Francesca Hughes

Country: United Kingdom
Sector: Law
Job title: Trainee Solicitor
Subject of study: Politics with Study Abroad
Year of graduation: 2015
Type/Level of study: Undergraduate

Current Employer/Organisation Name

Hogan Lovells International LLP

What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?

During my final year at Exeter I managed to secure a training contract with a City law firm, Hogan Lovells International, to train as a solicitor. The firm sponsored me to take the required courses and exams before starting the job which included a one year law conversion course (Graduate Diploma in Law) and the six month Legal Practice Course (which is specific to solicitors), in London. In between these courses I also took six months off to travel, in which I au paired in Spain, participated in the British Council Women in India programme, and then went on to travel in Asia and New Zealand. After completing all my exams I started as a Trainee Solicitor at the firm and have now been there a year. I have worked in the corporate and fraud litigation departments and am now doing finance and intellectual property law before I decide which area I want to qualify into next year. I also get to do pro-bono work with start-ups and charities alongside my other work.

Why did you choose this career? And what do you enjoy most about your work?

During my year abroad in Washington DC I took some classes in law and did internships with Save the Children US and the US House of Representatives where I was working in policy and advocacy, which is when I first considered a career in law. I started looking around and applying when I was back in Exeter in my final year, and found a firm that offered a variety of practices (and would hire me!). I like living in London and working in the City, and enjoy working with clients and having lots on the go at once. There is certainly plenty of tedious trainee tasks, like most jobs, and late nights in the office but I have great friends amongst my colleagues and I know that the experience and training will be invaluable in the future.

What did you enjoy most about studying here?

I genuinely loved my elective courses, which introduced me to some really interesting areas of politics and academia, and I had great tutors and mentors throughout. I also made some incredible friends and just really enjoyed the Exeter student life; having a job, team sports, the social scene and hanging around on campus.

Why did you choose to study at Exeter?

I loved the location and campus when I looked around on an open day, and saw that it was good for studying politics with lots of options for studying abroad and taking classes in other subject area. I just felt like a great fit for me.

What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?

I would say that having had student jobs at Uni, even just waitressing and sales assistant roles have been invaluable for getting work after graduating as they teach you good core skills like customer service, management and organisation and show future employers you have a work ethic and can be reliable. I had no legal work experience when I applied for training contracts but I could give loads of work related examples of strengths and skills in interviews which certainly helped. My year abroad was also momentous for developing my self-reliance, ambition and helping me figure out a bit of what I wanted to do after Uni.

What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?

There are many different areas of law and types of firms, so do your research and look around for something that suits you. It’s a long and competitive application process and then a good 3-4 years commitment to additional studying and training after that, so you really want to know what you are getting yourself into and that it is right for you. I would recommend gaining work experience whilst at uni and during your summers but also can’t stress enough how important it is to make the most of your time at Uni and not waste it always worrying about the next step; take the opportunities on offer, work hard and participate in things that interest you.

What are your plans for the future?

In the next year I will choose an area of law to specialise into, and I will qualify as a solicitor. Longer term, I would love to work more in the with start-up businesses and social enterprises and the ultimate goal would be to have my own business or platform and carve out a work-life that suits me. I definitely want to travel more, and move abroad again. Not much certainty yet but lots of big ideas!


Similar Alumni

Richard Ive

Farrar’s Building. After leaving Exeter in September 2016, I moved to London to commence the law conversion course – the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). I completed this in June 2016. In September 2017, I commenced the BPTC – the Bar Course. I completed this in June 2018.

Jasmine Murphy

Gatehouse Chambers. After leaving Exeter in 1998 I undertook Bar School part time while working part time in London as a receptionist. In 2002 I obtained a pupillage at Hardwicke Building, following which I was offered a tenancy. I have practiced there (although we changed our name to Gatehouse Chambers in 2021) ever since and specialise in personal injury and professional negligence work.