Being the Big Fish in a Small Pond

10 August 2018

I am extremely lucky to have been given the opportunity to complete my training contract in a small, boutique law firm which specialises in Commercial and Corporate law, IT and Data Protection.

The firm I work for is a start-up and so I’ve had the wonderful opportunity of watching it grow – and growing with it. Learning about how the business operates has massively enhanced my commercial awareness and what I can offer to our clients. We deal with start-ups all the way up to FTSE 100 companies and so understanding the commercial aspects of any business adds real value to the client/firm relationship. If I’ve learnt anything from my 5 months as a trainee, it’s that answering the question “what should we do about it?” in a commercial sense, is just as important as understanding what the legal position is.

When thinking about where to complete a training contract, it is really important to understand what you want to get out of it. The legal industry is extremely competitive and when applying for training contracts, you need to apply for firms that are the right fit for you (rather than churning out hundreds of applications to every firm you can think of in the hope that someone might hire you). You may be extremely excited by the fast-paced, competitive environment of the big city firms which no doubt provide exceptional training, or you may feel as though you’d fit better in a smaller firm, with smaller teams and more exposure to your chosen industry. You should consider the structure of the training programme, the culture of the firm and the dynamics of the teams you will be working with before making a decision.

So, what are three things I thought about when deciding to apply for a training contract with Stephenson Law?

1. Small team (usually) = more exposure

Working in a team of four has given me invaluable exposure to the industry and has meant that I have been given much more responsibility than I might have if I was working in a city firm. For example, in my first 6 months I have been given the opportunity to manage two clients’ GDPR implementation projects. Project management and time organisation are skills I have had to finesse fairly quickly (to say the least) and from it, I am so much more comfortable managing clients’ expectations and organising my time effectively.

2. Client relationships

Being able to form relationships with clients is really important to any law firm and I have been fortunate enough to have had direct exposure to our clients from the outset which will undoubtedly benefit me as I progress through my career. Working with our clients closely on a range of subject matters has enabled me to build a rapport with them and I never feel as though I’m in the background. This is something that I thought was really important when choosing a law firm and is one of my favourite things about working at Stephenson Law.

3. We are an alternative law firm

I am also lucky that the firm I work for brands itself as ‘alternative’. The way the firm is structured means that there is absolutely no sense of hierarchy or prestige which as a trainee, is a great environment to be in. We spend so much time at work, so it is really important to be in a firm that you love and, more importantly, somewhere that fits you and the life you want for yourself. If you hate Mondays, you’re in the wrong job.