Farrer & Co LLP

Louisa Steele
Farrer & Co LLP

Farrer & Co LLP

University: University of St. Andrews
Degree: International relations and geography
Year of qualification: 2017
Position: Associate
Department: Employment

What attracted you to a career in law?

I have always been interested in a career in law and considered doing it as my undergraduate degree. I spoke to a number of lawyers at the time and they all said broadly the same thing: do something that interests you, as postgraduate conversion is a well-trodden path and you will bring a different perspective to the table.

There was, however, a significant amount of international law in the international relations element of my degree and I really enjoyed this. I knew that law would expose me to a variety of different sectors and people, while providing me with the opportunity to work on projects which are both academic and commercial. The fact that the work would have a significant, tangible outcome for clients was also very appealing.  

Why solicitor, not barrister?

I enjoy working as part of a team and I think barristers certainly spend more of their time working independently. Secondly, I enjoy building and maintaining client relationships and you don’t necessarily get the same continuity as a barrister. As a solicitor, you are involved from the outset and right through to the conclusion of matters.

How did you decide which firms to apply to?

My first port of call was the student guides, such as LawCareers.Net. I also spent time researching firms online in order to learn a bit more about them. I knew I wanted a full-service firm with a range of interesting practice areas, as well as a firm with real breadth and depth of expertise. I then created a short list of firms which specialised in the areas of law I knew I was interested in. More broadly, I looked at how firms were rated on work/life balance and the quality of training. I also spoke to as many lawyers as possible, at law fairs and during work experience.

How much work experience had you had? Why is it so important?

I was fortunate enough to have gained experience at a range of different firms. Work experience and vacation schemes are key – you get a much better understanding of the profession and a more accurate picture of the day-to-day role of a lawyer and the type of firm and client base you could be working with. Work experience is also a great way to develop your commercial awareness.

Which departments did you train in?

The firm has a six-seat training system. It allows trainees the opportunity to meet people across the firm and experience more of the firm’s practice. I sat in rural property, banking, employment, disputes, tax and then returned to employment in my final seat. You tend to return to the team you are qualifying into for your last seat, which is helpful – you get eight months’ pre-qualification experience in that area and you have the final seat in the run up to qualification.

How does the qualification process work at the firm?

I thought the process was handled very well. Towards the end of January, each second-year trainee has an informal meeting with the training principal to discuss where they might like to qualify. The training principal then approaches the relevant teams to see where there are spaces available. Each trainee then has a second meeting around March to see if their choices match availability. In my intake, nine out of 10 of us stayed at Farrers and qualified into our first-choice seat.  

Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?

My work in employment is extremely varied and is split between contentious and non-contentious matters. On the employer side, we represent clients in the financial services, commercial, sports, and education sectors. We often advise on issues such as contractual matters, employee relations and redundancy exercises. I have also worked on a number of Employment Tribunal claims.

On the employee side, I advise individual employees on their employment rights on entry and exit. That often means advising on settlement agreements and in relation to an employee's restrictive covenants. 

We also advise schools on parental complaints and a range of clients on child protection issues. I work with a number of different teams across the firm when clients have needs that cross into tax, pensions, corporate, regulatory, data protection or charity law.

What do you most/least enjoy about your career and why?

Working in law means being tested intellectually every day and I really enjoy finding practical, versatile and commercial solutions to our clients' problems. The range of clients we work with means I get a real insight into a variety of different sectors. It is certainly one of the privileges of our work. 

Employment can be a very emotive area of people's lives. As a lawyer, you take on a lot of responsibility from a very early stage and you are constantly handling extremely sensitive information. Learning how to handle these pressures is important.

How involved are you with business development and promoting the firm?

The firm encourages business development at all levels. This can be by simply having a coffee or lunch with contacts, clients and intermediaries. It can also be in relation to wider practice development by writing articles for internal or external publication, presenting at seminars or attending networking events.

The firm has a client-centric approach to business development based on five principal client types, or ‘pillars’. If you have an idea for a business development initiative, the relevant sub-sector heads are extremely supportive.

What makes your firm stand out from the rest?

The high-calibre and varied work that Farrers attracts is a big selling point. The work is engaging and challenging, and every day brings different and interesting issues. 

Secondly, the firm’s friendly and supportive culture is wonderful. It was immediately obvious from the open day and vacation scheme that people are at the heart of Farrers’ business.  The sense of camaraderie among colleagues since then has only confirmed that view. The firm's strong retention record, the extremely high percentage of partners who trained with the firm and its genuine respect for employees’ lives beyond the office all reflect that culture. 

What advice do you have for budding solicitors who are contemplating a career in law?

Use the time that you have at school, university and during the holidays to do things that interest and challenge you. Beyond work experience, get involved in a society, charity or club, learn a language or travel. These are the things that will set you apart. 

What’s your dream holiday destination?

Exploring the Norwegian Fjords.

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