Holly Hardaker, Squire Sanders

Squire Sanders trainee Holly Hardaker found out that the legal industry’s reputation for snooty hierachy could not be further from the truth.

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Name: Holly Hardaker

Firm: Squire Sanders 

Position: Trainee solicitor

Degree: Law

University: Newcastle University

GDL or LPC: LPC

Hobbies: Dance, reading and travelling

Department: Property litigation

Why did you decide to train as a solicitor?

I studied law at university because at 18 years old I wasn’t totally sure what kind of career I wanted to pursue. I liked that law could point me towards a particular profession but would also be a great degree to have if I chose not to pursue it. I decided to train as a solicitor because I enjoyed the challenging nature of law at university and because thought it to be a job that I would be good at.

Why did you choose your firm?

Having lived abroad for the majority of my life, I wanted to join a firm that has a global presence and a wide scope of international work. With 39 offices in 19 countries, Squire Sanders is exactly the kind of firm I was looking for. Another reason why I chose Squire Sanders was because I was lucky enough to feel like I just “clicked” here right from the outset.

What has been the highlight of your training contract so far?

For my second seat I was given the opportunity to work in Squire Sanders’ Paris office. Working in a different country, with a different culture and language, was a real challenge, and spending four months in one of the most beautiful and exciting cities in the world was an experience I will never forget.

What does your typical day involve?

The property litigation team is extremely busy, so my day is usually jam-packed and over before I realise it has begun. Every day I am set new and often challenging tasks, whether that’s drafting complex instructions to counsel, looking into discrete areas of technical law, putting together summaries of advice for clients or attending face-to-face client meetings. There is, of course, some admin involved, but my typical day involves any number of new challenges which push me out of my comfort zone.

Tell us a bit about the type of work handled by your department?

Property litigation sits within the firm’s wider litigation team, which deals with a broad spectrum of work from cross-border international disputes to commercial contract litigation. Property litigation is a specialist team that handles a wide variety of property disputes, which I have been able to get involved in, including commercial property disputes, compulsory purchase compensation claims, residential property disputes and utility disputes.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?

The most enjoyable aspect of my job is the personal element; I genuinely feel like part of the team. Trainees here are heavily involved and really encouraged to take on responsibility and push themselves.

What are the worst aspects of your job?

Lots of lawyers tend to say working hours, but in my experience so far it is rather the unpredictability of lawyers’ working hours that can be an issue. It’s difficult to predict what each day will bring, which can make keeping plans difficult, but it can also make things exciting.

What is the biggest misconception about the legal profession?

I think a common misconception is that the legal profession is stuffy and revolves around snooty hierarchy. I have found Squire Sanders to be a dynamic and interesting place to work, full of people from diverse backgrounds who are approachable and friendly, whatever their job title.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in law?

Law firms invest a lot of time and money into their training programmes. It makes sense, then, that they want to take on people who genuinely want to work for them. I would advise someone who wants to pursue this career to take the time to do their research and figure out why they want to work at a particular firm in a particular city. A good way of going about this is taking part in work experience programmes and vacation schemes.

What are the biggest pitfalls students should try to avoid when pursuing a legal career?

Students should avoid hedging their bets by applying to as many firms as possible and mass-producing applications which are full of stock answers. Recruiters will pick up on this straight away. Instead, students should be honest and have the self-confidence to show some personality in their applications. It will make them stand out from all the others with the same predictable answers.

What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to secure a training contract?

In my second year of university, I still didn’t know if I wanted to be a lawyer. By the time I reached my third year and decided I did want to pursue a career in law, I was worried that I had missed the boat.

How is law in practice different from studying law?

Law in practice has a human element, and requires a much wider skill-set than being able to interpret statutes and historical case law – such as being able to foster relationships, adapt quickly to different situations and think on your feet. Particularly at a major international law firm like Squire Sanders, law in practice prioritises commercial goals rather than solely academic merit.

What are the common attributes of successful candidates?

Instilling Squire Sanders’ “one firm” firm attitude right from the outset, our training contracts begin with a three-week induction period with all of the trainees in the UK, where we make lasting contacts and relationships with one another. We have diverse personalities and backgrounds yet we all mesh well and are committed, willing to learn and know how to have fun.