The importance of keeping your options open as a Newly Qualified Lawyer

James Franklin 21.03.2019

It’s important to keep your options open as a Newly Qualified Lawyer in order to help you reach your career goals and avoid becoming stuck in one area of the profession.

Is your Legal career approaching a road block?

This is a fictional tale outlining the dangers of becoming pigeonholed as a Newly Qualified Lawyer. The character - she - bears no resemblance to any single person but has been created from a blend of various conversations with lawyers over the last ten years...

Whilst completing a degree in history at university, she realised that she wanted to go into law. She signed up for vacation schemes at City firms and after attending various interviews, secured a training contract. There were still many hurdles to jump: The Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) followed and then she had to complete her Legal Practice Course (LPC). Two years of training followed that, before she could finally step into the firm as a qualified Solicitor of England and Wales. Her career in practice as a corporate lawyer had started.

It’s important to gain experience across a variety of areas

A few years have passed since qualification, she is now considered a 5-year PQE Associate. After the banking crash, she spent time working on restructurings rather than putting deals together. But in the last few years, M&A and IPO activity has increased. She’d received multiple calls from legal recruitment consultants but ignored them. She was enjoying the firm, even though she was getting home at 11pm each night.

She pondered: When did she last see her friends? Most of them were lawyers in other firms but she was always too busy to make it to any of their get togethers. She was heading towards her next career goal and the word partnership was mentioned occasionally in appraisals, but this was still a long way away.

Evaluate whether your firm is the right place for your career ambitions

A bit further along in her career, she is asked to attend a meeting with two of the Partners in the corporate team - she’s told there are no partnership options for her at this firm as she hasn’t shown any business development capability.

She thought about some friends who’d been in contact with recruitment consultants. They spoke highly about a select few that had helped them and now those friends were well en route to Partnership in smaller firms. She decided to contact a recruitment agency: "I’m afraid you’re too far along, if you’d thought about moving earlier in your career, we could’ve helped."

She called a few more agencies and received the same answer. She felt trapped. She doesn’t want to work as an in-house lawyer. Her passion was to deal with multiple firms, not just a singular client.

Stagnation can push you away from a profession

Two years later and she has left the law profession. She interviewed with a few firms but didn’t have a portable book of business and they weren’t willing to take the risk. The voices in her head to this day nag: “Why didn't you explore options earlier? Why didn't you ask the firm about the long-term options? My network was there, why didn’t I use it?”

She realised that she should’ve taken some calls from recruiters, kept her options open and listened to what was out there. This would have given her the best chances of achieving her career goals. You should never make assumptions about your career.

Advice for Newly Qualified Lawyers

It’s a great shame to commit to all those years of education and training to leave the legal profession because your career became pigeonholed.

James Franklin's picture
Head of Legal, UK
jfranklin@morganmckinley.co.uk