One of the things I love about travelling and going on holiday is exploring and experiencing new cultures. I’ve recently been on holiday to the South West of the US for two weeks. It was incredible, I had a great time! My friends and I were based mostly in Arizona and from there we took a road trip to Las Vegas for a couple of days which was great fun! We saw the Hoover Dam, trekked the Grand Canyon, had a BBQ by Lake Pleasant and took a stroll around Lake Havasu where the locals thought they had bought London Bridge. It turns out they hadn’t but the replica they have spanning the lake is a fairly good likeness.
I’ve been to the United States before, to New York, and one thing that struck me about the South West is how different the culture is there compared to New York. I enjoyed New York and would certainly want to go back but I found Arizona to be a bit friendlier and life moved at a gentler pace. When I was in New York there were times when I could only just distinguish my surroundings from other major cities of the world, whereas; while I was in Arizona I felt a world away from home in a completely new & exciting place, almost akin to the old Wild West. It could be considered naïve of me to not realise that two places within the same country could be so different, but that’s part of the beauty of the world we live in; no two places are the same.
If you’re visiting somewhere for the first time it can feel a bit overwhelming if you’re not familiar with the customs and traditions. It’s easy to make assumptions or to simply base your understanding on what you’ve been told by others or even seen in the media. Rightly or wrongly, this then allows you to form assumptions about the people and the culture. While I was visiting New York and while I was visiting Arizona there was one constant, one similarity, one stand out symbol of America wherever I looked. It was of course the star spangled banner, the picture of freedom and independence, the United States flag. I have been to many countries around the world and I have always found the locals to be proud of their nationality and their heritage (rightly so) as much as I am of Britain (and Sri Lanka, just in case my mother is reading…) but I think you would struggle to find a country or a people as proud of their nation as you do in the USA. Patriotism seems to be ingrained within American culture, much like Tea and queuing are ingrained within British culture.
I have been in legal recruitment, specialising in real estate, for the better part of 18 months now. Before I started working for BCL Legal and for a short while after I had started, I had made assumptions about the firms I would be recruiting for; I made assumptions about their expectations and their cultures, all of which was based on what I had been told by others. It wasn’t until I spoke to them for myself or until I had met with partners did I realise that I was widely wrong in my assumptions.
I think this is particularly important to NQs approaching qualification in 2015 but also to any solicitor, no matter how experienced you may be, when you’re looking for a new role. Do not make any assumptions about culture or about reputation. I’m not saying that you would find the perfect role no matter where you apply because the simple fact is you may not like every role and you may not get the right feeling from every firm, but don’t rule out good opportunities based on hearsay. Culture is important and your fit within that culture has to match your needs as well as that of the firm but take it from me, you may often find yourself pleasantly surprised.
A large part of my job is to help candidates prepare for interview and one of the key things we discuss is culture. Culture can mean many things, whether it’s the firm’s approach towards flexible hours for childcare as an example, or whether it’s the fabled ‘long hours culture’ that seems to be fixed to many well renowned practices. While some are true, others are less so especially as the world and the legal profession evolves.
Opportunity lurks around the most surprising of corners sometimes and I feel that you could find the right fit if you allow yourself to discover that firm’s culture for yourself.