Although I enjoyed my law degree (honestly – insert geek emoji!), it wasn’t until I got the opportunity to actually experience the job in practice that I decided I wanted to be a solicitor, and it was my time as a paralegal in BT’s Employment team that really cemented my decision.
The team gives advice on all aspects of employment law to BT and its group companies, which meant I got the chance work closely with and learn from colleagues across the business from HR to our engineering teams in Openreach.
I also really enjoyed the variety of work, which included keeping up with upcoming legal developments and helping to assess the impact on BT as a business. This was ‘real-life’ application of the law and required a deep understanding of how BT operates as a business.
It was quite a long journey to be honest as I strayed a few times and took the scenic route.
I graduated from the University of Kent in 2011 with a first class honours in law. After spending a few months in the world of legal recruitment and temping as an admin assistant, I finally landed a job as a legal assistant in a small firm based in London, specialising in personal injury and employment law.
I worked my way up in the firm and spent a year working as a fee earner in the Employment team managing my own caseload and clients.
However after a year and a half, I realised that I still wasn’t sold on a career as a solicitor and didn’t want to self-fund my LPC until I was 100% sure about my decision.
So I took a detour and went to work at the Financial Ombudsman Service as an adjudicator in the insurance team. In hindsight, it was a great move as I went from working for a small company of about 30 to an organisation with over 3000 employees. I developed a number of skills including customer service, stakeholder engagement and project management, but the biggest take away was learning how to communicate in ‘plain English’. I’m still working on it but it’s been the most invaluable skill during my training contract.
Whilst I was at the Ombudsman, I realised that I needed a new challenge and took on some work for the Employment team at BT through an agency, Paralaw. That led to a full time paralegal position at BT, which led to my decision to apply for an in-house training contract.
In 2015, I applied for and secured a position on BT’s Legal Graduate Scheme, which has a unique structure.
It’s a 3-year scheme, where trainees spend the first 2 years completing the LPC part time on the weekends. The scheme has 3 mandatory seats which you complete in the first 2 years, commercial, competition & regulatory law and commercial litigation. You can then spend the final year in a seat of your choice; I’m splitting mine between the Innovation and Strategic Partners Consumer team and the UK Commercial Litigation team.
I completed the LPC (MSc in Law and Business Management) in July 2017 and will be qualifying into the UK Commercial Litigation team later this year.
I’m currently completing my last seat in a commercial team in our Consumer division. I usually start my day at 9am, but if I’m busy I’ll try and get into the office at 8am whilst it’s quieter.
I’ll then check my emails and diary, and pull together a to-do list for the day. We work quite closely with our colleagues in procurement and the product teams, so it’s not unusual to get questions or requests for support over instant messenger or for a colleague to wonder past your desk and ask a question.
As a trainee in BT you get a lot of responsibility and the opportunity to lead on matters with the appropriate support from your supervisor. So a typical day will involve drafting and reviewing contracts, legal research, internal calls with colleagues and if I’m working on or supporting a colleague with a deal then an external call with a supplier to negotiate the terms of the contract.
The team also works on a number of internal projects and if I’m supporting then my day will include diarising calls, meetings with internal stakeholders, pulling together agendas, drafting and circulating actions, and general research tasks.
Essentially, you’re much closer to the detail and you have a stake in the business achieving its overall strategy.
Being an employee gives you a better insight into how the business operates so you learn to give commercially pragmatic advice and more importantly, answer the question you’ve been given.
This is a much harder skill to grasp, especially when our educational training teaches us to set out all of our research giving all the possible options and listing all the potential risks. I learnt this the hard way when a supervisor cut down my advice note from 3 sides of A4 to a few sentences in an email.
Working in-house does come with its challenges though, I would only recommend it if you have a genuine interest in the company and its products and/or services.
Although you’re ‘legal’, you’re seen as part of the team and should have a deep understanding of the business’ commercial objectives and be prepared to challenge your colleagues where appropriate to protect the business’ interests.
Learn when to accelerate your career and when to brake. It’s great to have ambition but sometimes it is better in the long run to pause and evaluate your goals, reflect on how far you’ve come and most importantly, ask yourself if you’re happy.
For more insight into in house solicitor roles, why not take a look at our other case studies:
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