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A Day in the Life of a Solicitor

22 September 2021

A Day in the Life of a Solicitor: Contracts, Clients and Equality Law

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Ever wondered what a career in law is really like? We sat down with Kathryn Finch, a solicitor and Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) consultant, to find out.

Interested in a career in law? 

There are many important decisions you’ll have to make as you embark upon your career path, but deciding whether to be a solicitor or a barrister is one of the most crucial. 

Whilst both offer legal advice, solicitors tend to do more of the out-of-court legal work (such as drawing up legal documents) and barristers tend to be in court, advocating for their client. 

Both are prestigious, intellectually-stimulating and competitive career paths. However,  it’s a good idea to do your research before deciding which is right for you.

To that end, we got in touch with Kathryn Finch, a solicitor and EDI  consultant, to learn more. After training at Clifford Chance LLP and working in banking law in Paris and London, Kathryn left traditional private practise to start her own company. She is now general counsel of her own company, Quartz Counselling, Psychotherapy and Training Limited, whilst continuing to pursue law in a part-time capacity, most recently at Mode, a Fintech start-up. 

Our interview with Kathryn proved very illuminating. So if you’re considering a career as a solicitor and want to find out if it’s really for you, read on… 

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

What does a typical day in your working life look like?

My typical day is varied. I wear a lot of different hats! 

My week is split between working at Mode (a Fintech start up) and at my own company, Quartz Counselling, Psychotherapy and Training Ltd.

I begin my day by doing my company’s admin – no matter what area of law you pick, there will be admin – making sure contracts, bank statements, accountants etc. are where they need to be. 

Then I start sitting down with clients or drafting documents and guidance.

At QCPT, I do a lot of client contracts and write equality guidelines for businesses. I also write guidance on various subjects relating to EDI, self-development, career guidance and equality law. 

These can be more formal, for specific clients, or more general and informative, to be included on our website and social media. 

Like everyone else right now, I work from home. 

I’m lucky in that I’ve always had a dedicated study. Working in BigLaw always requires a little bit of working from home (sadly, usually at the weekend!), so I was already relatively well set up before last March…

As my work is quite varied, my routines are more about timings and breaks rather than specific repetitive tasks. I make sure to exercise before I start and to take a proper lunch break. Downtime is just as important as time ‘at desk’. 

You have to be able to think clearly.  

What first inspired you to consider law as a career?

I suppose the first step I took into a legal career was doing my work experience at a local solicitor’s firm during secondary school. 

Although it wasn’t the kind of work I could picture myself doing forever, I enjoyed how intellectual it all seemed. 

When university came around, I decided to apply for law and the rest, as they say, is history.

I’ve always really enjoyed learning about new things – things I’ve never heard of before – and with law, there’s always something new.

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What’s the best thing about your job?

The best thing about my job is the creativity. 

It’s not always been this way, of course. 

​In previous jobs, I've been on teams in which you end up doing the same documents for the same deals which are renewed every year. It's exciting as you learn to do it, but once you have it down, it can be quite repetitive. 

Now I have a lot of varied work and really get to use my brain. I do some writing too, both for my company and externally.

I’ve always really enjoyed learning about new things – things I’ve never heard of before – and with law, there’s always something new. 

That’s the best thing about contracting. I worked for a long time in the same area of law, which is great for developing expertise, but I’m not the kind of person who wants every day of their life to be the same as the last.

Because I now work in essentially two different in-house positions, I end up interacting with a broader scope of legal practice areas than I would in a law firm. I don't just do finance, for example, I do employment contracts, copyright claims and equality law. 

What’s the hardest thing?

The flip side of variety is the unpredictability [and the fact that], as a partner at my company, the buck stops with me. 

It’s definitely given me more insight into why the partners I’ve worked with in the past were so stressed!

What has been your biggest achievement since becoming a solicitor?

Well, for me, the biggest achievement has been starting my business. 

In terms of my traditional law work, I was very proud to work in Paris. I worked so many years studying French and then the law and it really felt like a lot of hard work had come together.

What are the perks/incentives, financial and otherwise, for a graduate looking to become a solicitor?

There’s obviously the financial aspect. You can go onto Roll on Friday and have a look at the NQ salaries, if you want to know more about that.

A benefit I didn’t actively recognise until I left BigLaw was the training you get. 

I don’t mean legal training, per se, but the manner of working. You really are trained to be consistent, efficient and – above everything else – professional. I’m often surprised when I’m dealing with non-lawyers (and even lawyers from more relaxed firms). The standards aren’t always there.

And you’ll never worry about writing an email! It just becomes second nature.

It’s important to do your thinking first. Be proactive, not reactionary, whenever you can. Your career is a huge part of your life and you deserve to be happy in it.

Are there different pathways or specialisms aspiring solicitors can choose, and if so, what are they?

There are so many. Whether you’re a solicitor (like me) or a barrister, you can go into anything from shipping law to estate planning

It’s definitely worth having a think about what you’re actually interested in; it’s quite easy to be sucked into an area without giving it too much thought.

How did you find your first 12 months in the field?

After graduating, I went straight into the LPC (Legal Practice Course). 

It was great - like an extension of university, and some of the people I studied with are my best friends to this day. My firm sponsored their own course, so the people I studied with were also my future colleagues. 

After that I went straight into the office, which was a bit of a culture shock. My first seat* (six-month period in a specific practice area) as a trainee was intense. I went from being a student to working extremely long hours. It was a real baptism of fire.

What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?

I have a lot of them! 

When I was at CC (Clifford Chance), I took up singing lessons. 

I’m not sure if they still do it now but when I was there they offered music lessons in the office. I didn’t have a piano so I went for singing. I’m the kind of person who likes to balance hard work with a creative outlet, so it was perfect. I’ve kept it up ever since. I also like to draw and write. 

A lot of lawyers are sports mad and [I’m a bit] stereotypical [in that way] – I do a lot of spin classes and Pilates. You won’t see me at a triathlon, though!

Do you have any advice for young people thinking about becoming a solicitor?

Part of my career is offering advice to young people looking to pursue a career in law! 

I think a lot of the advice you’ll receive boils down to: make sure to do your thinking about what you want before you jump in. 

It’s very easy to get more focussed on being accepted, whether that’s into university, onto a vacation scheme or training contract. Whatever it is, be sure it’s what you want. Even if it’s the firm you want, do you want to work in that practice area? Would you be suited to litigation or advisory work? Do you have the energy to work in M&A for the next decade? Does it fit with your personal goals? 

It’s important to do your thinking first. Be proactive, not reactionary, whenever you can. Your career is a huge part of your life and you deserve to be happy in it.

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