The army’s loss is the law’s gain

Marisa Hornabrook is looking forward to her legal life with Burges Salmon — and it all began with an Insight Day more than three years ago

Marisa Hornabrook knew after just one day that, of all the law firms in all the towns in all of the UK, Burges Salmon was the one for her.

“In April 2014, I spent an Insight Day with the firm,” recalls Marisa, currently in the final year of a law with French law degree at the University of Warwick. “It was an amazing, inspirational experience — everything I’d hoped it would be, and more. As soon as I walked out of the door at the end of the day, I rang my mum and told I her I really, really wanted to work for Burges Salmon.”

It must have been quite a day — what, then, did the firm do? Take everyone to the cinema for the afternoon? Give them Champagne instead of afternoon tea, perhaps? Complimentary tickets for Marisa, a keen runner, to go to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro?

None of the above. It turns out that the people at Burges Salmon were “incredibly friendly and decent, across the board. From trainees and associates to partners and anyone you happened to share a lift with or meet in the canteen, everyone was welcoming, everyone had a smile.”

That, and “the kind of work the firm did,” made Marisa rush to call her mum as soon as she could. “The day was packed with interesting and informative activities,” she says. “After being formally welcomed, there were talks on various practice areas, a networking lunch, group exercises and a negotiation skills workshop. This was very good, and we were given plenty of feedback on everything we did. It all added up to giving a real sense of working life at the firm. And because everyone was so friendly, you could see that there’d be a good social life, too.”

And so Marisa, then in the first year of her degree, decided to take the next step and apply for a place on Bruges Salmon’s vacation scheme. Again, she stresses the importance of the Insight Day in this process:

The Insight Day is a good opportunity for the firm to meet you, but perhaps more importantly it enables you to understand how the firm sees itself. This, in turn, is invaluable when it comes to writing your vacation scheme application.

How, though, did Marisa juggle the requirement of her degree — that a year be spent abroad, honing her French and studying French law?

I knew I would be completing a year overseas, with a place at Lille University, so I didn’t apply for a vacation scheme in my second year. I made sure to show an interest, though, visiting the Burges Salmon’s stall at my university’s law fair, and then submitted my application. I had to attend an assessment centre, and was successful, and so spent time on the vacation scheme in summer 2016, just before my penultimate university year.

Marisa’s time on the vacation scheme, which she spent largely working in the firm’s projects department, made her all the more convinced that Burges Salmon was the right firm for her. “I thought about working in London, but I’m from Cornwall and wanted the quality of life that comes of being in the South West,” she says. “I also wanted London-calibre work. Burges Salmon has the right balance — the type of work I wanted, in a perfect location. I loved the taster I got on the vacation scheme. The work was fast-paced with a lot of variety.”

An added bonus was an introduction to Burges Salmon’s running club. “I ran for Cornwall as a teenager, and went out running one evening with people at the firm,” says Marisa. “It’s great to think that I’ll be able to get back into running again with like-minded people at the firm.”

Born in Truro and brought up in Newquay, Marisa will start as a trainee in the firm’s Bristol HQ in September 2018, after she has completed the LPC at Bristol. Nipping back home to see her mother and step-father, who live just outside Newquay, will be easy — and now, 18 months from the beginning of life in the law, Marisa realises that they had more influence than she originally suspected in her career choice.

“My mum and step-dad are both serving police officers,” she says. “Without knowing it as a child, I was brought up with a respect for the rule of law. I can see now that this was important, though initially I felt driven, as the eldest of five siblings, to set a good example and find a career that would enable me to stand on my own two feet.” To this end, Marisa — with A grades at A-level in history and geography, and Bs in French and German — completed courses with a view to joining the army and becoming an officer.

Ultimately, though, the law won out. The army’s loss is Burges Salmon’s gain — and it all began with an Insight Day back in April 2014.

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Applications for Burges Salmon’s Insight Days for first year law students, non-law students and non-law graduates close on 30 March. Find out more here.