A word of bad advice

I was playing golf last summer with a relation of mine who qualified as a lawyer a few years after me and he reminded me of some advice that I had apparently once given when he was applying to law firms, which was: “don’t make the mistake that I made and work at one of the magic circle firms”. He then updated me to say that he had taken the advice on board, and successfully applied for a training contract at a medium sized firm and that it was going well there.

I had to admit that I could hardly remember that conversation, which was just after I had had a horrendous couple of weeks as a trainee – all nighters / week-ends / lots of proofreading etc.

Looking back, there were 2 things wrong with my well-intentioned advice:

1. It was given at a moment in time – a bad time for me at a large city firm in fact – all jobs have bad times and looking back the transaction that I was working on was actually quite a good experience – and certainly not a reason not to work at a large City firm – in fact my training was an excellent grounding overall; and
2. As a lawyer in the working world, I was in a position of some authority compared to my younger relative asking the questions. I didn’t realise it at the time, but he took my “advice” very directly, which was only meant to be a throw-away remark; and I regret giving it as I did. (I do know that it wasn’t only my advice that he was following).

When I’m asked the same question these days, I might describe the differences as I see them between different types of firms / legal jobs, but I’m careful not to be too instructive. And I recommend that people do the work of understanding themselves and their likes / skills first before applying for any jobs.

So as a job seeker, be careful not to take well intentioned advice too directly, from e.g. careers advisers, friends, relations and especially parents.

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