Today, we’re joined by Marie Walsh, who is a specialist employment solicitor currently working at her own practice based in central Leeds, called Consilia Legal. The practice specialises exclusively in Employment Law, Workplace Mediation, Family Law and Family Mediation. Marie set up the practice in 2014 and it’s grown a lot since then.
Consilia Legal also has a satellite office in Harrogate and provides services to clients countrywide, and sometimes abroad. It’s been an exciting 4 years for Marie, and today she’s joining us to tell us more about her career, and how you could find a similar path to hers.
How did you get into this career?
I had a very standard entrance into the law initially, completing a degree in law at Nottingham Trent University and completing my LPC at the College of Law in York. I actually spent the money that my parents had saved for my “wedding fund” on the LPC, and despite not having a training contract when I finished the course, I went straight into secretarial and then paralegal work and had secured a training contract with Blacks Solicitors in Leeds within 2 years.
Why did you choose to work in the legal industry? Was there a particular passion that motivated you?
To be perfectly honest, I initially considered a career in law because I was always talking and loved talking and arguing (still do), and I also thought it would be a well-paid career. I find helping people really rewarding. A career in law looked like it ticked all the boxes.
I completed a period of work experience as a court clerk during my GCSE’s and took part in a criminal murder case. I loved it. I became determined to pursue a career in law after that. When I made this known to my school, one of the teachers gasped and advised me to look at more attainable roles. His son had failed to obtain a training contract and on that basis, he had little hope that I would succeed. He actually described the ambition as a “potential waste of my parents money”. When I relayed that to my parents they told me to go for it anyway and the rest is history.
What does a typical day look like in your role?
Many will say this, but there is no typical day in my role…which is part of the reason I still love it. Today for example I started off by completing the banking, liaising with our book keeper, attending a team meeting to discuss our workloads, and then visiting a client at their premises to discuss drafting their contracts of employment and handbooks. I returned to the office to liaise with a client on a litigation matter in the employment tribunal, and then made everyone a cup of tea. I also took a call from the Legal 500 following our recent application.
Over the last 2 years, I’ve often been away from the office for up to 2 weeks at a time, attending employment tribunals around the country. I’ve completed a judicial placement for my own personal development. I’ve volunteered in roles for the CIPD and also the employment lawyer’s association (I’m the rep for Yorkshire and the Humber). I also sit on the board of Leeds Law Society and continue to teach as a visiting lecturer at BPP Law School.
I love being involved in a number of varied roles and I wouldn’t want a typical day, as I think I would get bored. At the beginning and end of my working day, I love going home to walk my dog and spend time with the family. I spend most evenings either at swimming lessons or at the side of football or rugby pitches normally, as the loudest cheerleader for both of my sons.
What skills/qualities would you say a person needs to get to a similar level?
I think resilience is essential in the legal profession. I have encountered over the years a number of issues, which have had an adverse impact on my positivity for the role and the profession generally, and some of which seriously dented my confidence. I have always tried to overcome any disappointments and fears and bounce back.
The legal profession is a very competitive one and you have to learn to stand your ground early on and persevere. Honesty is also essential. I once went to a job interview and was asked how many cases I had lost. After giving a very honest response, I was advised that the two applicants before me had never lost a claim (or so they said). The interviewer hadn’t believed them and neither did I. Always be yourself. An ability to not be distracted by others around you and to concentrate on what you know to be your best attributes and specialisms is key. In these days of social media overload, it’s so easy to be distracted by the noise that others make and to feel you are not up to the job. You don’t always have to be noisy to be fantastic. Be your own person and ignore the noise. Finally integrity to me is everything and as long as you can act in all areas of your personal and professional life with this in mind you will go far.
What advice would you give to someone looking to move towards a role like this?
If you want to set up your own practice then do it. Some people put up barriers because they are scared of failure, but ask yourself if you would regret not doing it? Normally the answer is yes…don’t take any notice of outsiders or people who doubt you, or make you feel bad about yourself. Thank them for their time and do what you want to do anyway. If you want to lead a team of people, get some coaching and continue to develop yourself professionally in all areas. I have benefitted massively from good coaches who have specifically developed myself and the team both personally and in different areas of the business. I’ve still got a long way to go, but it’s important to keep learning. Always say yes to an opportunity, no matter how fearful you are. Finally, never underestimate the benefit of good networking and networks. Build your personal brand early on. This will set you out from the crowd. Being a good solicitor is all about relationships.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your path toward your job today, what advice would you give to yourself?
Be more confident. Don’t listen to the doubters. Stop trying to please others. Say “no” more.
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