Tim Smith, BLP grad recruitment partner

BLP graduate recruitment partner Tim Smith advises aspiring lawyers to not use overly-rehearsed answers in interviews as the interviewer doesn’t want to hear a script read back to them.

Firm: Berwin Leighton Paisner

Tim Smith
Tim Smith

Department: Planning & Environment

University: Nottingham University

Degree subject: Law

Hobbies: Following the triumphs and disasters of Northampton Saints RFC; occasionally still dragging myself round a hockey pitch.

How long have you been a partner? 11 years.

Who/what inspired you to be a lawyer? No one thing that I can recall, other than the thrill upon learning that people could actually be paid to argue.  I had wanted to be a lawyer since I was about 14 and thankfully it did not disappoint as a career. 

What things did you wish you knew before embarking on a legal career? That becoming a partner at a law firm no longer meant long lunches each day and 18 holes at least once a week.

What does your typical day involve? I normally arrive in the office by 8 am. Most days involve client meetings or conference calls, and sometimes that means travelling but mostly they take place in central London. I may also be involved in graduate recruitment events: presentations at open days, supervising assessment centres or interviewing. Some evenings there will be client events but if not then I try to leave just before 7 pm to catch the train home. After a break at home I often need to log on again in the evening to clear e-mails or complete work that I did not have the chance to do during a busy day.

What are the most challenging aspects of your job?Constantly striving to find ways to provide more for less.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?I have worked on the planning for the Westfield London shopping centre at White City for the last 15 years.  Being invited to a party for its opening in October 2008 and finally being able to walk around the finished development was pretty special.

What are the best aspects of your job? Working with clients, colleagues, Counsel and consultants who are the leaders in what they do.

What are the worst aspects of your job? Occasionally having to deal with lawyers who devote more effort to saying “no” than would ever be needed to find a way of saying “yes”.  There are still some of them out there!

What tips would you give to students who want to break into the legal profession? Ask yourself: am I really sure that I want to make a long-term career out of this?  Surprisingly for a career that takes this long and costs this much to get into, not everyone does.

What are the most common mistakes you’ve seen candidates making? Some candidates are tempted to “question-spot” for interviews and so end up delivering overly-rehearsed answers.  As an interviewer it is obvious when this is happening. I would much rather get an insight into the real candidate than hear a script read back to me. By all means anticipate questions but try not to over-rehearse the answers.

How has the legal market changed since the days you were a trainee? There is now a greater acceptance that people may move firms a number of times in their careers.  In my day as an articled clerk many of the partners in my firm had never worked anywhere else.  Nowadays people are more likely to have the concept of a “portfolio career”. 

What impact has the recession had on your firm? In common with many other firms, a reduction in deal flows (although in some parts of the firm our market share has gone up even as the overall deal flow has gone down).

What three words best describe your firm? Innovative, respected, supportive.

Where did you go for your last holiday? My sister-in-law lives and works in Malawi so we went out to visit her for Christmas.

What gadget/gizmo would you be lost without? Sad to have to say, my blackberry! However did we manage when the volume of e-mails could only be kept under control from your desk?