8 August 2012
Clarke Willmott’s trainee Luke Murphy advises aspiring lawyers to grab every opportunity they can to make themselves stand out – even where it takes them out of their comfort zone.
Name: Luke Murphy
Firm: Clarke Willmott LLP
Position: Trainee Solicitor
Degree: Law with Business
Universities: University of Portsmouth
GDL or LPC: LPC College of Law
Hobbies: Dancing, Fitness & Music
Why did you decide to train as a solicitor?
Solicitors enable things to happen. They facilitate. Being hugely proactive, I was attracted to the problem solving and solution based aspects of the job in addition to the intellectual challenge of the law itself.
Why did you choose your firm?
Clarke Willmott is a dynamic and entrepreneurial law firm which offers the opportunity for people at all levels to be involved with the business development of the firm. The firm has a clear growth strategy and is hugely ambitious in achieving that growth. Everybody’s opinion is listened to and trainees are encouraged and supported in creating and implementing initiatives.
What has been the highlight of your training contract so far?
In a previous seat (Commercial Litigation) successfully negotiating a payment plan with the other side to avoid a serious breach of contract and being thanked by the client. Attending an employment tribunal and seeing the outcome of all my hard work. A business magazine asking to use one of my employment law articles in their next issue.
What does your typical day involve?
There is something different every day. On a contentious matter, I might be organising the bundles for the employment tribunal – liaising with the other side’s solicitors to negotiate which documents should and should not be included, exchanging witness statements and complying with court directions, drafting key legal documents and compiling case law and authorities. On non-contentious matters I might be researching and drafting legal advice on complicated employment law matters, and writing legal articles for the firm.
Tell us a bit about the type of work handled by your department?
The team acts for a wide range of blue chip companies and SME’s as well as professional sports clubs. We act on all aspects of both contentious and non-contentious employment law for example terms and conditions of employment, unfair and wrongful dismissal claims, discrimination claims, redundancies and TUPE transfers.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?
Using the knowledge and the skills which I have worked hard to learn and develop to help solve a problem for somebody else. Being thanked by a client or a colleague for a piece of work. Seeing how your piece of the puzzle fits into the bigger picture.
What is the biggest misconception of the legal profession?
That lawyers just do law. Lawyers also advise on important business decisions. They add value and help clients achieve their goals. As a result it is crucial to understand the client’s business, the client’s industry and what makes the client tick!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in law?
Meet and talk to as many legal professionals as you can from a range of firms. Get yourself a mentor – somebody who is doing the very job which you want to be doing two or three years down the line. Turn any rejection into motivation for securing yourself a training contract. Discover and develop your USP.
What are the biggest pitfalls students should try to avoid when pursuing a legal career?
Thinking that strong A-levels and an LPC qualification alone is the route to a training contract. Grab every opportunity you can to make yourself stand out – even where it takes you out of your comfort zone. Understand how law firms make money, how they sustain profitability and ultimately how they work! Become familiar with the legal services market and differences between law firms both in their work, culture and approach. This will enable you to make confident and tailored applications.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to secure a training contract?
Getting my foot in the door and making those initial contacts. The application process itself. Self-motivation – juggling part time work and study with spending several hours, sometimes days on an application form. Making my application really stand out. Choosing which firms to apply to and understanding how different law firms have different cultures.
How is law in practice different from studying law?
Studying law tends to be black and white. There is a problem and an answer. In practice there is rarely a definitive answer. Instead, you have to advise and make a judgement based on the strengths, weaknesses and the circumstances of each individual case. The best solution for client A may not be the best solution for client B. You also have to factor in commercial considerations. For example, it may be cheaper in monetary terms for an employer to settle a claim, but what message might that settlement send out to the rest of the workforce or even the clients of that employer?
What are the common attributes of successful candidates?
Attention to detail at all times and the ability to instil confidence in clients (both externally and internally to colleagues and supervisors). An enthusiastic work ethic – even when asked to do something which is ‘less exciting’.