Life in a Law Firm: Debunking the Myths
When it comes to the idea of law firms, a starched white collar, luxury lawyer briefcase and a group of people with stoic expressions usually come to mind. Such perceptions can often serve as deterrents for individuals that endeavour to have a career in law.
Fortunately, through Reed Smith’s insightful webinar, the common misconceptions that are affiliated with having a thriving law career were addressed.
The session started with each keynote speaker sharing their experiences and personal journeys into law. One of the most unorthodox routes came from Client Relationship Coordinator Nathan Jackon, who explained his journey into Reed Smith started from working as barista in the firm’s coffee shop. Due to his ability to be personable with the lawyers at the firm, he was made aware of the vacancy through a lawyer who would soon become his future colleague. The key takeaway from this, is that being visible and memorable within your current role or background can elevate you leaps and bounds.
BYP’s Founder & CEO, Kike Oniwinde, hosted the session taking both attendees and Reed Smith speakers on a journey of understanding and clarity. Through her carefully curated questions, the myths of working within a law firm were addressed, while advice and first hand experiences regarding such were shared. So what exactly are some of these myths?
1. You have to be a lawyer to work in a law firm
As we saw earlier through Nathan’s story, this is not always the case. There are now a plethora of ways to start a career in law and this goes beyond years of law school. With the rise of apprenticeships, diplomas and mentoring schemes, you can take pride in knowing that you do not have to follow a standard route into your desired legal profession. Rather than pine for the standard route, focus on being visible.
If you are in education, search for internships or a corresponding ambassador role to hone your skills. Networking is always almost imperative. Connect with like minded individuals via LinkedIn or with those in the firm that you would like to work in. The aim is to be seen and become a priority. Remember, the more visibility you have, the less you remain another incoming CV.
2. Training contracts
Is it necessary to get a training contract? No. But there is nothing wrong with setting a goal to obtain one. Leon Stephenson, Partner & Co-head of Funds had the following advice to give “With anything in life, preparation is absolutely key. If you have to do anything that is important, prepare for it. If you think it will take an hour-budget 2-3 hours. It is always better to do more than less.”
As with any application, be sure to assess your intentions and express sincerity as to why you want to work in a law firm. As a lawyer soft skills are very important, alongside your technical ability. Know why you’re applying to your desired firms and be sure to do your due diligence. Partners want to know why THIS is the firm you want to work at.
Lastly, have a positive mindset. Your mindset and attitude count more than your educational background. Admittedly, training contracts are notoriously difficult to obtain but if you work hard and remain visible, you can get it.
3. Workplace culture
If Netflix has anything to do with your perspective on workplace culture within a firm, there is the high probability that long hours, no social life and sabotage are all a law firm has to offer. Fortunately, each speaker was able to not only debunk this but share the fact that teamwork is actually the foundation of Reed Smith. Nathan expertly shared that ‘Innovation is a by-product of collaboration and that doesn't happen without teamwork’ so the crabs in a bucket allegory needn’t come to mind when working in such a firm.
Legal Secretary Deon Rose also explained that while lawyers may not literally live in the firm, they do work hard. ‘Lawyers work very hard but the hard work is rewarding. When you think of lawyers you might think of the show Suits, where people just live in the office and wear fantastic clothes. It’s not about the clothes, the stern faces and holding a briefcase. Be authentic, be yourself and you’ll thrive.
This is not to say that every misconstruing of the law industry has been addressed, but hopefully a clearer insight has been provided with several takeaways as to how you can land yourself a legal role and more importantly thrive.
Remember, being different and standing out can prove to be a real advantage, especially in the legal world. Embrace the fact that you are different, if your route into law is not conven
tional, take pride in such and use it to your advantage. Lastly, learn from people you aspire to be like and connect with them if you can. Be visible, be authentic and watch where your transparency takes you.
If you would like to know more about Reed Smith and their progressive journey, please visit their employer page here.