Survival tips for starting again as a NQ at a new firm

In October last year I qualified as a solicitor and made the decision to move to Latham & Watkins from the firm where I had spent my training contract.

Latham is very different compared to my old firm; I moved from a UK firm with a large London office and several regional offices to an international firm with a London office much smaller than I was used to, and the banking team I was moving into was considerably bigger than at my previous firm. I didn’t really know what to expect, and I was very nervous as it felt like starting from square one again.

Fortunately, I had experience in moving to new working environments (my seat rotations at my previous firm were in the Manchester, London and Madrid offices, as well as on a client secondment) but I definitely learnt a few things along the way.

Here are my top tips for anyone moving firms:

Charlotte Hagan
Charlotte Hagan, Latham & Watkins

Treat the firm you are leaving with respect: The firm you are leaving has invested a lot of time and money into making you the best solicitor you can be and will have given you some amazing opportunities so make sure you are grateful and respectful when leaving.

Keep up with your old colleagues: Maintaining relationships is important, not least because the legal world is smaller than you think and you may end up working with ex-colleagues later on in your career. Connect with ex-colleagues on LinkedIn, and join your previous firm’s alumni group if there is one – most host regular networking events which are great opportunities to catch up with old friends.

Choose the firm that is right for you: When choosing your new firm make sure the people you meet and the atmosphere they describe suits you and the way you work. I prefer high-pressure work with a good sense of team spirit and a more relaxed environment. During my interviews, the partners and associates from Latham & Watkins were the people I felt most compatible with and when I got to the firm it became evident that I had made the right choice. The move was made easier because I felt comfortable around my colleagues and the work was what I wanted to do. 

Be eager to get involved in any work given to you, no matter how mundane: Unfortunately no one at your new firm will know how proficient you are and most of the goodwill you built up during your training contract is not carried across. Be aware that you will need to start from the beginning but if you are willing to do the grunt work, and do it well, then you will be trusted with more complicated work.

Throw yourself in: If you can, clear your diary for the first two weeks and make sure you attend as many social activities as possible. The best way to feel comfortable in your new workplace is to get to know your colleagues and the best place to do this is somewhere away from the office. When attending firm events try to introduce yourself to new people and find out more about their experiences at the firm.

Sign yourself up for a mentor scheme: Find out if your new firm runs a mentor scheme and then sign yourself up for it as soon as possible. These are a great way to get advice on simple things that may have been missed induction training. It also allows you to get an insider’s view of how the firm operates and how you can get the most from your time there.

Don’t assume things will be the same: Each firm has different document styles, admin procedures and methods for carrying out work, so you should not assume that the way you have previously worked will suit your new firm. Don’t be afraid to ask people how they prefer tasks to be carried out. Use what you have learnt before and what your new firm can teach you to become a better solicitor.       

Charlotte Hagan is a first year associate at Latham & Watkins