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Carving out a legal career: how to spot firms that offer more than a job

27/03/2018
Posted by: Lynn Sedgwick
Job satisfaction is something that’s frequently held up as the pinnacle of working life. Yet more often than not developing a career offers the real satisfaction, not just having a job. Performing tasks because they have to be done feels a lot different to working towards a greater cause that’s leading your career somewhere. So, whether you’re just starting out or you have decades of post-qualified experience we’ve put together a list of factors to consider when looking for a firm that offers a career not just a job.

Junior level: getting off to a flying start


When you’re just starting out, the training that takes you over the line to become a qualified solicitor is so important. Whether you take the route through university as a law undergraduate, or you take another academic subject, you need to feel confident that a firm has the right processes in place to support you on your journey to professional practice.

Look out for firms that have established training programmes for graduates and, crucially, have a record of success. When you’ve invested time and money in education and training to develop your career, a firm that can confidently support the move from trainee to qualified practitioner is invaluable; if the foundation is shaky then everything built on top will be unstable too.

Life in the middle lane: taking it up a gear


With a few years’ experience solicitors are in a good position to make decisions about their career that can bring exciting new ventures and opportunities. At this point, adding strings to your bow is a good idea. This could be about increasing your value as a whole. For example, you could take a Law Society-approved management course and be able to supervise an office with three years’ PQE. This increases your responsibility and makes you more valuable as a whole. It gives you skills that aren’t just law-related, such as people management and other soft skills, broadening your skill set.

If you’re thinking of making a change or heading in a certain direction this point in your career would be a good time to do so. Look out for a firm that matches your interests and can offer training that deepens your knowledge as this will allow you to carve out a particular route for your career. On the flip side, firms that cover a lot of different areas of law may appeal. Although you may stick with one general area, being exposed to different aspects will keep things interesting. Being a generalist adds variety to working like, so if that appeals look out for firms that can support this. Secondments can be a good way to broaden your skills too, without committing wholeheartedly to a particular direction.

Don’t stop growing: senior career progression


For many solicitors, reaching the status of partner is the pinnacle of their career. And while industry figures suggest that the number of partners nationally is declining, partners constitute a significant proportion of solicitors making up nearly a third of the profession. If this is something that interests you then it can be a good idea to look out for firms that are growing. You may stand a better chance of reaching a senior level if there is room at the top. Keep an eye out for firms that have clear strategies in place for developing partners, have clear succession plans and have established processes for dealing with this.

Progressing to the level of partner is much more than evidence of ability, it offers some significant benefits. Being a partner brings with it the chance to make an impact on the profession and to take the firm in a certain direction that you envisage. It also enables you the chance to influence and offer help to those below you and shape the direction of their career, as yours was by your seniors.

Whatever stage of your professional life you’re at it’s important to keep thinking about the future and how the present builds towards that. Keep in mind that as you move up the career ladder what you want from a career may change and the firm that fitted your objectives may no longer do so. Of course, building a career entails having a job, but remember to keep thinking about how that job feeds into your overall career – if it doesn’t then maybe it’s time to look elsewhere.  

If you found this blog interesting, please look at more of our blogs on how to get a promotion and the secret of success, or if you're looking for that perfect role, send us your CV. Alternatively,  you can check out all the vacancies we have available.
 
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