Dani Tselentakis worked in Stewarts’ Aviation department as a senior paralegal. He joined Stewarts in February 2020 and started his solicitor training contract with Stewarts in October 2021.
The road to becoming a lawyer
I never fell into the cliché of “always wanting to be a lawyer”. I graduated in 2016 from King’s College London with a BA in Hispanic Studies and Modern Greek, and it was only after a work placement in criminal litigation that I became certain that a career in law was for me.
I liked the emphasis the law places on acting as a trusted adviser to a client, and it struck me that this relationship is more nuanced than it might first appear. It is not enough to simply have a technical understanding of the law, but analytical judgments must be made on the evidence available. Any commercial or specific client objectives need to be identified and communicated with the client in a simple and empathetic format. I enjoyed the challenges this mix of considerations presents.
A non-legal graduate degree meant I experienced the joys of completing a Graduate Diploma in Law, which involves studying in six months all the core modules you would do in a law degree. After my GDL, I spent some time accruing more legal work experience and teaching myself to trade cryptocurrencies.
In 2018, I decided it was time to complete my Legal Practice Course. Although it was daunting to embark on studying the LPC without having secured a training contract, I wanted to develop my legal skills further and get the formal academic qualification. I knew this would assist in developing key analytical skills and offer other opportunities to develop a well-rounded skillset. Alongside my academic study, I volunteered for the Personal Support Unit, a fantastic initiative that assists litigants in person through the court procedure. I graduated from the LPC in June 2019 with a distinction.
I came across Stewarts by chance when I was approached by a recruiter who asked whether I had any interest in applying for a paralegal position in Stewarts’ Aviation department. I have a penchant for trying new things, which is reflected in my legal and non-legal work placements. This opportunity seemed to be a fantastic one in a practice area I had never considered before.
I was drawn to Stewarts because of the high-profile cases the firm has acted on, and I wanted the opportunity to experience litigation in the best possible environment. I also liked how forward-thinking the firm is in the litigation it practices. A good example of that is Stewarts’ involvement in Robertson v Persons Unknown (2019), a case about the legal status of Bitcoin under English law.
From a career perspective, an aspect I like about Stewarts is the firm’s approach to recruitment. It struck me that progression through hard work is not only supported but encouraged as the firm only hires trainees through its paralegal pool, meaning there are always opportunities to impress.
Fast-forward a year, and I’ve come to feel at home at Stewarts. My colleagues are among the best lawyers in their practice areas and constantly inspire me to bring my A-game and push me to learn as much as I can. All three of my fee earners have been instrumental in helping me achieve my career goal of securing a training contract with Stewarts by offering much-needed guidance and getting me involved in complex and interesting work that has helped hone my skills.
I enjoy working in aviation. I assisted Sarah Stewart with the ongoing Shoreham Airshow disaster inquest that followed the tragic accident which took place on 22 August 2015. The inquest is extremely complex in scope and touches upon many different areas of law and expertise.
An aspect that I particularly like is the multidisciplinary skillset needed to succeed. An understanding of the mechanics of flight is required to understand accident reports, which in turn will affect liability arguments. On top of this technical knowledge is the requisite legal knowledge.
One of the main pieces of legislation we deal with is the Montreal Convention 1999. As this is an international code, there is case law from all over the world, which makes litigation in this area dynamic and challenging. Finally, there is the management of client expectations and considering the appropriate dispute resolution process for a client’s circumstances.
My work with the Aviation department has provided me with invaluable experience in preparing me for the demands of being a trainee. From the outset, I was involved in all stages of the litigation process, from inception, where I assisted in drafting letters of claim, to later stages, where witness statements and schedules of loss are necessary. I have also been involved in settlement brochures, which map out and colour the lives of the clients we act for.
I was also involved in the technical aspects of the work with Peter Neenan. A good example of this was the research we undertook on false glideslope capture and generation to understand better the accident circumstances in one of our cases.
What I’ve learned
My advice to anyone applying for a training contract position at Stewarts or elsewhere is that you need to be self-aware. By this, I mean you need to know your strengths and emphasise those as much as possible while remaining honest about your weaknesses.
Nobody is perfect, and I do not think anybody is looking for the ‘perfect’ trainee because there is not one. You need to show you are a great fit for your chosen firm because of your skillset and personality.
Stewarts Career Stories
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