In last month’s edition, members of the employment law department at Howes Percival looked at the importance of building a great team. We now take a look at the path to becoming a solicitor and the ongoing training required with Associates Sobia Ahmad, who joined in September 2019, and Alex Sims, who joined in September 2020.
The path from trainee to solicitor
The most common path (including Alex’s) to qualify as a solicitor is to graduate with a qualifying law degree.
When asked about his path, Alex said: “As a student, I was aware that not only did I need to be an expert in understanding the law, but would need to apply the law to meet the needs of people and organisations. In order to cut my teeth on real world experience, I volunteered for a local law clinic.”
Would-be solicitors go on to complete the legal practice course (LPC), with a strong focus on the practical application of the law. This is followed by a training contract, which usually involves four departmental rotations, known as seats, which each last six months.
“Following the LPC, I undertook a training contract at Howes Percival. I wanted to develop my skills in a firm with a strong reputation for quality legal work and a supportive and friendly environment. In addition to an employment seat, I undertook seats in property, litigation and insolvency, across three of Howes Percival’s six offices.”
Alex qualified as an employment Associate in September 2020 in Milton Keynes. Upon qualification, he said: “Starting an employment seat in March 2020 would become an incredibly busy time for employment law, including getting to grips with furlough. Qualifying as an Associate at Howes Percival has been seamless and, although the safety net of being a trainee has been removed, there is still support and training from the team who are there to encourage and support my development.”
The importance of continued development
Learning and development does not come to an end once you qualify, it is an ongoing process throughout any career in law.
Sobia said: “I joined Howes Percival upon qualification as a solicitor and, although I was confident in my abilities and knowledge of employment law, there was a steep learning curve ahead!
“Thankfully, the team have been very supportive of my development. My supervisor is always there to provide guidance on how best to tackle matters practically and advise clients commercially. Just because one option looks the best in theory does not mean that it is the most appropriate or efficient solution for the client.”
In order to provide clients with excellent advice and service, solicitors need to keep up to date with the law, understand how this will affect their particular clients and advise accordingly. Employment law is a fast-moving area that reflects the changing values of society and current times, as we have seen during the pandemic and the whole host of employment issues that this raised.
“There are many ways to stay updated with changes in the law, including subscribing to newsletters and alerts within your specialism,” added Sobia. “The employment team at Howes Percival hold bi-weekly meetings to discuss recent developments and share ideas, particularly on how our clients will be affected and how we can advise them. Additionally, we have internal training sessions, on employment law or on areas such as risk and compliance or IT and cyber security.”
The Solicitors Regulation Authority requires all solicitors to reflect on their practice each year and identify any learning and development needs.
Sobia explained: “In order to expand my knowledge and experience, I discuss my learning and development needs with my supervisor. My supervisor has supported my development by increasing my involvement in particular areas, enabling me to attend relevant training courses. For example, I attended a course on settlement agreements, run by The Employment Lawyers Association, which broadened my understanding and gave me the confidence to start advising clients on my own. The firm’s new online learning management system is great, I can record my learning, save notes and view other user-friendly training resources at my convenience.”
Many other skills will naturally develop with time and experience. One such area is presentation skills, which are important in any business.
“We regularly deliver Employment Law Update seminars (and, more recently, webinars) to our clients and contacts. I was encouraged to present alongside my colleagues from day one. I have also been involved in pitching our services to prospective clients. Although this can be nerve wracking, it has helped strengthen my public speaking and presentation skills. This is a key skill for employment solicitors to develop early on, given that we often represent our clients at Employment Tribunals and conduct our own advocacy.”
Every day is a school day
Milton Keynes based partner, Simon deMaid considers why training is always important for any business: “Howes Percival, like any business, simply cannot afford to stand still. Increasing knowledge, skills and constantly looking for continued improvement is critical. As employment lawyers we are used to adapting to a fast-changing legal environment and the nature of our people-based work means that no two cases are ever the same. Despite having qualified as a solicitor nearly 20 years ago I believe I am always learning and that’s part of what makes this job so interesting and rewarding.”
To find out more about Howes Percival, call 01908 672682 or visit www.howespercival.com