To mark two years since we launched our HD Academy, we interviewed two of our newly qualified solicitors Zoe Taylor and Peter Barlow about why they chose law and their experiences of being a trainee solicitor at Harrison Drury.
What made you pursue a career in law?
Peter: The first exposure I had was studying law as part of my A-Levels. I was fortunate to have a passionate teacher who steered me toward the profession, because at the time I had no idea what I wanted to study at uni. I’ve always enjoyed a challenge and the idea of unpicking complex scenarios to achieve the best possible outcome really appealed to me.
Zoe: It was the same for me. I thrive on helping people and so using the law to help them solve a problem was something I wanted to experience. Now I get a real buzz when I get a successful result for a client.
What did you like most about your time as a trainee solicitor?
Zoe: One of the main things I enjoyed was the level of exposure I had to the work and how I was trusted to manage cases and become the first point of contact for clients. This experience really helped with my transition from a trainee to a newly qualified solicitor.
Peter: I also appreciated how each of my supervisors trusted me with more complex work throughout each of my seats. They pushed me to endeavour on tasks that I initially thought might have been beyond my abilities. These experiences helped my personal development by gaining a much greater understanding of my own strengths and weaknesses.
Which teams did you gain experience with, and which area of law are you now specialising in?
Peter: I did seats in property litigation, commercial property and then insolvency and business recovery, which is the team I joined because I liked it so much. I particularly enjoy the combination of contentious and non-contentious insolvency matters. For example, in the department, we can assist insolvency practitioners in pursuing and defending claims following the breakdown of a company, then also assist with the realisation of that company’s assets. As insolvency law overlaps with so many different sectors and areas of law, I enjoy not knowing what interesting cases I might come across next.
Zoe: Before obtaining a training contract at Harrison Drury I worked as a paralegal for two years in the commercial litigation team. My first seat as a trainee was with the employment and regulatory team and my final 12 months was with the property litigation team where I qualified. I like it because I thrive from working under pressure and I knew I wanted to specialise in a more contentious area of law.
What’s the most important thing you learned or the best piece of advice you received?
Zoe: Getting organised is the key to success. You need to find a system that works for you. During training, I would often receive work from multiple fee earners in the team at the same time, so taking time to develop a method for prioritising work and communicating clearly about deadline expectations is vital.
Peter: My advice is always keep a notepad and pen close by. Life is so much easier when you have accurate notes of meetings or telephone calls you take part in. You never know when your phone might ring so make sure you are prepared to take notes. Another benefit of keeping your notepad close is if you notice that a colleague deals with a situation well; you can make a note for yourself to help you deal with any similar scenario in the future.
How did the firm support you during your training contract?
Peter: All of my supervisors were keen to hear my feedback throughout my training contract. In particular, during the Covid pandemic, I was concerned I was not developing my networking skills due to the lack of networking opportunities. Once restrictions had ended, the firm provided me with many opportunities to represent the firm which helped me gain the experience I was worried I may have been lacking.
Zoe: The HD Academy was launched during my training contract and has helped me and others to enhance our essential skills. During each seat, I had regular meetings with my manager and with the firm’s trainee principal to ensure I felt supported and that any concerns or difficulties I may have been experiencing were addressed.
What do you love about being part of Harrison Drury?
Peter: The people I work with and the culture. There are so many talented people here, so you always feel like you are learning and furthering your own personal development.
Zoe: That’s also the main thing I love about HD – the people at the firm and how we all strive to make it possible for our clients.
What advice would you give to other people starting a training contract with Harrison Drury?
Zoe: Dive in and immerse yourself into any task given to you – it’s the best way to learn. And if you need guidance then speak up and ask – don’t sit worrying about what you have been tasked with.
Peter: Yes, I agree – don’t worry about asking for help, even if at first you think the question might have a simple answer. Just ask the people around you for help, whether it’s one of the paralegals, administrative staff, a solicitor, the IT team, or other support staff. Throughout my training contract everyone at the firm was always more than happy to provide support and had a wealth of knowledge to draw on.
Interested in finding out more about a career in law? Our careers page has more details about the opportunities at Harrison Drury.