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Baljinder Singh Atwal | Commercial lawyer, West Midlands Police

BACKGROUND
  • LPC Msc at The University of Law
  • LLB Law at the University of Birmingham
  • GCSE's and A levels at King Edwards VI Aston
CURRENT ROLE
  • Commercial lawyer at West Midlands Police
CAREER PROGRESSION
  • Real estate associate at DLA Piper
  • Trainee solicitor at Trowers & Hamlins 

  

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Alumnus Baljinder Singh Atwal studied the LPC MSc with us before becoming a Commercial lawyer at West Midlands Police. We caught up with Baljinder to discuss his career journey and what a legal career within the police force entails.

I always wanted to go into law, it was a natural choice for me having put together everything I enjoyed and was good at. I didn’t imagine I would work in the public sector and/or policing as no one in my family was in a similar role. However, looking back at my core values, it all makes sense and aligns well. The University of Law was local to me in Birmingham and was recommended by my training contract firm.

I’m currently an in-house Solicitor at West Midlands Police, the second largest police force in the country. I specialise in commercial property and commercial law. Our legal department acts for West Midlands Police and Staffordshire Police so is a very busy environment. In terms of property, I deal with leases and licences of police property (police stations, training sites, offices for staff etc). In terms of commercial, this is a wide area which includes collaboration agreements with other police forces, media agreements for police documentaries, football agreements with football clubs in the region and more.

For a long time, the proudest moment of my career was qualifying to practice as it was a milestone in my career and personal life. It was a time of reflection and celebration, especially for everyone that has supported me on the journey. More recently, I really enjoy any interaction I have with aspiring lawyers. This is especially true when I can widen their aspirations and show the many, varied options for them in their legal careers. Being an ambassador for the legal profession and policing has given me a lot of responsibility but also satisfaction in my career.

After I qualified and during the pandemic, I started to research into in-house roles, I wanted something different and exciting in my career after having experienced international and global law firms. A career in policing ticked all the boxes and has been my longest role so far.

Working in the public sector and in policing, there is a strong focus on wellbeing and balance. In comparison to private practice, I am not working the long hours and weekends which can be frequent when working for the larger law firms. In the public sector we have a flexible working system whereby any hours you work above your contractual hours, you can claim back in leave. This is really helpful in balancing the hours you put into the work.

The University of Law sets their students up for success by offering them help and support throughout their courses. Having kept in contact with the organisation and attending various careers events, I can see they are well connected and can offer students a lot of opportunities which are invaluable.

A lot of my classmates inspired me during my studies, we all came from different backgrounds and circumstances, but we all had some common core values and wanted to see each other succeed. The legal profession is difficult to get into, seeing my classmates working hard despite the hurdles in front of them was inspiring.

Here are some of my top tips for students looking to break into law:

  • Join professional networks/societies in your region and/or organisation to build your network.
  • Create and engage with professional social media to build your profile and log your professional career real time.
  • Keep on building your CV with work experiences, part-time jobs, volunteering and more to develop yourself (do not worry if these are non-legal experiences).

If you are looking to make a difference in your career to your local community and region, then policing is for you. Being part of a large organisation which makes a tangible difference to people’s lives is hugely motivating and rewarding.

Our values at West Midlands Police are central to what we look for in new recruits. These include: service, integrity, professionalism, compassion and equality, diversity and human rights. Ultimately, we look for team players that want to make a positive difference to those around them.

Depending on the role you are applying for, the recruitment process can vary. Within legal it is relatively straight forward and traditional with an online application and then one interview. Vetting and security checks will naturally take longer than a traditional law firm as the sensitivity of our work is a lot different to a normal law firm.

Within policing there is not a direct comparison to traditional work experience in a law firm. However, policing offers a lot of exciting opportunities to get involved, volunteer and give back to the community, all whilst building skills and connections. Some of the opportunities include: cadets, special constables, volunteering with the West Midlands Police Museum and other exciting volunteering roles.

To be successful at West Midlands Police, I think you need to be a good team player – be able to work with others, listen and take initiative where required and be willing to learn. You need to have a mindset of growth and development and resilience – be able to work under pressure, organise your time well and accommodate clients and colleagues.

Some key changes I predict seeing within legal over the next few years may include:

  • Technology – the use of artificial intelligence and automation will make some traditional processes much more efficient.
  • The environment – a stronger focus on our green impact will influence a lot of the ways we are working and what we work on.
  • Remote working – this will continue to increase and evolve with the advancement of technology and different career options.
  • In-house options continue to increase as well as consultant roles and other new forms of career options for lawyers at all levels.

Networking with others within the profession is highly under rated. For me, it has allowed me to build my soft skills (communication, teamwork, leadership etc) and understand the legal market – there is no better way to understand what is happening in the profession by meeting and understanding those that work in it. It has also enabled me to build a community – the profession can be difficult at times but having a good network around you, can make that experience more beneficial.

If I could give my 18-year-old self some advice, it would be - keep on trying new experiences and opportunities. Don’t worry if things don’t work out or fail, you have plenty of time. Build on your core skills, as these will set you up for your future career. Time is on your side, but don’t waste it.

 

If you’re considering a career in corporate law one of our Master of Law (LLM) courses could be the perfect way to enhance your knowledge of the legal world.

 

By Cara Fielder. Published 17 May 2024.

 

 

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