A career in recruitment: a lawyer’s perspective
Briefly describe your career history prior to commencing your legal recruitment career.
I graduated from Newcastle University with a BA Hons degree in English Literature (after having initially applied for Law, I changed at the last minute to study English Literature!). After graduating, I took a year out to mull things over / decide what was next and during that time decided to apply for the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). I chose to study at the College of Law in Bloomsbury, London and, in the interests of getting all the studying out of the way, I did the Legal Practice Course (LPC) the following year.
Whilst on the LPC, I secured a training contract at CMS Cameron McKenna LLP, having done a two-week vacation scheme there. The vacation scheme was a great opportunity to really get to know the firm and its culture and it confirmed to me that it was a good fit.
I did a two year training contract and during that time, I spent six months in CMS’ Prague office and a couple of months at a private bank in London; both were great experiences and helped to diversify me experience. I qualified into the Banking Litigation team and worked as an associate for almost four years.
What attracted you to a career in law?
There were a couple of reasons. First, I liked the idea of having a profession behind me and having a clear career trajectory; it felt like a stable and secure job. Second, I also liked the idea of working with people and having that interaction as client and adviser. Third, I liked the variety on offer in terms of there being a whole host of different areas you can specialise in.
What were the reasons for leaving law?
I enjoyed my training contract; I liked the fact that you had six months stints in different departments, as I enjoyed the variety and learning a different area of practice kept it fresh. Once the excitement of qualification and securing a job had worn off (and I was around one year PQE), I had the sense that my career in law was stretching ahead of me and I no longer felt enthused by it. I had no desire to become a partner and I found myself getting frustrated by the way lawyers are encouraged to work; being at the mercy of clients and the focus being on how many hours you can bill. I also wasn’t getting that face-to-face interaction that had been one of the reasons that initially attracted me to a career in law (a lot, understandably, is done by email or over the phone). I knew deep down that I didn’t want to stay in the law, but it felt like a huge decision to move away from it, particularly when I had spent a long time working hard to get there, so I kept at it. I wasn’t miserable, I had just lost my motivation and drive, which wasn’t a good feeling.
I explored other options, such as moving in-house. This felt like it would be a good stepping stone but upon landing some interviews, I still had that feeling that I wanted to move away from law completely and that moving in-house would just be buying me time. It was through my potential move in-house that I started to meet with legal recruiters and became more immersed in the world of legal recruitment and that door was opened.
Once I made the decision to move, I felt such a sense of freedom and relief, so knew it had been the right choice.
What appealed to you about a career in legal recruitment?
One of the main reasons is that being a recruiter is much more people focussed than being a lawyer. I liked the idea that I wouldn’t necessarily be stuck behind a desk all day pouring over a contract and doing the same task. Another reason is that you have more freedom and control over your desk and your working style, which is quite a contrast to being a lawyer with your workload and style being dictated by a partner or client. I also liked the self-motivation aspect to being a recruiter, in the sense that you can directly reap the rewards of your effort.
Has working in the recruitment industry been different than expected?
Yes and no. It has probably been more challenging than I thought it would be; there is a lot to juggle and you also need to be resilient and persevere, as there can be quite a few ups and downs throughout a recruitment process and you can’t always control the outcome. It has also been more collaborative than expected, which is a welcome surprise. There is a preconception that recruiters are lone wolves and are out for themselves, but I really don’t feel that at Taylor Root; I have felt supported since day one. I very much enjoy the client and candidate interaction and I really get a sense of job satisfaction once a placement goes through!
Is there any advice you would give to lawyers thinking of making a similar move?
My advice would be to have an open mind. If you’re not feeling happy in your job, you can do something about it. Once you take that initial first step, a future job move becomes much easier and much less daunting. It is definitely worth speaking to friends, colleagues, clients, to get an idea of what opportunities are out there. I also really thought about what I wanted from a job; having worked for six years, I had a pretty good idea of what was important to me and what my strengths were, so I considered what would match my skills and priorities. I got to the point where I felt that I had nothing to lose, so took a leap of faith. I am still new to the world of recruitment, but I have not looked back!