew nothing about. I didn’t have any vacation schemes under my belt, had an alright-but-not-stellar undergrad degree but I did have practical work experience, a strong(ish) work ethic and a desire to be good at law. It is daunting giving up a stable job (or going part-time) to study, but the stress and the panic are worth it.
Also, be prepared to learn how to take lecture notes on a laptop. For my whole life I’d taken long-form, handwritten notes and then broke my wrist during my LPC and had to learn to take notes on a laptop like the rest of my class; it was life-changing and time-saving!