Work experience, probate changes, and a divorce divide - your letters to the editor

Please give students work experience


It is a difficult time for students to get work experience at the moment, particularly within law, as social distancing measures make internships challenging to implement, and restrictions mean that many legal professionals are working from home wherever possible.


I know first-hand that when it comes to starting a career in law, connections are everything, so getting work experience and receiving mentorship from those working in the industry are really important. When the pandemic started, I was concerned about how I would gain experience. With no family or friends working in law, I had no access to the profession. I think that like me, many students will worry about how they will be able to boost their CVs and stand out from the competition in future university and job applications, given the current climate.


I would like to make other concerned students aware that there are opportunities out there. I was lucky to be part of Seren – a scheme designed to support students at state schools like me to fulfil their higher education ambitions. Through Seren, I took part in multiple university-level law master-classes and sessions, which boosted my knowledge.


Seren also put me in touch with LEDLET, which runs an annual summer internship jointly with Legal Wales. The programme helps young people in Wales interested in a career in law to get experience, education and mentoring. While pandemic restrictions meant it had to take place virtually last summer, the scheme still offered the same level of insight, training and mentorship and I found the experience invaluable.


During the programme, I spoke with solicitors, barristers, legal executives and judges, hearing their insider advice about a career in law. I had my own personal mentor and participated in training sessions in specific areas of law such as ‘plea in mitigation’. I also received guidance on university applications, including advice from admissions tutors at Oxford and Cardiff universities on the dos and don’ts for personal statements, and tips on how to do well in the LNAT – the university law admissions test.


Applications are now open for the 2021 virtual summer scheme and I want to encourage any students interested in law to apply. The experience taught me so much, boosted my skills, helped me feel more confident with my UCAS applications and played a key role in me getting my university offers. 


If you are a business reading this, please remember how important work experience was for you and your career, and consider how many previous interns you might have gone on to employ. Work experience is critical for young people, so if you can help in any way, please do.



Ryan Lenihan (17)



Probate changes are about costs, not service


I was far from amused to read in the Gazette’s daily newsletter of 3 February that we are being told HMCTS waiting times for grants of probate apparently now stand at about five weeks.


I have a probate application still outstanding submitted on 6 July 2020.


It was definitely received, as the attached cheque was cashed in August. Since then, I have been unable to obtain any answer or update from either the Newcastle Probate Registry, which received it, or the national telephone line.


Seven months to date and still running – is that a current record for probate applications?


I have been making probate applications on behalf of clients since 1977 and until the new system was introduced last year, I always received an exemplary service from the Probate Office, which had been staffed by experienced professionals on hand to assist with more complex issues. You could always rely upon a probate arriving within about three weeks of a correct application.


Are the changes last year really an improvement, or simply the inevitable result of costs savings by the government reducing the service to the public?


David R Craig

Solicitor, Middlesbrough


Divorce divide


I have practised family law in southern England, but I now work in Newcastle upon Tyne. While the same laws and principles apply to everyone when dealing with divorce, I have seen first-hand how they are applied differently.


Put simply, £1m will take a separating couple up north a lot further than the same couple down south. It is all too usual down south to come across a sticking point in divorce where one spouse wishes to retain the family home. This can be for many reasons – sentiment, memories, convenience – but there are two reasons northerners do not always share.


First, it is much harder to rehouse in a property of a similar size and standard to that of the family home, given the high price of properties found in the south.


People will sometimes grapple with the fact they may well need to downsize or accept it will be a struggle to get back into the property market. Where money is so limited, it may be that one person will go on living in the family home while the other has their share at a later date, usually when children are involved.


Second, properties in the south are usually more of an investment – that is natural given the higher prices. This makes it all the more difficult for someone to let go of years if not decades of hard work.


If we compare this to Newcastle, my experience so far has shown that couples are much more willing to part with the family home. It is not always considered a lifelong investment and, more often than not, there is enough capital and resources for everyone to rehouse in something not too dissimilar.


Sahil Aggarwal

Major Family Law, Newcastle upon Tyne


A refreshing take


It was so refreshing to read an alternative response to Covid. I completely agree with Mariyam Ferreira highlighting the impact Covid is having on mental health, wellbeing and the economy. Given the Covid deaths statistics, the response is disproportionate and very damaging to young people and future generations. Unfortunately, there seems very little space in the mainstream media for different opinions.


Laila Jhaveri

Solicitor, Jacobs & Todd Solicitors, Exeter