It has only been four years since Lauren Riley graduated from The University of Law's Manchester Legal Practice Course (LPC). In that time she has not only qualified as a family law solicitor, but launched a successful sideline as an entrepreneur and won fame starring in this year's The Apprentice. FLN caught up with her and she shared with us her career success tips for future lawyers.
How do you think law has prepared you for a life in business? When my generation qualified, forward thinking law firms were recognising business acumen as a key factor when handing out training contracts. They were also dedicating some resources to training in business skills such as networking. I had undergone a business management grad scheme before sitting my Legal Practice Course (LPC) so I felt prepared but I can quite understand how there may be a gap in such skills for the average solicitor at qualification stage. At the end of the day a law firm is a business and those involved in its operation are bound to acquire skills.
What edge do you think studying law gave you? I think law is recognised as one of the toughest subjects to study and therefore we are academically highly regarded from the outset.
How can students make the most of a law degree and the LPC? Law degrees are well regarded even outside of legal circles so they are hopefully always an advantage. Use the skills you learnt at this stage and apply them to the role or area you are applying. Plenty of transferable skills are acquired during these stages, it’s just a case of identifying what they are and highlighting them to future employers.
You did the LPC without having first secured a training contract - and managed to land one immediately after completing the course. What would you say to others going into the LPC in that position? I did but I first took a few years out to consider whether this was truly the right path for me - it's a big financial commitment. Luckily after gaining some valuable experience of business and the work place I had that confirmation needed to press ahead. So firstly, don’t just fall into it, you have to really want it in such a competitive climate.
What is your advice on how to secure a training contract? I think my experience of ‘the real world’ really helped me land the first and only training contract interview I went for. It gives you plenty to talk about and demonstrable business acumen which is really important for law firms in a delicate economic climate. It is no longer considered good enough to roll out of academia straight into a training contract, even with the highest grades. I also say be true to yourself in your applications. Training contracts are scarce but you need to be able to talk with passion about why that opportunity is the right fit for you. I applied to a large but local firm which had all the seats I wanted to sit and a reputable family department. I could have talked for hours about why it was the right fit for me.
Qualifying as a solicitor during the recession must have been tough. Do you think market conditions are improving for today's law students? It was and I know people from my LPC who unfortunately still haven’t had that break. I think law firms will be cautious for a long time and due to many factors the legal landscape is changing. As the general economy improves this will give law firms the sense of confidence to start recruiting staff in general and hopefully increase the number of training contracts on offer.
How will the online tool you are launching (The Link App) make future lawyers' careers easier when they qualify? Ultimately, The Link App serves to increase productivity across the working day, by keeping clients ‘in the loop’ using pre-populated or bespoke push notifications without the need for back and forth communication, freeing up valuable time. Upon qualification you will quickly learn that everyone is under time and financial targets and anything that increases productivity is very valuable to you indeed. Increased productivity leads to increased profitability and the basic focus of any business is its bottom line. In addition using The Link App provides additional customer service and satisfied clients should be a high priority, it will help your client retention figures but also go towards your own sense of job satisfaction. The future generation of lawyers already appreciate the need to use apps daily in their own lives and that knowledge is beneficial to The Link App, these are the lawyers and decision makers of the future.
You've said that your dream was to be an actress or a barrister, would you ever have a shot at these careers in the future? Well I do not feel the need to qualify as a barrister, I conduct advocacy as part of my role as a family solicitor and that’s enough for me. I enjoy the client contact of being a solicitor too much to change. I love the arts, including the theatre so I would never say never to being an actress but being a solicitor and the director of a tech start up is keeping me more than busy at present. The point is, you should always follow your dreams, whatever they are!
The Final of The Apprentice airs at 9pm on BBC1 http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04wlzl2