What I know now: James Lilley, solicitor, Pinsent Masons LLP

Welcome to the newest instalment of our ‘What I know now’ series on the Brooke Thornham NQ blog. Each month, we speak to a qualified legal professional about their career journey: what set them on the path to a solicitor career, and the steps they took to achieving that goal, as well as exploring their personal experience of working in the legal sector (ups, downs, and everything in between).


Today’s ‘What I know now’ blog comes from James Lilley, solicitor and Property Litigation specialist at Pinsent Masons LLP.

After graduating with a Law degree from Queen Mary, University of London and completing his LPC at BPP, James took up a traineeship at Gordons LLP, where he qualified in September 2013 and stayed on as an NQ solicitor. His first move into a solicitor career post-qualification was to DAC Beachcroft LLP in 2015, where he worked as a Property Litigation solicitor in the Real Estate team. Fast-forward to 2018 and he retains his property specialism in the Leeds office of global legal firm Pinsent Masons LLP.

Hi, James. First things first: why did you decide to train as a solicitor?

For many years, all I wanted to do was become the next David Attenborough and to travel the world working on natural history documentaries. When I was about 16, my dad suggested that this might not be the most realistic career goal, and, since I “liked a good argument”, had I thought about becoming a solicitor?  The rest, as they say, is history.

How well did your experience as a trainee prepare you for becoming qualified?

Being a trainee not only gave me the legal knowledge and experience that I built upon after qualification, but also the softer skills dealing with colleagues and clients; and the determination to push myself to do the best that I can every day.

Describe your training partner in 3 words.

Tough but fair.

What was the biggest difference for you when you were admitted and took a full solicitor role?

Targets and billing.

What piece of practical advice would you give to someone who is at the start of their legal career?

Never turn work away, and always fight for the best experience and the best opportunities – even if it is hard work in the short term, it will be worthwhile in the long run.

If you were to recruit a lawyer at NQ level to work closely with you, what would be the most important thing you’d look for?

A willingness to learn and a drive to work hard.

What is your best interview tip?

Be yourself and be honest about what you can and cannot do. At NQ level, it is my experience that firms hire people based on who they are on a personal level and their potential – not what they know at the time.

To date, what is your ‘career highlight’?

My first trial win.

Summarise your experience of legal recruiters in 5 words or fewer.

Great market knowledge and experience.

Thanks for talking to us, James (and we’re very glad you’ve had such a positive experience with legal recruiters!)


If you qualify as an NQ solicitor in 2018, get in touch with the Brooke Thornham team today for help finding your ideal NQ role, and support with your legal job applications. And don’t forget that our NQ Solicitors’ Survival Guide 2018 is still available to download for free – get the Guide today.

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