Meghana Hegdekar is a trainee in the clinical negligence team in the Manchester office
To lead with head and heart: my journey to a training contract with Leigh Day
I am incredibly proud and honoured to have been offered a training contract by my dream law firm, Leigh Day-the final stepping stone to becoming a qualified solicitor, with no better place or people to journey it with.
In final year of university, two months after my dad passed, I remember finishing my exams and feeling like an elephant had taken one of its legs off my chest.
But after the dust settled and university was over and I had my law degree in hand, in all honesty, I started to become slightly disillusioned with the prospect of a legal career.
Final interview after final interview, assessment centre after assessment centre, vacation scheme after vacation scheme-it seemed like nothing but a string of almosts and an abundance of wasted effort.
I was grieving, burnt out, and feeling as lost as we all do in our twenties, after the safe cocoon of University cracks open and drops us at 100mph back into the real world-but this time, in the swirling unfamiliarity of young adulthood, and not as the blissfully unaware kids we once were.
The real world-where we are given the incredibly freeing, but often overwhelming, job of finding who it is we are, who we want to be and what we want to do with this life.
But for a while, I became a fish trying to climb a tree.
My heart was not in the opportunities I was chasing and I was looking for validation in all the wrong places, listening to advice from people who had no real understanding of who I was and no real experience of where I wanted to be.
Around that time, I came upon on a video of Martyn Day sharing his motivation behind founding Leigh Day-a firm fiercely committed from the outset to defending vulnerable communities and giving strength to their voiceless-ness:
"I never wanted to be a man who left his heart at home. I wanted to take my brain and my heart with me on that tube and that's what we're all about".
Martyn's work and words went on to become one of the biggest catalysts towards re-igniting my passion towards legal work, as I could finally see something of myself them.
Since then, I have had the privilege of working at Leigh Day with a brilliant team headed by Shazia Yamin, representing thousands of clients against the world's largest motor manufacturers over cheat devices used to artificially pass EU emissions tests, poisoning our atmosphere with up to 40 times more than the legal level of nitrogen oxides.
Since starting my training contract, I have worked with an inspiring and supportive team headed by Stephen Jones on a variety of clinical negligence claims including cases involving brain, spinal and fatal injuries, neonatal deaths, delayed diagnoses, wrongful birth claims and inquiry work. It is a true privilege to support our clients-many of whom who have been severely injured, developed complex, life-long care needs, or are grieving loved ones as a result of negligent care and treatment-through what can often be the most difficult period of their lives.
During this time, I have come to realise Martyn’s words are not a romanticized caricature of what Leigh Day stands for-they truthfully encapsulate the ethos behind everything the firm does and everything its people are.
For decades, Leigh Day has skillfully, passionately and unapologetically placed a spotlight on some of the world's biggest human rights and environmental injustices.
From defending asylum seekers facing unlawful detention by the Home Office, to securing landmark Supreme Court rulings for fair wages for Uber drivers and shop workers.
From achieving £15m in compensation from Shell for its devastating oil pollution in the Niger Delta, to securing life-changing settlements for workers suffering from industrial diseases at the hands of British multinationals.
Leigh Day has been instrumental in setting ground-breaking precedent, driven the most important test cases in the UK, and had a pioneering impact on domestic and international claimant-led litigation.
Contact the careers team
For as long as I can remember, whether through writing, volunteering, career or community projects, I have always needed my work to mean something-for it to illuminate some kind of truth about ourselves and the world around us, or in some way help in championing the vulnerable, threatened, injured and forgotten.
But so many law firms advise that you don't market yourself in this way; that you refrain from using heart-led language and tone down the importance of serving people; that this should not be your overriding motivation to pursue law, as it demonstrates an air of naivety and a lack of commercial awareness.
Respectfully, I disagree.
I think that there comes great wisdom, strength and intuition in leading from our hearts.
And whilst it is undeniably true that law firms are money-making businesses, they are not soulless structures that operate in a vacuum.
They are vehicles for achieving seismic shifts towards a more just, equal and fair society where every person from every walk of life feels emboldened to use their voice to share their story.
Many of us come into law as blue-eyed babies wanting to make a change.
And many of us lose our love for it along the way.
I know how the wrong advice, the cookie cutter moulds and the robotic regurgitation of learned answers in 6-stage recruitment cycles can extinguish that fire inside us.
It is a short life we get to live, but we can’t let its brevity rush us into giving up on the dreams that take time, or scare us from starting over when old dreams no longer feel authentic to the person we have grown into.
I am so grateful to Leigh Day for believing and trusting in me to be a part of the future of this firm; for embracing me in my fullness and never making me feel I had to choose between my head and my heart; for allowing me to share with them from a place of authenticity and meeting my professional and creative passions with genuine interest and encouragement.
And after having spent the last year travelling, writing, collecting stories and learning more about myself and the people we share this diverse world with as I go, I can’t wait to see what this equally exciting new chapter as a trainee solicitor has in store.