Solicitor Jessica Brain talks about the move to Newcastle to start her training contract.
Before starting my training contract with the firm, I had been living and working as a paralegal in Yorkshire. However given Watson Burton’s welcoming attitude (which I had experienced during the vacation scheme and which was cemented when they invited me to their Christmas party before I had even joined the firm!) and Newcastle’s friendly reputation, I had very little trepidation about moving to Newcastle to start my training contract.
I had actually lived in the bustling metropolis of the North East previously, studying law at Newcastle University. As a student here though, my experience was somewhat limited to my halls of residence (and later a flat above a somewhat noisy petrol station somewhere between Jesmond and Sandyford) and the Law Library on Windsor Terrace. If I’m being completely honest, as a student, I didn’t get the most out of Newcastle. I know what you’re probably thinking; my experience was limited to various sticky-floored haunts in the small hours rather than the wider and more cultured offerings Newcastle poses, but really, it wasn’t even that. I was never very good at drinking, and any city centre on a Saturday night wasn’t exactly my comfort zone. It still isn’t. The trouble was, at that point, that seemed to be all most other people were interested in doing.
I was confident that this time, living in Newcastle would be an altogether different experience. I’d spent my time since law school getting under people’s feet in various law firms, pulling together social committees, organising a choir, a book club, theatre trips and bake sales and as such am much less retiring about finding out about something fun that’s going on and cajoling people into coming along. Now, if no-one fancies joining in with the things I think are interesting, I’m happy to go along by myself and just make friends with the other like-minded bods who turn up. Having a car also offered the potential to explore further afield and I’d heard wonderful things about the wilds of Northumberland and the coast (I’m generally happiest in my walking boots).
So I packed up my Up!, found a lovely little flat in Jesmond and came up for round two. And it was great. It turned out that Newcastle had had something of a regeneration since I was at Uni and I had a lot of fun trying out the different restaurant recommendations (my colleague Rebecca, who trained here at the same time as me always has good suggestions being more of a local), attending the Theatre Royal (Sleeping Beauty and Mary Poppins were incredible and it turns out you can get discounted tickets for some performances on the day), discovering the hidden gem of the Tyneside Cinema (one of the partners, Anne-Marie, swore I’d love its art deco and she was quite right) and frolicking around Northumberland in my battered old boots. One of my friends, who can be relied on for excellent and unusual suggestions, called me one Saturday to ask whether I’d like to go to The Late Shows that evening. I had never heard of it before but obviously I wanted in on whatever it was and it was a super night – we explored the city after dark, saw a fashion show in the library, ate pizza in a church and saw acrobats at the Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers. Her subsequent birthday celebration was a trip on the “Passage to India” Curry Train going from Newcastle central station to Corbridge and this proved most enlightening, both in terms of me having to re-evaluate my prejudices about banana in curry and in respect of their divine dessert platter. Although I had less spare time on my hands in the evenings which meant that joining a book club was not possible, the City Library had a very respectable selection to keep my reading list topped up. I went on a choir workshop and in doing so discovered Gosforth which is a nice little spot for brunch.
My friends and family were more than happy to come up for visits to go to Tynemouth for fish and chips or to wander through Fenwicks, especially if their Christmas window and darling pop up café was on. My mum and I didn’t realise how long we’d spent in Corbridge looking round the market town and meandering along the river until the shops started closing. The Durham Christmas Markets proved an absolute hit in relation to the food and gifts available and the beautiful carol service held in the Cathedral.
Now I am fortunate to have the best of both worlds, working mostly in Watson Burton’s Leeds office but travelling up to Newcastle every week to keep in contact with everyone – and to make sure if there’s anything exciting going on I’m first in line!