We caught up with Tabitha, a trainee at Burges Salmon, to find out more about the culture and her role at the firm. Read on to hear how she managed to secure a Training Contract despite not studying Law and her advice to future applicants.
Tell me a bit about yourself
I’m Tabby, I studied Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh and then I worked for three years in the film industry down in London, finding filming locations for TV dramas and feature films. I then decided that I wanted to go into law – it had always been an option, so I did some vacation schemes with law firms and then managed to get a training contract with Burges Salmon.
What’s your role at Burges Salmon?
I’m a trainee solicitor and am now one year in to my two-year training contract. The work so far has been interesting as I rotate departments every four months so there is a real variation in the tasks and type of work I am doing. The department rotations (known as seat rotations) are a great way to help me decide what type of lawyer I want to become (contentious or non-contentious) and the type of sector work I want to get involved in when I qualify. So far, I have worked in the Real Estate department, the Planning department and with the Dispute Resolution team, and I have just started working with the Construction and Engineering team.
What inspired you to pursue a career in Law?
I studied law for A-level which I really enjoyed, but I was told to avoid studying law at university (by lawyers actually!) and instead do the one-year GDL conversion course followed by the LPC.
After graduating from university, I was not quite ready to move into law and so instead got a job working in the TV and film industry which was very fun. During my three years working in the film industry, I realised my favourite aspect of the job was working with clients to help them solve their problems. I quite enjoy analysing situations to find a result that makes people happy, which is what you do as a lawyer, so I thought I would give a legal career a go.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned so far on your journey to becoming a lawyer?
Just to ask questions really. I think going into law is always going to be a massive learning curve. There are so many different laws out there that you’re never going to know it all and no one is expecting you to. So just ask questions, show enthusiasm and seem interested – that will go a long way.
What aspects of the legal industry do you personally find the most interesting?
I am really interested in the energy sector, especially renewable energy, and I want to try and work on projects that help build a sustainable future. A lot of the work we do is very commercial in nature and so you are not just advising on the legal framework but also thinking about whether a business idea makes commercial sense. I need to understand what it is my clients (who are mostly businesses) want to achieve; this may be implementing a new renewables technology or getting funding from a bank to start their new business enterprise. Once we know this, we can advise on the legal steps that need to be taken and how to make a new project happen. I like that my role is a mixture of understanding the law and how businesses work, especially if those businesses help push us in a more environmentally friendly direction.
What would a day in your role look like?
I get in to the office… well, actually it’s a bit different now with working from home! I go to my desk, check my emails and respond to anything urgent. I will then start working through my to-do list; this could involve reviewing some contract amendments and updating changes, or drafting emails or letters to clients. The solicitor will then review those to check they are okay before sending anything out. I might then start some legal research or due diligence (which is reviewing contracts to find specific clauses and then highlighting any problematic clauses to the client). I usually have many calls with clients and lots of meetings with solicitors to progress projects to the next level and see what needs to be done next. I think there’s a lot of project management in law. Also going for lots of coffees!
How have you found the company culture at Burges Salmon?
Brilliant; it was the main selling point to me - it is a really friendly culture. Everyone is willing to help out. The entire team has a vested interest in all the projects so it’s not just one department or lawyer taking control; it is a very collaborative environment. No one is off-limits and they will all come and talk to you, even if they are senior partners.
How important is diversity to Burges Salmon?
It is something that is hugely important to Burges Salmon and a strategic priority, but we know that we still have to increase diversity and this is being addressed. We have a variety of internal, employee-led diversity and inclusion networks that help not only to diversify the firm but also to raise awareness about diversity, so we can improve. Recently there have been some fantastic talks put on by the firm’s networks, including a talk about intersectionality and one on how to be an ally. The firm also virtually hosted the BProud Oscars ceremony – BProud is our LGBT+ network – which was great fun, and took part in the virtual Bristol Pride celebrations. So there’s a lot going on, with D&I remaining very much at the forefront of the agenda for Burges Salmon moving forward.
Any tips for future applicants?
Enthusiasm will go a long way, and for applicants to our firm, show your personality – being a part of, and upholding, the open and collaborative culture is important to Burges Salmon. Make sure you are being yourself and that authenticity will show.