Maria Connolly, TLT training partner

Lawyer 2B quizzes TLT’s training partner Maria Connolly

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Name: Maria Connolly

Firm: TLT

Department: Partner and head of the renewable energy sector at TLT

University: University of the West of England

Degree subject: Law

Hobbies: I thoroughly enjoy skiing, cycling and spending time with my family.

How long have you been a partner? Since 2007 but I joined TLT as a trainee.

Who/what inspired you to be a lawyer? From a fairly early stage in my studies I knew that I was keen to pursue a career as a lawyer. What I really enjoy is being part of our clients’ teams and working with them to help them achieve their goals. Of course it is an exciting and challenging role and no two days are the same.

What things did you wish you knew before embarking on a legal career? Very topical question! Lawyers have to be commercial business people who understand the law – the latter on its own is not enough. I have over the past couple of years been giving talks to post-graduate students on ‘Understanding Law Firms as a Business’. This looks at the structure of firms, how firms are managed and the important and changing role of those coming into the profession. It is certainly something I would have found useful early on.

What does your typical day involve? No two days are the same. The renewable energy sector is fast-paced with new and innovative developments happening all the time. There is never a dull moment and I enjoy working with and advising clients on what are often complex issues in this growing industry.

What are the most challenging aspects of your job? I would have to say not enough hours in the day. Thankfully a very supportive team helps to address this.

What has been the highlight of your career so far? Developing and growing the renewables sector at TLT has been a key highlight for me. It’s pretty rewarding that TLT is now one of the leading firms nationally in the sector dealing with some of the UK’s most significant projects.

What are the best aspects of your job? I am frequently advising on cutting edge projects and providing innovative legal solutions. However, the best thing for me is seeing the end result knowing that we have supported the client in achieving their objective.

What are the worst aspects of your job? I absolutely love my job – there’s just not enough hours in the day.

What tips would you give to students who want to break into the legal profession? The legal graduate recruitment market is still really tough however it is a really exciting time to be entering the profession and prospective trainees have a huge part to play. Try to get some legal work experience (whether informally or through a vacation scheme programme); show good commercial awareness; and perhaps most importantly, don’t give up.

What are the most common mistakes you’ve seen candidates making? It is important that candidates’ applications are tailored to the firm they are applying for. It is really easy to spot a generic application or worse an application that refers to a completely different firm. Really think about why you are applying to that firm and be able to justify your reasons. In an assessment centre environment, try to relax. Firms are not trying to catch you out so just be yourself and enjoy the experience of spending valuable time with the firm.

How has the legal market changed since the days you were a trainee? There have been a number of significant changes in the market over the past few years, notably the introduction of alternative business structures as well as some fairly significant consolidation generally. But, the fundamentals of being a trainee have not changed – work hard, be ambitious for both yourself, the firm and your clients. And build a solid network of contacts at peer level as those contacts might be the clients instructing you in the future.

What impact has the recession had on your firm? TLT is a well-balanced business and we’ve got a clear vision which has focused our time and resources on developing our industry sector focus. Because of this we’ve continued to grow winning major new work and clients and market share. We’ve also continued to recruit at all levels; we’ve moved into new office space in the City; we’ve launched a new practice in Northern Ireland and we’ve merged with Scottish law firm Anderson Fyfe giving us a presence in Glasgow and Edinburgh too. We’re an ambitious firm and I think it shows.

What three words best describe your firm? Ambitious, forward-thinking and client-focused.

Where did you go for your last holiday? Chamonix, France

What gadget/gizmo would you be lost without?The solar powered wind turbine that has pride of place on my desk! Unfortunately it is not yet connected to the grid, but watch this space.