I am a passionate believer that the life skills gained in non-legal jobs, positions of responsibility or volunteer work are fundamental.
Have you always wanted to be a solicitor in a commercial law firm?
Becoming a partner at a leading City law firm was not a burning childhood desire. Science was my strength at school and I also had a long-held passion for performing, which I always hoped would be relevant in my working life.
How did work experience help in your career decisions?
As I didn’t relish being locked away in a lab or on a building site (which was, at the time, my perception of engineering) or a further seven years of study (ruling out medicine), I investigated law. I was academic but thrived on practical problem solving and law held the Hollywood-sensationalised prospect of ‘performing’ in a courtroom. I carried out some work experience at a local law firm (now known as Carey Olsen) in Guernsey and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Did you consider training as a barrister?
As well as waitressing and childminding, I continued to work at Carey Olsen in my holidays to gain as much practical legal experience as I could. Advocates in Guernsey have rights of audience so I spent time in court – but I found myself drawn to being a solicitor not a barrister. A barrister’s existence seemed to be a rather solitary one. I was gregarious by nature and concluded that I wanted to lead client relationships and work as part of a team. I secured a training contract at Carey Olsen.
What was your training contract experience like?
I didn’t receive a conventional City law training. My training was enormously varied. One minute I would be working on a high-profile private equity fund launch, the next I would be at the local prison interviewing someone arrested for petty theft. I had an enormous amount of responsibility from day one and was working with contrasting types of lawyers with diverse skills sets required for servicing the needs of such a disparate range of clients. On qualification, I decided to revisit the bright lights of the City, joining Macfarlanes where I have stayed. I now get my performing fix by speaking at industry seminars and conferences.
What advice do you have for aspiring solicitors about interviews and work experience?
I interview lots of potential trainees. I am impressed by those with a range of experience, legal and non-legal. While legal work experience is imperative in determining that law is for you, I am a passionate believer that the life skills gained in non-legal jobs, positions of responsibility or volunteer work are equally fundamental. These roles give you direct experience of dealing with and managing people, often in stressful situations. You can be the best technical lawyer but if you cannot effectively and empathetically communicate with clients and colleagues while under pressure, building a successful practice will be challenging.
What advice would you give your younger self, just about to start off in your legal career?
‘Don’t be afraid to put your head above the parapet’ – that’s what I would tell my younger self. Someone once said to me: ‘You miss 100 per cent of the shots you don’t take’. Trainee solicitors and vacation scheme students should get out of their comfort zone, ask supervisors to be involved in their projects, seek constructive criticism (and take it graciously when it feels unconstructive!) and learn from it. Not only does this attitude give you access to the best supervisors and work, enabling you to develop more quickly, but it makes a lasting positive impression.
Lora Froud is a partner in the investment management group at Macfarlanes LLP. She graduated with a degree in law from Bristol University in 2002.