You’ve probably read a dozen blogs on what you should be doing as a trainee solicitor pursuing that all-important newly qualified solicitor position. Application season is full of expectation – the goal you’ve been working towards throughout your A levels, degree, GDL/LPC, and throughout your training contract, is finally just around the corner.
But, now that it’s time to start applying for your first NQ solicitor role, it’s natural to feel some uncertainty about where you want to take your career next. Years of investing all this time and effort makes for a kind of pressure that can create more problems than it solves – and, when it comes to crunch time, it can be hard to work out what kind of role you really want. So, in today’s blog, let’s get back to basics – what are the most important things to consider when you’re taking your first steps into your law career?
Why did you choose a career in law in the first place?
Was it a passion for justice and the rule of law? A solid career path? Did you follow your parents or family friends into the profession? Or maybe it was watching programmes like Ally McBeal (really showing my age here) or Suits (unfortunately, marrying a Royal is not a career option… we’re not all Meghan Markle…)?
Why not get back to your original motivations for entering the profession before you look at any other factors? Yes, educational and professional experiences might have influenced and changed your thought processes as you’ve progressed to this point, but maybe jot down what was important to the teenager in you as part of your values assessment. Is it going to be a firm that passionately pursues justice for the underdog? Or genuinely believes in and supports charitable causes?
Don’t be afraid to mention things like this when speaking to your recruiter in terms of a consultative brief when seeking your NQ role – we work with many firms who have solid CSR policies that they live and breathe and which form part of their organisational culture. Some of our clients even facilitate tax-free charitable giving as part of their remuneration packages. Speak to us about what’s important to you, and we’ll do our best to tailor our search to include a firm that fits your values.
What’s the bigger picture?
Where do you see yourself professionally in the next five, ten or even twenty years? Have you thought about what your end game is? A lot of candidates tend not plan this far ahead and are surprised when I ask what they want their career trajectory to look like. While you don’t need to have a full roadmap at this stage, you need to be thinking at the NQ stage is how this first role is going to best serve your career progression and development.
Do you want to end up as a corporate partner at a leading national? Eventually enter the judiciary? Or is a career in-house beckoning? Take a step back from your NQ solicitor job search and try taking a longer view: plan out where you want your career to go over the next five years, and think about what type of newly qualified positions are going to help you get there.
As part of this activity, think about the types of firms and teams you wish to apply to, and whether they’ll give you the support you need. Do they have a good track record in managing and developing their current team members through the next step in their careers? Career management track records are important and that’s where we can help and advise you.
Are you happy?
Having reached the point where you’re about to qualify, it can sometimes feel that you’re on a runaway train and don’t have the opportunity to get off… but in reality, if you aren’t comfortable with where you’re going, you still can. It’s not too late to change: if you’ve taken your legal education this far then you’re clearly a motivated and tenacious person, and it certainly isn’t a failure if you’ve discovered that a legal career isn’t right for you.
Every year there are a number of trainees (and more qualified solicitors) throughout the country who ultimately decide that the law isn’t for them – and no, they don’t go away to die sadly in a cave alone or melt away in the rain like a Berocca; they regroup, consider their options, and go on to alternative careers that are equally as prestigious and exciting.
When it comes to starting your legal career, happiness and satisfaction should be at the top of your priority list. Application season is the perfect time to step back and think about what you really want from your legal career, and what your first steps should be to help you get there.