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Lawyers at Boodle Hatfield share their journey from trainee to partnership

Once you have chosen to pursue a career in law, shortlisting which firms you would like to train with is one of the most critical decisions, as you will want it to give you that all important introduction to a successful career.

With over 30 years' combined experience between them, recently promoted partners, Harriet Errington, Katie O'Callaghan and Kellie Jones share their evolution from trainees at Boodle Hatfield to joining the partnership. They outline some of their tips for future trainees embarking on their journeys, highlighting their thoughts on the values firms need to inspire to develop talent from within and the benefits of organic career progression.

What kind of culture/values does a firm need to inspire loyalty and develop partners who originally trained at the firm?

In the modern workplace most people work for many different firms throughout their careers. Thus, for its increased scarcity, loyalty is more valuable now than ever. However, loyalty, like respect, must be earned. There are various ways in which a firm may inspire loyalty:

  • A supportive atmosphere where one is encouraged not only to learn, but to question. It is far better for junior lawyers to ask questions - even if they sound obvious - rather than to make mistakes which could have been nipped in the bud. This supportive environment should also extend beyond simply the technical legal questions but also to the often equally difficult challenges that life can present to individuals (which may not be work related but in respect of which people may need support from their employer from time to time). 
  • Promoting relationships between employees. People are not just loyal to the firm itself, but to those within the firm. Friendships at work should be promoted as they help to ensure a more harmonious and enjoyable atmosphere in the office. Similarly, if employees can see themselves advancing with those they know, they are more likely to be loyal to the firm.
  • Clear path of career progression. Both for those just starting and those firmly ensconced in their legal career, it is important to have visibility as to what the future may hold should they remain at their firm. If people feel that they have plateaued they may start to look for opportunities elsewhere.
  • Role models. If the firm has a history of supporting and promoting people who trained at the firm, it encourages others.
  • Flexibility with regard to employee’s working arrangements. As parents, this is naturally important to all of us, particularly in these unprecedented times.

What are the advantages of progressing your career organically in one firm, as opposed to hopping between firms on the way up the career ladder?

There are some enormous benefits to progressing your career within one firm:

People: training in four separate departments within the firm before qualifying into one area means that on qualification, and as your career progresses to partnership, you tend to know a lot of people around the firm. It is a pleasure being surrounded by both support staff and fee earners who know you well and it provides an incredibly supportive and friendly environment to work in.

Goodwill: the fact that people know you well and have probably worked with you at some stage during your time at the firm means that you (hopefully!) have earned people’s respect. Moving to a new firm requires you to start that process from scratch, which of course is not impossible, but it can take time to build relationships.

Support: this follows on from goodwill. Working with people you have known throughout your career is a very supportive environment in which to challenge yourself and grow. It is easy to identify who can help you along the way.

Benefit to clients: Boodle Hatfield is a full-service law firm for private individuals and having worked there for so long, you gain a core understanding of each and every part of ‘the machine’. If a client has a niche query about something unrelated to your area of law, the chances are that you will know exactly the right person to put them in touch with. Similarly, having gained the respect and support of colleagues, clients are often referred to us from other areas of the firm.

What advice do you have for future trainees and students on how to identify and pursue career development opportunities at junior levels?

  1. Think about what you can bring to the table that would add value. Most firms are delighted to hear about new ideas from fee earners of all levels, however junior.
  2. Have regular conversations with fee earners in areas that you are interested in, ask if you can attend events and show enthusiasm.
  3. There is no harm in speaking to more senior members of your team (it doesn't necessarily have to be partners) about your ambitions and goals.
  4. Get involved in firm and team activities early on. Join in with business development. It is never too early to start to build your own network.

To find out more about the graduate recruitment programme at Boodle Hatfield, please visit www.boodlehatfield.com/the-firm/trainees/ or contact Jenny Sanghera, HR Business Partner on jsanghera@boodlehatfield.com.

This article first appeared on Lawcareers.net on 26th June 2020. 

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