The magnificent seven
A selection of former The Brief interviewees provide nuggets of advice for ambitious aspiring lawyers
Every legal career journey is different but one thing from which every aspiring professional can benefit is advice from people who have already made it to the top.
With this in mind, one of the questions we ask the subjects of our “The Brief talks to” interviews is what advice they would give to lawyers who were are starting out in their careers. This is what seven of them had to say.
Sara Hanrahan, planning partner, Lewis Silkin
I think it’s very beneficial to get a little bit of commercial experience beyond the law, and gain more of an understanding of the world. Do a little bit of travel, get some experience other than law.
These days it’s much easier to become a lawyer by all sorts of different routes, you don’t have to go and study law and then sign on to do your professional law exam and then become a trainee. Don’t be desperate to get on the bandwagon – you don’t have to, and I think that’s the brilliant thing about the newer routes to becoming a lawyer.
I think there is a new generation coming through who will not want to be so rigid in their approach, who are used to being a little bit more independent and flexible about how they do things. You might get people working for more than one law firm, for example, and maybe they will start to become much more entrepreneurial, and I don’t think we should be afraid of that.
I think that as long as you’ve got a lifestyle that works for you then that means then you’re motivated and you’re enjoying it. You won’t get burnt out and you’re still able to deliver a great service, which means that you’re successful.
Amal Kaur, Partner and head of Scottish real estate practice, Shakespeare Martineau
Have the confidence to be yourself and to bring your own self to the law. People need to understand that you don’t have to be the same as the other people who are around you.
When you join the place that fits for you, you’ll know, you’ll get a feeling for what your USP is.
Understand that success is whatever it means to you, so you don’t necessarily have to follow what you think is the traditional path, or follow what you think people would expect from you. Once people realise what they can bring to the law, what they can bring to the job, they have a lot more confidence to succeed because they’re confident in themselves.
Elaine Motion, chairman, Balfour + Manson
Be yourself, trust your instincts and do the work that you love. If you don’t love your work then you are not going make it through your profession and, as one of my partners would say, it is a marathon not a sprint.
You have got to love the work that you’re doing and the people that you’re working with. And, if you don’t have that, then you need to look at where you want to be.
Zahra Pabani, national family law partner, Irwin Mitchell
You’ve got to be different. You’ve got to stand out from the crowd.
You’ve got to embrace the fact that you’ve got to work incredibly hard and no one else will bang your drum. You’ve got to do it yourself.
You’ve got to push yourself forward. Confidence without arrogance is what you should ooze.
Set yourself apart from the crowd, try to look different, have something different to offer. That is the only way you will succeed because there are too many junior lawyers coming through.
Find a niche and excel at it. You can’t just be okay, you’ve got to be really good and you’ve also got to be commercial, have all-round skills and be able to push yourself forward with your clients, your peer group, your colleagues and your partners.
You’ve got to get known.
Siddique Patel, partner (family law), gunnercooke
Whatever level you’re at, paralegal, trainee or newly qualified, seek as much time with your supervisor or line manager as possible at any opportunity that you get during the course of the working day. Sometimes you might get the feeling that they feel that you’re bugging them, but that doesn’t matter.
You are there to learn and to ask questions, and when you can’t do that in person then use the technology that we have to try to at least maintain some semblance of that, and get as much as you can from that.
Also, if you can, specialise. Find a niche area of law and become really, really good at it.
If you are a trusted adviser in a niche area of law then people will come to you – not only clients but other lawyers – to seek your advice. That’s what you want, you don’t want to have a reputation as a jack of all trades.
Emily Powell, partner and head of corporate and commercial, Hugh James
Be the best you can be. Work hard, take the opportunities when they come to you and don’t be disheartened if you don’t get to where you want to be the first time.
Where you end up is not necessarily where you thought you were going to end up but that doesn’t mean it isn’t exactly where you should be when you get there.
Nick Roome, partner and UK head, KPMG Law
You might say I’m biased but I personally think that being in a multidisciplinary firm is a really, really healthy thing for a lawyer. If you look at what you need to do as a lawyer, you need to have really strong legal skills, that’s a core baseline fundamental.
But once you have those baseline skills you then start to need other things that give you the kind of business acumen that's really important for dealing with clients and allows you to differentiate yourself. I genuinely think it’s easier to get that broader perspective and business acumen by being in a professional services firm where what you see is broader than just law.