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Louis is an associate in our employment team, working across the Norwich and Cambridge offices. He talks about his route into law, life as a lawyer with dyslexia, and making the move out of London.
Faced with the impossible question of what to pursue as a career, I finished university and entered the world of marketing communications.
My interest in people and big ideas, fostered by a degree in psychology and philosophy, led me to work in video content and product development, branding, PR and strategy at various London-based agencies. I was drawn in by the cool creative image of it all, the opportunity to work on a variety of brands and the fact that, even if it wasn’t the right path in the long run, I’d pick up a lot of skills along the way.
At university I was diagnosed with dyslexia, which was a relief as it helped to explain a sense I’d had in school that academic tasks took me longer than anyone else. It also unlocked a wide variety of support to help me develop new compensatory strategies and build on techniques that I had already developed without realising their significance. At the same time, the diagnosis contributed to a feeling that I would never suit a legal career, as I questioned how someone with a reading and writing-related impairment could progress in a high-pressure career where the written word has such a central role.
By keeping in touch with friends who became lawyers, I eventually realised that although deadlines are often tight, the main values added by lawyers are in understanding a client’s needs and getting things right. This realisation gave me confidence that attention to detail could be prized above lightning speed.
Although the law is full of uncertainty, there is also a logic and rigour that I found more attractive than the more flexible, creative world of communications. This isn’t to say either setting is better than the other – both involve creativity and problem-solving – there are simply different types of creativity involved. The more I learned, the more I came to see being a solicitor as being an ideal personal fit.
I applied for Mills & Reeve partly because of some great advice from a friend already working there. Rather than aimlessly applying for shiny and familiar-sounding firms in London, she recommended researching practice areas and looking at firms that actually offered the areas I was most interested in. She also observed that as I was someone who enjoyed making evening plans during the week, I should find somewhere where an appetite for excellent client service was accompanied by respect for life outside of work.
Several applications and assessments later, I was offered a place on the Mills & Reeve vacation scheme in Norwich. My partner and I were both very keen on Norwich’s historic, cultural and independent atmosphere, and we had become increasingly disenchanted with London’s expense, size and greyness. After an amazing two weeks rotating through four teams at Mills & Reeve, I was fortunate enough to be offered a training contract, and my partner and I decided to move house when I started my contract.
In 2020, Covid struck and it seemed every Londoner was starting to think they might be better off living elsewhere. Perks of moving during that hot summer included the abundance of amazing beaches just an hour’s drive away. It was also a delightful novelty to live in a lovely area that was also just a 10-minute cycle from the office and the centre of town.
Rather than living in a rural area, working from home and occasionally travelling long distances to the office, I much prefer being able to get into the office every day, where I can build relationships and learn from casual conversations with colleagues. Remote working has been a useful option when circumstances require it though, and my intake of trainees was kitted out from day one with laptops, monitors, chairs and whatever else we needed. The firm has a strong culture of being accommodating to everyone’s working needs.
I also love being able to visit our other offices across the country and building a big internal network. Mills & Reeve is the perfect size for me, combining the feeling that there is a huge amount going on, with high quality work going out to an enormous client base, and a sense of people knowing and taking an interest in one another across the firm.
Overall I’m very glad I made the move, and particularly grateful to have made it after some thorough reflection on what I wanted from my career. The legal sector is alluring for lots of reasons, but it can be high-risk in terms of time and money for anyone applying without (and even with) careful thought! It’s daunting, but I always suggest to aspiring lawyers that they investigate plenty of other careers too. Either you’ll find something else that’s a better fit for you, or you will develop better answers to questions about why you want a job in law – it’s a win-win provided you do it properly and don’t just seek to justify your instincts, as I was once tempted to do!
I’m always happy to talk to anyone considering a career in law, particularly those with any concerns about disclosing a disability or specific learning difficulty. Please feel free to get in touch.
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