A young lawyer has become the first in Britain to qualify as a solicitor through the live events industry – securing a job with the NEC Group.
Sonica Dahri has just completed a three year training contract ‘in house’ with the NEC Group, which manages a host of venues including the LG Arena and The International Convention Centre, Birmingham.
The 33-year-old’s achievement is rare – the NEC Group being one of only 50 private companies that offered a total of 150 training contracts in 2010, compared to an estimated 13,000 law students graduating annually. The vast majority of solicitors are still trained in traditional law firms.
Keith Marriott, group general counsel for the NEC Group, said: “Sonica started at the NEC Group as a paralegal but it was clear she had the talent and ambition to progress her career in law. Rather than recruit a new solicitor the NEC Group applied for legal training status specifically to help Sonica become a solicitor. As part of our commitment to lifelong learning and education we always try to nurture talent from within the business.”
Ms Dahri, from the West Midlands, had a law degree and masters prior to joining the NEC Group for a temporary role.
She said: “After completing five years of academic legal study in London I decided to remain there and gain some commercial experience in a number of different roles. On my return to the West Midlands, I took the role at the NEC Group as a stopgap while I began the process of applying for training contracts. I’d always been interested in media law so I enjoyed the work and was determined to make a great impression, but I never dreamt the opportunity to train in house would come along.”
In an average day Ms Dahri works on legal issues covering the NEC Group’s four home venues in Birmingham, including the National Indoor Arena, as well as contracts for their catering business Amadeus and new business opportunities in Europe.
“There’s a great variety of work and always something new and challenging to do,” she said. “The live events industry is incredibly competitive to break into so I know I’ve been exceptionally lucky. Now I intend to give back to a business which has provided me with so many opportunities.” Ms Dahri has spent the last three years balancing her full time role at the NEC Group with one day of study at Birmingham College of Law – achieving a distinction in every module of her course. To ensure her training was a match for anything found in major commercial law firms, the company also arranged a four-month secondment to SNR Denton in London, one of the largest law firms in the world.
She added: “It’s not easy training in house and you need focus and dedication, but the career benefits are clear. As part of the legal team at the NEC Group I see the direct results of my work. Everyday there’s an exhibition that I’ve helped to secure or excited fans arriving for a show that I have worked on – it’s very rewarding.”
The private sector employs around 15,000 lawyers across Britain, but 93 per cent of them still learn the trade at law firms with many law graduates finding it difficult to attain work.
Ms Dahri said: “Practical experience was key to my career and taking a job as a paralegal allowed me to showcase my abilities. If I’d pursued the law firm route I don’t think my career would have progressed so far, so quickly.”