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Aysel Akhundova knew she wanted to be a lawyer from a young age and despite the pandemic qualified in September 2020 and is delighted to be retained by Dawson Cornwell.

In March 2020, when England went into lockdown, I was just under 6 months away from finishing my training contract at Dawson Cornwell in central London. Typically, the decision regarding retention would be taken around April. This was the plan until COVID-19 hit and the world was plunged into uncertainty. Would work continue coming in? Will there be a recession? Will there have to be redundancies? This uncertainty induced a certain level of anxiety. I was informed that whilst the firm hoped to be able to announce their decision regarding retention, they were simply not able to do so yet. A little later, I was told they definitely wished to retain me, however, they were not able to confirm if this would be possible due to the pandemic. This was bitter-sweet. On one hand, it was great to hear that they were pleased with my work and my progress and that had it not been for the pandemic, I would have a job as a NQ solicitor. On the other hand, it was upsetting to know that circumstances completely out of my control were now dictating my future. Whilst I was told by friends and colleagues that I should be celebrating this achievement (namely, that they would offer me a job if they could), it felt strange to so do, given that there were absolutely no guarantees.

I realised that there was no point dwelling on that, for it truly was out of my control. I decided to accept that I had worked hard throughout my training contract and will continue to do so. Whatever happens, will happen. I just had to accept the ‘wait and see approach’.  I distracted myself with work.

On 9 July, just under 2 months before the end of my training contract, Dawson Cornwell offered me a place as an NQ solicitor, starting in September 2020. At a time, when so many people were losing their jobs and so many trainees were not offered places at their firms, a sense of calm and gratitude descended over me. Then the deferred elation kicked in.

By the end of September 2020, I started my application for admission to the Roll of Solicitors. I expected this to be a long-winded and painful process. It turned out to be the complete opposite. I filled out the necessary forms online and once my training principal signed off on my period of recognised training, I was free to apply for admission! The quick turnaround time surprised me. I had understood that you could only be admitted on the Roll of Solicitors two times per month. However, I was free to choose the day. A few weeks prior to this, I found an activity sheet I had completed when I was aged 7 or 8 years old. It asked me to ‘write five predictions about things you expect to accomplish or become’. The very first thing on my list was ‘to be a loyer’ (lawyer). Turns out, I wished to become a solicitor before I could spell properly!

I was admitted as a Solicitor of the Senior Courts of England and Wales on 3 September 2020, exactly two years after I started my training contact and some 17-18 years after I predicted this for myself.

Whilst I have not been able to attend a ceremony at the Law Society or celebrate this long-awaited achievement with my colleagues who have been on this journey with me, I hope to be able to do so in the near future. Perhaps I will just have to throw a 1-year qualification party instead!

October 2020