Junior Lawyer Journal Issue 3 Spring 2014
Inside: Welcome! How to give yourself the edge in the race to qualification What is life like as a Trainee at a Midlands Law Firm? 2014 Charity Quiz Is the legal industry ready to take on apprentices? Latest Event Photos: DMU- Careers Talk 2013 Charity Quiz Banker’s Club Drinks An insight into the Employer…
Junior Lawyer Journal
_______________________________ Sanjit Atkar Editor Spring is always a busy time for trainees and students alike. Trainees have encountered the firm’s first quarter of the year. Likewise, students too are very busy commencing Vacation Schemes, starting to apply for the all important Training Contracts with prospective firms whilst preparing for impending summer exams. Amongst all this trainees, NQ’s and students have questions on how to manage the expectations, how to progress further to reach their ultimate goal of qualifying as a solicitor and being ahead of the game! The Leicestershire Junior Lawyers’ Division has always been well placed to assist you and answer any questions you may have as we have members in the industry from student level up to 5 years PQE. If you are currently a student studying law or a trainee looking to move to pastures new there will always be someone at one of our events to pick their brains for the inside scoop. I remember applying for training contracts, looking at firm websites, which areas of law do they have? How many offices are there? How many partners do they have? But what you really want to know is ‘what is it like to work there?!’. This is something that you can only find out by asking someone who works there! Sometimes the only information that students have in preparation for interview is gleaned from press releases written by firm’s marketing teams and carefully published on firm websites. Our current committee has members from the largest and best firms in Leicester (although I would say that wouldn’t I!) - Spearing Waite LLP - Weightmans LLP - Thaliwal Bridge - Bobby Dhanjal Legal Services Limited - Emery Johnson Astills Solicitors - Gateley LLP This edition has a timely article from David Mayfield on getting the edge in the race to qualification, Ktiro Legal obtains an insight with the Recruitment Partner at Spearing Waite, a guide to studying the LPC part-time and photos from our most recent events. I hope you enjoy our magazine as much as we did putting it together. Happy reading!
Junior Lawyer Journal
Junior Lawyer Journal
Hannah Carter President Welcome to the third edition of the Junior Lawyer Journal! I’m delighted that the magazine is back for 2014 – we really hope you enjoy reading it and find it interesting. The LJLD event calendar is now well underway and so hopefully you will have had the opportunity to meet our new committee members. We had five new recruits who joined us in January; Fiona, Nilesh, Michaela, Aimee and Sanjit. You can find more information about the whole team on the committee pages of our website. We have had three successful events already this year; our welcome drinks, an informative talk at DMU and, most recently, the LJLD Charity Quiz. Our nominated charity this year is Coping with Cancer, which is a local charity providing care and support to cancer sufferers and their families across Leicestershire and Rutland. We’re really proud to be supporting a charity that does such fantastic work and we hope to raise as much money as possible at our upcoming events. You can see photos of our recent events, as well as past events from 2013, in this edition of the Junior Lawyer Journal. We have many more events planned for 2014 so keep an eye on our Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages for further information. Our Annual Ball in November is set to be our biggest and best yet so watch this space! To ensure you are kept up to date with our plans, make sure you’re on our mailing list. It’s easy to become a member of the LJLD, simply email email@example.com. Please also encourage your friends and colleagues to get involved; the LJLD is open to students, paralegals, trainees and solicitors up to 5 years PQE who either work or live in Leicestershire. It’s free to join and we’re always pleased to welcome new members at our events. Finally, thank you to all those who contributed to this edition of the Junior Lawyer Journal – especially Sanjit who has dedicated hours to bringing it all together! The Journal includes interesting articles from committee members Gail and Joanna, as well as contributions from two of our sponsors, Bygott Biggs and Ktiro Legal. You can find more details about all of our sponsors on the sponsorship page of our website. We hope you enjoy reading – if you have any suggestions for articles and features for the next edition, please do get in touch. We love hearing from you and we are happy to answer any questions you might have. You can email me to firstname.lastname@example.org. Hannah
Junior Lawyer Journal How to give yourself the edge in the qualification race The market Although the legal market has improved recently and there are increased levels of demand in some practice areas, there is still likely to be stiff competition for the vast majority of NQ roles this year. It is therefore important for you take time to consider your options as you near qualification. This is equally important for those wishing to stay with their training firm, as well as those wishing to consider their options elsewhere. The Jackson reforms have had a major impact on civil litigation and the introduction of Tribunal fees have adversely affected employment law, particularly for those firms heavily reliant on contentious work. Legal Aid has faced several rounds of cuts in recent years and this looks set to continue. Family, immigration, civil and criminal law have all been affected. In addition, the introduction of Alternative Business Structures is likely to see further commoditisation of certain practice areas, such as personal injury, conveyancing, debt recovery and simple wills. On a more positive note, retention levels have increased in recent years and the recession has created a talent gap at the junior end of many legal departments, meaning that we are seeing NQ vacancies in a number of discipline areas, particularly those heavily affected by the recession, such as commercial property, corporate, construction and commercial & IP. In this article, we aim to give you an insight into the criteria law firms use when selecting their candidates and some things you can do in order to give yourself an edge over the competition.
By David Mayfield Director of Bygott Biggs Recruitment Agency Staying with your training firm Most trainees will choose to stay with their training firm on qualification and this makes sense for all manner of reasons, not least because it makes the transition to solicitor slightly easier than if you are also moving to a new firm. You should already be thinking about the area (or areas) you wish to qualify into and trying to ensure that your final seat(s) put you in a strong position for qualification into your chosen practice area. Donâ€™t rely solely on the HR process. Something as simple as telling the Partner in charge of the department you want to qualify into that you would like to join their team can make all the difference. You are likely to have to go through a formal interview process and given that you have spent the best part of 2 years with the firm, there is no excuse for not being prepared. Even if you do wish to stay on with your training firm, put together a CV and go through your training diary and make sure to pull out some highlights. How do law firms select their candidates?
If you do wish to consider your options on qualification, it is useful to know the criteria law firms use when selecting candidates for interview.
Junior Lawyer Journal
Most law firms will have the same minimum academic criteria when selecting candidates for interview. This includes good GCSE and A Level grades and a 2:1 or above in your degree. This sort of academic requirement is no longer just the preserve of the larger commercial firms, even some smaller regional firms carry this requirement. When it comes to practical experience, firms will typically look for candidates who have undertaken work for the same sort of client base, dealing with work on a similar scale. This will allow for a smoother transition and will hopefully mean you can hit the ground running. These days, law firms are looking for more from their solicitors than just technical proficiency. Even junior solicitors will be expected to get involved in marketing and business development, so make sure to highlight this on your CV. A common question we receive from NQâ€™s is whether you can qualify into an area in which you have not gained any previous experience. This is highly unlikely, for the simple reason that you will be up against candidates that do have the requisite skills and experience. The possible exception is if you are applying for a role in a very specialist area of work, such as tax or pensions, where there are very few applicants available.
Proud sponsors of the Leicestershire Junior Lawyers Division
David Mayfield is a Consultant with Bygott Biggs Legal Recruitment. You can connect with him in the following ways: Telephone: 07980 866 403 Email: email@example.com Twitter: @bygottbiggs LinkedIn: uk.linkedin.com/in/davidmayfieldlegalrec ruiter/
***Nominated LJLD Charity of 2014*** Coping with Cancer is an independent, local charity that provides practical and emotional support for cancer patients, their families and carers. Our services are free and available from the moment a diagnosis is made. Most importantly our support can last for as long as it is needed by the individual. At any one time, weâ€™re supporting over 500 local people. We do not charge for our services, although any donations to support our work are gratefully received. Our services include counselling, complementary therapy, HeadStrong hair loss information and support, a solicitorâ€™s surgery, drop-in complementary therapy groups around the county and a wide variety of support groups and activities.
Junior Lawyer Journal
This year our annual charity quiz took place in the city’s cultural quarter, at the Curve Theatre on Thursday 1st May 2014. It saw firms and professionals from around Leicester come together to support our local charity, Coping with Cancer. The evening was kick started with the drinks reception which swiftly followed with the quiz. The charity quiz certainly challenged contestants’ IQ with categories such as current affairs, general knowledge and even legal Latin terms! During the interval the Curve Theatre put on a very tasty buffet which got everyone ready for the second round of the quiz. The second round saw categories such as music and television and films. A very big congratulations to the winning team of the night who were Lets Get Quizzical! Finally the night finished off with our LJLD raffle which saw contestants win prizes donated by local businesses. Winning prizes included a LCFC tour, Highcross vouchers, various restaurant vouchers and even an antique cocktail shaker! A very big thank you to our sponsors Wesleyan who attended and joined in for the quiz! We raised just under £500 for the charity and are very grateful to everyone who participated, donated prizes and supported the evening.
Junior Lawyer Journal What is life like as a Trainee at a Midlands Law Firm?
Gail Whyte Solicitor at Gateley LLP
I am a solicitor in the Commercial Dispute Resolution team in the Leicester office of Gateley LLP, a top 50 law firm. I qualified in September 2013 after completing my training contract with the firm.
conveyancing files but on the development files, my input was limited to research due to the complexities involved; in litigation I had a few smaller claims that I dealt with myself under supervision.
I had an excellent spread of seats covering real estate, commercial dispute resolution, corporate and finally, employment. It is scary how quickly the two years passed and I can't quite believe that I have been qualified for more than six months now!
The common theme across all seats is that trainees are encouraged to get involved and take on responsibility, even if just for a certain aspect of a file or transaction. This made the training more enjoyable and gave me a flavour of what to expect on qualification. I was very well prepared for what to expect when I returned to litigation. I've been made to feel part of a team and my opinions are welcomed and valued, as a trainee and a solicitor; clearly they are not always right but feedback is always given and is framed in a way that is supportive and positive.
I was very fortunate to have a varied and interesting workload across my seats, with no two days being the same. The highlight has to be attending a trial at the Royal Courts of Justice; an amazing experience. When I was looking for a training contract, I focused on the Midlands because I wanted a firm where I could get the balance of good quality work, but still having a life. I didn't want to be a slave to the office but equally I didn't want to be somewhere that I never got any real work to do. I typically got into the office between 88.30am and generally left around 66.30pm unless I have something urgent to complete; this routine is pretty much the same since I qualified. I commute to work so getting in that little bit earlier allows me to miss the worst of the rush hour traffic, get some breakfast when I arrive in the office and catch up with colleagues before the day ahead. I occasionally attend internal or external breakfast seminars, which mean an earlier start. The tasks allocated to trainees vary across the departments and supervisors. For example, in the real estate team I was quite heavily involved in the residential
In employment I drafted compromise agreements, service agreements, witness statements, carried out research, attended client meetings and seminars, so it has been a varied and interesting workload. The volume of case law means there is continual updates and training material to read, so I would often be asked to read a case and report back on the impact to supervisors.
Junior Lawyer Journal Everyone that I have come across at the firm has been helpful and approachable; there is very much an open door policy, with the feeling that colleagues genuinely want to assist in your development. This is not a firm where trainees simply photocopy (although clearly this does happen from time to time), but I am given 'proper' work to do and I think this is vital; how else can we be properly equipped on qualification. This is one area where I think Midlands firms excel over their city rivals; I've heard some real horror stories about trainees doing nothing more than proofreading or photocopying, with the real training occurring on qualification.
There are also fundraising efforts throughout the year for our local and national charities, so trainees often organise bake sales and quizzes or arrange for street collections. These are really good opportunities to get involved and if you 'lead' the charity challenges, it allows a degree of management experience that you would not otherwise obtain as a trainee solicitor.
At Gateley, there is no expectation that you work past 5.30pm if all of your work for the day has been completed, there is no need to be 'seen' to be working late. Equally, there have been times where I have had to work late or on an odd weekend but only where absolutely necessary and this is certainly not routine. However, you should be prepared for the fact that law is not a 9-5 job and if this is what you are looking for, perhaps law is not the right career for you.
For anyone thinking of applying to Midlands firms for training contracts, I cannot recommend it highly enough. However, I would suggest that rather than simply sending out mass applications, spend a bit of time researching the firm and tailor your application to suit.
Gateley is a very sociable firm, with trainees being encouraged to get involved in the social committee and organise office socials. We have joint social events once or twice a year which are really good as these provide a chance to catch up with colleagues and fellow trainees in other offices. We also take part in various charity challenges throughout the year, which allows team building opportunities outside of the office whilst doing something worthwhile like revamping the garden for a local charity or putting up Christmas decorations at a residential home.
In the Midlands, trainees are encouraged to attend networking events and this is an excellent way of building up contacts in the local business community, particularly at an early stage in your career.
“There is no need to be ‘seen’ working late.”
Junior Lawyer Journal Is the legal industry ready to take on apprentices? The Higher Apprenticeship in Legal Services was launched in March 2013 and with the competition for training contracts remaining fierce and university fees continuing to grow, many will want to give serious thought to the new route into law. The scheme has until recently gone largely unnoticed to many and is an area that needs to be considered by those currently within legal education and those already within the profession. What is it? The Higher Apprenticeship framework has been developed by four partners; Pearson in Practice, the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, Damar Training and Skills for Justice. The project is being funded by the UK Government via the National Apprenticeship Service. It is a structured programme of vocational ‘on the job’ training together with academic study. It leads to a formal level four qualification called Higher Apprenticeship in Legal Services, which is the equivalent to that of a first year law degree. Who is it aimed at? The scheme is aimed at school leavers with good GCSE grades and/ or A – levels or those currently working within the profession wishing to further their career. The apprentice will be paid a wage and there is government funding available to support the costs of training delivery (the total amount varies according to the age of the apprentice) or alternatively the costs may be paid privately or by the company.
Can you become at qualified solicitor on the scheme?
As it currently stands - no, however, Skills for Justice are looking to develop Higher Apprenticeships at levels 6 and 7 in 2014. It is not currently certain what form level 7 will take but it is anticipated that it would be the equivalent to the LPC. Whether, given the time spent in industry by the apprentice, there will still be a requirement to formally complete a training contract remains to be seen. However, the potential is there to qualify without incurring the cost of both university and LPC fees. What has been the legal industry’s reaction?
“Don't fix what ain't broke”, was the Supreme Court’s president, Lord Neuberger's, warning in a speech on reforming legal education in November 2012. However, by and large the scheme has been warmly endorsed with many firms now looking to offer legal apprenticeships. The firms see the benefit of changing the route into the profession. They can tap into the pool of talent who may have decided not to go to university or continue with the LPC in light of the increasing tuition fees. For the same reason it is hoped that it will strengthen diversity within the profession.
What are the benefits to the apprentice? It goes without being saying that the key benefit to the individual is the opportunity to enter the legal profession without incurring university fees. Additionally, there is the ‘try before you buy’ incentive. Many think the law is for them and have an idea of what being a lawyer is based on TV and film. The reality is often very different with long hours, lots of paperwork and difficult clients. An apprenticeship allows a person to try this sector without incurring university fees’ which inevitably leads to long term debt.
Comment It should be remembered that the apprenticeship is not a new concept and it is anticipated that it will reflect the training contract with apprentices spending time in different seats. What is new is that the Government will pay for a proportion of the training costs dependant on eligibility and there is no requirement for university training. On balance and in light of the current financial climate putting many off university this new route can only benefit the legal profession by ensuring that firms remain diverse and that the law is open to all.
“Idea of what being a lawyer is based on film and TV” Disadvantages It cannot be said with any confidence at this stage that apprentices will receive the same level of education many lawyers were exposed to during the degree. Further it is not yet clear what level of checks will be given to the academic learning or the firms ‘on the job’ training. Additionally, it is likely that the apprenticeship will become as fiercely sought after as a training contract, which does not alter the status quo for many school / university leavers.
University training could be a thing of the past
Junior Lawyer Journal Our events...
March 2014: DMU Careers Talk with Bygott Biggs Recruitment Agency and Wesleyan
Junior Lawyer Journal Last year the LJLD held the annual charity quiz in aid of the Leicester Charity Link. The Charity helps over 5,000 local people who are experiencing poverty, hardship and crisis by providing basic items that most of us take for granted, such as a bed to sleep in, a cooker to prepare a hot meal or even food to eat! Take a look at how successful this was last year!
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June 2013: Legal professionals from Leicester and beyond joined us for a cocktail reception at the Bankerâ€™s Club on Friar Lane
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Katie Smith at Ktiro Legal had the pleasure of quizzing Jonathan Wheeler, Managing Partner and Recruitment Partner at Spearing Waite in Leicester on as many areas as possible! Here is what we found out…. My legal specialism dispute resolution
I chose law because….I wanted a job where my brain would be tested every day. As a student I used to work each summer in a warehouse where every day was exactly the same. That fate was what I most wanted to avoid!
If I had not chosen law I would now be…A travel writer. The best day of my legal career so far has been…That is a very difficult question! What came to mind was the day we stood up before the firm at the start of the recession and made a commitment to keep the team together and do everything we could to avoid the rounds of redundancies that were affecting other firms. I am pleased to say that we were able to deliver on that promise and the firm bucked the trend in the recession and grew considerably.
Take Five: Jonathan Wheeler
When I am interviewing I look for…Someone who I want to work with. The candidate needs to have personality as well as academic ability.
The first thing I look at on a CV is…The degree My top tip for a budding junior lawyer would be…Do your research. You need to know not just about our firm, but about the competitors and the regional market generally. All the information is out there so there is no excuse for ignorance at interview. The professional community in Leicester is…A community of actual people rather than corporate entities as it can appear to be in larger cities. Life at Spearing Waite is…Great. It is a friendly, supportive and dynamic environment where everyone mixes and contributes. There are no “big egos”. My work mantra is…Look at the situation from the client’s point of view.
The worst day of my legal career so far has been…Probably that was when the City firm where I did my training told me that (despite an earlier promise) it was unable to keep me on. In hindsight this was a blessing as it spurred me on to make a move abroad and then to assess what I really wanted out of my legal career; which wasn’t to be a miniscule part of a City firm! My favourite question to ask in an interview is…Why law?
Junior Lawyer Journal And finally..!
Leicester City or Leicester Tigers? Both Twitter or Facebook? Facebook
Email or Telephone? Email Blackberry or Iphone? Iphone
Tea or Coffee? Soya latte Rock or Pop? Rock(indie/postpunk/newwave/goth/shoegaze/ethereal/dark wave/surf/grunge) Relax or Activity? Activity – preferably in a remote part of the world
Books or Films? Books
…thank you Jonathan! I am off to google ‘shoegaze’!
Take a look at www.ktirolegal.co.uk and contact Katie for any recruitment or careers advice and to chat about her experiences within the recruitment and legal scene.
T: 07909 527 734 E : firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @ Ktirolegal
Junior Lawyer Journal Join us! To become a member of the Leicestershire Junior Lawyers Division, you must live or work in the Leicestershire and Rutland area and fall into any one of the following categories; - Undergraduate University Students -GDL Student - LPC Student -Paralegal -Trainee Solicitor -Solicitor (up to 5 years PQE)
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