Starting my legal career: Reflecting on 1 Year at Burley Law
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What's it really like working at Burley Law
November 17, 2022

The 15th of November marks 1 year since Reccy started at Burley Law. In this blog she details how she came to work as a Paralegal (SQE Trainee) in an IP, Tech, HR & Employment law firm, how the role has helped her with her personal and professional development, and advice for others starting their legal career.  

How did you end up at Burley Law?

I found out about Burley Law while working as a Consultant Paralegal with Flex Legal. I had never worked in an IP or Employment law firm, so when Flex put me forward for the role, I honestly didn’t think I would get the job. However, after researching the firm and finding out about its work culture and values, I decided to go ahead with the interview. As part of my interview, I was asked to do a short presentation on ‘Why IP is important for any business.’ I did some research on the topic and tied it to the knowledge and experience I had from previous roles and used this information to put together my presentation. While I didn’t have a strong background in either IP and Employment law, Des and Liz felt my soft skills and experience in other areas of law would allow me to support them with client work and business development. I originally worked at Burley law as a Consultant Paralegal on a 3-6 month contract but was offered a full time role as a Paralegal (SQE Trainee) in September 2022, after returning from working in Saint Lucia for 2 ½ months.  

How has working as a paralegal at Burley Law helped with your personal and professional development?

I’ve seen a lot of professional growth since working here thanks to support and guidance from Des and Liz. When I first started, my Intellectual Property and Employment Law knowledge and experience was limited. One of the benefits of working in a small firm, is that we get to work closely with the firm’s partners who have over 20 years of professional and legal experience. Being able to attend client meetings, handle client work and contribute to the firm’s business development has allowed me to develop knowledge and skills which I usually wouldn’t have learned at a junior level. Des and Liz have a ‘people first’ approach when it comes to their staff and clients. They are always happy to explain things and provide me with one-to-one feedback on client work and projects. As a result, I am now comfortable with IP work such as the filing and administration of trade marks, I can review and draft a wide variety of IP, Commercial, and Employment contracts and know how to provide legal support to start up and scale up businesses.

Working at Burley Law has also been great for my personal development.  Des and Liz are supportive and care about our mental and physical wellbeing and provide professional support based on our personal and career goals. This includes regular personal development meetings and providing us with mentorship and training opportunities. As a result of their support, I was able to go to Saint Lucia and launch Caribbean Elective’s Law Program, an opportunity which led to me being awarded Birmingham Black Lawyer’s Junior Legal Professional of the Year. Liz has been an incredible sponsor and connected me to other professionals such as Denise Morris who invited me to share my personal and professional journey in TAG Network’s DocumentaryMaking Waves: Voices of Young Leaders.  None of these achievements would have been possible without Des and Liz’s continued support.

What advice would you give to someone starting their legal career?

Be open minded. Unfortunately starting your legal career can be challenging. Some people struggle to get a training contract, others are forced into areas of law they may not be interested or passionate about, and others may not have the financial means to fund the LPC or SQE on their own. Having faced some of these challenges myself, I have had to learn to be open minded and flexible. A year ago, I had never even considered working in an IP or Employment law firm. However, working at Burley Law has developed my legal knowledge and skills in these areas and helped me discover a passion for IP law. Had I not challenged myself to try a new area of law or only applied to big traditional law firms, I would have missed out on the opportunity to work at a firm with people who are willing to support me on my personal and professional journey. 

Be Discerning. While a good job and salary are important, a firm or company’s work culture is something you should research before applying for a job. Having a toxic work environment can cause serious physical or mental health issues, lead to burnout, or destroy your passion or interest in law. It is therefore important to do your research (e.g., Company website, Glassdoor, speak with current or former employees, etc.) and consider whether the values and culture of a law firm or company you are applying to aligns with your values. It is also important to research and/or ask whether they offer support and resources for personal and professional growth.  While there is no perfect work place, applying to companies and firms which prioritise their staff’s wellbeing can help prevent you from falling out of love with the legal profession and spare you from unnecessary physical and mental burnout. 

Be Creative.  For those who are struggling to get vacation schemes and training contracts there are other amazing opportunities to gain legal experience.  I was able to gain Civil and Family law experience volunteering with Birmingham Support Through Court where I supported litigants in person with drafting documents and attending court. I joined the European Law Students Association (ELSA) while I was in Uni and was able to gain Criminal and Human Rights law experience as a STEP Trainee in Greece. The University of Birmingham (UoB) and other organisations also offer bursaries which can fund local and global work experience. By applying for and being awarded the Gateway Bursary, I was able to fund 1-month of legal work experience in Saint Lucia in 2019 where I gained Constitutional and Commercial legal experience.  Volunteering as a Coordinator for UoB’s Pro Bono Group taught me the organisation and team work skills which I use every day at Burley Law.  All these opportunities helped me develop legal skills while supporting some amazing local and global pro bono initiatives. 

At the end of the day, everyone’s journey into the legal profession is different. However, whether you qualify via the traditional route or forge your own path to qualifying as a solicitor, finding a good work environment with people who are invested in your personal and professional development can greatly improve your experience. I am incredibly grateful to everyone at Burley Law who has fostered an environment which has helped me thrive and look forward to qualifying as a solicitor with the firm.