Rising Star: Alexandra Withers
Associate, Trustee, Director, prize-winner – the list of Alexandra Withers’ achievements goes on and on. We managed to catch up with the busy solicitor to discuss her career thus far
‘The good thing about the firm is that they allow me to do the advocacy for my clients,’ she explains. ‘I think that means I can give them a much better service, rather than just shipping out the case to a barrister two days before who has to then magically know everything.’
The 27 year-old has also had two exciting career developments this year which mean her talents will benefit still more deserving cases. Earlier this year, she became a Trustee and Director of North East Law Centre Limited (which trades as the Newcastle Law Centre) and is extremely enthusiastic about the work the not-for-profit charity does – providing free legal advice to those who can’t afford solicitors or are not eligible for financial assistance through Legal Aid. ‘It’s about helping people. It’s a really good charity – there’s nothing like it that actually provides representation and advice.’
She has also been appointed as an Academic Tutor in Law at The University of Sunderland and is busily planning for the Employment Law and Practice module which will commence in January 2017. ‘If I can help produce the best possible lawyers of tomorrow then I’d like to be part of that,’ she enthuses.
Alex’s aptitude for law was apparent early on – she achieved 100 percent in her Law course at school. ‘I had a vague interest in law basically from what you see on the telly,’ she explains, ‘and took a dedicated Law AS and A Level which I chose because I thought it sounded interesting, but actually what I wanted to do was something to do with Maths: either be an accountant or some kind of mathematician. So at AS Level I took Law, Film, General Studies, Mathematics and Mechanics, and Physics, then at A Level I took Law, Mathematics and Mechanics, Film and General Studies – by the time I’d finished my A Levels, I’d decided that Law was the one for me.’
Following her decision through, Alex then took up a place at Northumbria University where she studied Law and LPC (Legal Practice Course) Combined and achieved a First Class degree. While there, Alex worked for the Student Law Office which only served to further her desire to pursue a career in law. ‘You realise that there is a bar on accessing justice at all levels – for companies and individuals – so anything I can do to help with that is why I’m interested,’ she says.
As well as her degree and her extra-curricular work, Alex was also introduced to the firm which would would become her employer following her graduation, thanks to scooping the Michael Short Prize for the highest mark in an Employment Law exam. ‘The firm still sponsor that prize,’ Alex explains, ‘although it’s now about students’ dissertations. The prize includes a placement for two weeks, which is much more valuable than money, at that stage in your career. It gets you in with a law firm. I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t had that placement.’
After graduating, Alex took up a trainee position at Short Richardson & Forth that lasted for two years, after which she worked as a solicitor for a further two and a half years, before being offered her Associate position. ‘It was quite early and a total surprise,’ she admits. ‘I didn’t ask for it, but after reviewing the year-end results, they asked if that would be something I’d be interested in.’
You might be forgiven for thinking that, with such a busy work-life, Alex just enjoys relaxing when she gets home, but the 27 year-old won’t hear of it. From cycling and playing badminton (‘but I daren’t play for a team in case they’re really good,’) to travelling (‘I’m trying to visit every country in the world very, very slowly,’), Alex always has something going on – we just can’t quite fathom out where she finds the time.