Associate at Browne Jacobson, and Law Society Social Mobility Ambassador.
How do you start your day? Could be what you have for breakfast, meditation, exercise, or other early morning habit My best days start with a blast of electronic dance music on my exercise bike. It sets me up for the day and wakes me up. Then comes a large mug of coffee to help me power through the morning.
What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at the office (switch on your work computer!) I tend to check my emails and prioritise tasks for the day before heading downstairs to grab some breakfast. This allows me time to consider what tasks need my urgent attention and a short break from my desk reminds me that although my to do list may be lengthy, I do not have to dive right in. This conscious break prevents me from going into autopilot mode and acts as a management strategy for the additional processing time I require due to my neurodiversity. The nature of my role as a healthcare solicitor, often advising on serious medical treatment cases and inquests, is that a lot of tasks will be urgent. However, some will be more urgent than others and it’s always best to take the time to categorise and prioritse them. Time spent prioritising my day is time well spent!
What does a typical morning of work involve? This depends on whether my day is a ‘hearing day’ where I am at court hearings or a desk day. My morning may involve a short pre-inquest meeting with witnesses to mop up any last-minute queries they have before heading into an inquest, or tackling a lengthier task such as drafting a letter of advice to a client on a healthcare issue.
What’s for lunch? Everyone likes to know what’s on the menu! I love a tuna or chicken wrap. Working from the office, I convinced myself that I didn’t have time to have freshly cooked lunches but now it’s so nice to be able to work from home. I am close to home comforts and have no excuses not to whip up a fresh chicken wrap with some seasoning, mayo and salad.
What does a typical afternoon of work involve? This again depends on whether it’s a hearing day or not, but if it’s not then I use the afternoon for the shorter, more piecemeal tasks such as admin, phone calls and responding to non-urgent emails. Sometimes, I will have a meeting (often round table meeting) scheduled in the afternoon, to discuss any outstanding points on a case and narrow the issues between the parties. Around 3pm I tend to hit a mid-afternoon slump and I like to take a little tea / chocolate break, often accompanied by a call to one of my colleagues in the team. Since I now mostly work from home, I try to replace the lost office interaction with calls to my team so that I keep in contact with colleagues and can bounce ideas off others. I think this is important for wellbeing and continuing development, particularly as a junior solicitor. Regular check-ins with colleagues ensures that I can continue learning and I don’t miss out on the natural information flow from overhearing calls or speaking to colleagues in an office environment.
Which three words best describe your experience of working in the law? Varied, challenging and fulfilling.
What advice do you have to students from less privileged backgrounds who aspire to a career in the law? Take your time to explore and consider the varied areas and opportunities that the law has to offer. It’s best to seek out opportunities in the areas you are most interested in e.g. by attending your local court to watch public proceedings, volunteering for a law centre or citizens advice bureau or publishing posts / a blog online about any interesting cases that you hear about. All these activities will help you to:
- build contacts with people in the profession
- develop some of the skills required to be a solicitor
- Most importantly, it will help you to find your passion.
Once you find your passion, hang onto it and persevere with entering the profession. Law is typically competitive. Don’t let that put you off though, or the fact that you come from a different background hold you back. The law needs professionals that can meet the needs of the diverse clients it serves. Having a slightly different path or outlook may help set you apart from the crowds of students seeking training contracts. If you can demonstrate how the skills you have acquired make you an asset and find a firm that values those skills, you can use the fact that you came to the profession through a different path to your advantage. It’s also worth bearing in mind that there is no one typical career path into law and there are lots of entry routes / points, whether it’s through an apprenticeship, a training contract or gaining experience as a paralegal.
Is working as a solicitor what you expected?
I think there are quite a few misconceptions about being a solicitor floating around, mainly perpetuated by TV shows and films. It largely depends on the type of law you practice but healthcare law isn’t as glamourous as its shown to be in the movies. Nevertheless, the intellectually stimulating medical and ethical dilemmas I deal with day-to-day are more fascinating than I could have hoped for. Working in this field allows me to combine my interest in healthcare and medicine with my love of the law and I find it such a rewarding specialism to practice in.
What do you find the most challenging about your role? Sometimes there can be very little downtime, as the pace of my work often mirrors the demands that are placed on public sector clients, healthcare providers and NHS Trusts. The pandemic also prompted more varied and frequent requests for legal advice. Sometimes there’s simply too much work to manage easily and so you have to manage the expectations of clients. It can be tricky to balance client needs against the time needed to complete a task to the level of quality it commands.
Who do you go to for support for a tricky task? It largely depends on the nature of the query and whether I think it requires a 5-minute chat or some more detailed guidance. If it’s a heavy-duty query, I tend to put some time in the diary with a partner or send them an initial draft of an email or advice to supervise, detailing any queries I have. If it’s a quick query, I check through the online activity statuses of individuals in our team to see who is free. I know that if someone is showing as ‘green’, they are not engaged in other calls or meetings and they may be free to chat. Partners at Browne Jacobson are happy to be instant messaged to check if they have some time to chat about a query. The culture of the firm you work in is so important for junior solicitors or barristers. When it comes to researching firms that you would like to work for, it’s always good to research what support they offer for learning and development and ask others about supervision arrangements on a day to day basis. Thankfully for me, the culture at Browne Jacobson is very supportive and there is a real focus on helping others learn and develop.
Lynette is a Law Society Social Mobility Ambassador. This scheme promotes role models from non-traditional backgrounds who have achieved their ambitions and are willing to support their peers within the profession and prospective solicitors. Find out more here.
Photo credit: Alice Mutasa / www.placesandseasons.com