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Why authenticity is crucial for aspiring lawyers

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By The Careers Team on

Harriet Pearce, ULaw Nottingham Campus Manager, dives into commercial awareness, career tips, and the city’s legal allure

Speaking to Legal Cheek Careers, Harriet Pearce tells us that she started out in legal practice as a dispute resolution lawyer. After spending some time doing this, she decided to make the move into legal education, realising that it offered the perfect mix of mentorship and legal analysis — what she enjoyed most in her job.

Now Campus Manager at The University of Law’s Nottingham outpost, Harriet Pearce discusses life on campus, legal careers in Nottingham and application tips, ahead of her appearance at this Thursday’s in-person event.

Harriet Pearce, Campus Manager at ULaw Nottingham

Can you tell us a little bit about your career so far?

I am currently the Campus & Academic Manager and a Senior Lecturer at ULaw Nottingham. I teach predominantly on the LPC (dispute resolution and advanced commercial dispute resolution) and conversion courses (tort and EU law), as well as managing our academic team and overseeing the day-to-day running of the Nottingham campus. Prior to this, I worked as a dispute resolution solicitor at Rosling King, where I worked on a range of commercial and insolvency disputes. I trained at PwC Legal, where I was fortunate enough to spend time on secondment in Dubai.

You previously worked as a dispute resolution lawyer. What prompted you to make the shift from practice to legal education, and what skills or lessons have you been able to tap into in your current role from your time as a solicitor?

I enjoyed practice most when I was (a) mentoring paralegals or junior solicitors and (b) when I was researching a complex area of law for a case I was working on. I realised that both skills would help me be an effective lecturer and I wasn’t wrong. I have absolutely loved teaching, particularly on the conversion course, where I get the opportunity to reflect critically on the law in discussions with students. I have also enjoyed mentoring students who are applying for jobs in London firms and have taken the opportunity wherever possible to connect them with my peers who are still working in practice.

Having spent time in both London and Nottingham during your career, how would you say the two cities compare? What advice do you have for aspiring lawyers who are trying to decide where they would like to start their career?

Nottingham is a really friendly city and working here gives you the opportunity to be part of a really tight-knit legal community. There is also some very high-quality work available and, particularly at the smaller practices, you get the opportunity to take responsibility early on in your career. That being said, if you’re looking for more international opportunities then there are probably more on offer in London. Personally, I loved my time working in London, but now that I have a family, I’m much happier living in a smaller city where my commute is simple and life is a bit calmer!

Find out more about studying for the SQE at ULaw

Can you tell us about campus life at ULaw Nottingham — what societies or pro bono opportunities are available for students to build their legal and non-legal skills base?

ULaw Nottingham offers a variety of pro bono opportunities.  The most “hands on” of these opportunities are the in-person and virtual legal advice clinics which allow students to take an active role and work alongside legal professionals and real clients. Other opportunities allow students to create presentations, draft factsheets and answer legal queries, all whilst under the supervision of a practicing solicitor. We also partner with a number of external organisations such as the National Justice Museum, Schools Consent Project and HM Courts Service to offer opportunities to our students.

Is there a standout feature of the student experience at ULaw Nottingham that you are particularly proud of?

The Nottingham campus has a very collegiate environment where most of the staff know the students and vice versa. As a result, the students often remark on how comfortable they feel asking the lecturers for extra support and/or careers advice. One of our lecturers recently started a table-tennis and pool league between students and staff, which demonstrates that we also have fun, alongside working hard!

Although the SQE has been in force for just over a couple years now, there is still a lot of confusion and worry around it. What resources does ULaw Nottingham provide to support students in relation to revision and weaker topic areas?

Our students have access to Synap, which is very helpful as they have access to weekly practice tests and mocks, as well as spaced learning and self-practice quizzes. Synap contains analytics that help our students (and lecturers) see progress and identify and address potential weaknesses in different subject areas. We also have a suite of ULaw SQE1 Manuals, written new and specifically for the SQE regime, supplemented by Bitesize revision videos for the academic law subjects. On the SQE2, in addition to scheduled workshops and mock materials, we supply a self-study workbook that gives additional practice in several skills across relevant practice contexts.

With assessment centres coming up for spring and summer vacation schemes, what commercial awareness topics should be on students’ radars?

Students often forget that commercial awareness isn’t just about following what’s happening in the news (although this is very important). CA is also understanding how law firms operate as businesses, so if students can think about the types of firms they’re applying for and find links between what they’re reading in the news and how this will impact specific firms, this will reflect positively on the student. In terms of hot topics, I think it’s important for students to understand the impact that AI is having on the legal profession and how this can be harnessed by firms to give them a competitive advantage.

In your experience, what is one crucial bit of careers advice everyone should hear?

Be authentic. There is no point interviewing for jobs pretending to be something you’re not. Although this might help to secure you a job in the short term, it won’t make you happy at work in the long term and if you’re not happy at work, it’s difficult to be successful. I would therefore recommend that you ask questions at interviews to help you figure out if the job you’re applying for is the right job for you. For example, if you ask: “What type of personality would fit in well at your firm?” then if the answer is the exact opposite of your personality, this might be indicative that you’re not well suited to that firm!

Find out more about studying for the SQE at ULaw

Harriet Pearce will be speaking at ‘Secrets to Success Nottingham — with Gateley, Shoosmiths and ULaw’, and in-person student event taking place THIS THURSDAY (29 February). Apply now to attend.

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