Articles From the Team
Key advice for junior lawyers - how to take control of your career!
In my previous life as a young lawyer, I didn’t really make much of a plan or direct my career as I should have done.
During my A Levels, I decided that I wanted to go to The University of Leeds, a solid redbrick uni and voted best city for nightlife in 1998! I had no real idea what I wanted to do after uni but I considered law to be a sensible degree that would open up different career paths on graduation.
After completing my degree I still wasn’t committed to a career in the law but following a gap year, I decided that the obvious next step was to do the LPC. Just prior to completing the LPC, I secured a training contract at a small High St firm close to home in Wales (one of only two applications I made!) and started my training contract straight after completing the course. Looking back, it wasn’t really the best move for my career, with a strong academic background I really should have set my sights on a larger more commercial firm but to be completely honest, I didn’t have a plan and a training contract close to home was all I was really thinking about at that point having recently met my now husband!
I enjoyed a good few years practising as a solicitor, the small firm I’d joined grew massively during the boom and I ended up moving to London when we opened an office down there, it really was a great time and I loved every minute but after the boom came bust as the property market crashed at which point I took the opportunity to spend a year travelling and when I returned to the UK I decided to move into legal recruitment, again pretty much on a whim. That was 10 years ago and I haven’t looked back but I certainly have a lot of advice that I’d give to my younger self on how to direct my legal career because had I started out a little differently, I might still have been practising today.
So, if I could go back in time, what would I tell myself...?
- Law is a big subject, really consider the practice area you want to qualify into and target firms that can offer that work. Use the Legal 500 to establish a hit list of firms to apply to and once you qualify, consider again whether that firm is really the best place for you to pursue your career. Can they really offer the best quality of work in your chosen practice area? If they can then great but don’t stay at a firm solely down to loyalty if it isn’t the best place for you to progress your career. As a junior lawyer, you can make huge leaps in your career, moving from High St to regional and even national/international firms so take advantage of that.
- Try to find a firm that mirrors your values - firms place a huge emphasis on ‘fit’ - if you really fit at a firm, whether that’s dynamic and fast paced or steadier and socially responsible, chances are you will feel more at home and when you enjoy your work, you tend to thrive.
- Be aware of developing your legal skills. Seek out opportunities to challenge yourself, ask your supervisors for work that you might not be comfortable with as that is the only way in which you’ll grow as a lawyer.
- Develop relationships with your peers, for example be an active member of your local juniors lawyers division, for Birmingham, the BTSS. This is a great way to build on your soft skills and excellent practice for when you start to build client relationships. It’s those lawyers who have these skills that go on to become future partners. The events that they hold are also a lot of fun we’re there at most of them!
- Seek out the advice of more senior lawyers, even those who may have only qualified just a year or two before you and also seek out the advice of experienced legal recruiters. Tell us what the end goal is and we can advise you on how best to get there. We work with lawyers through every stage of their career, we see the career paths that thousands of lawyers take and we can provide a lot of insight when it comes to helping direct you from where you are now to where you want to be in 10 years time.
In summary, try to avoid going with the flow and be deliberate in your career, steer it in the direction you want to go and make big things happen!