Phoebe Waters shares her thoughts on how to get into the legal sector in 2021

Phoebe Waters 1 Apr 2021

In the summer of 2017, when we were free to fly around the world, I boarded a British Airways flight to Budapest. I picked up the in-flight magazine (please no, not another perfume offer) where to my surprise, a sleek and bold advert caught my eye. My curiosity was instantly captured: taking up the whole page was the caption ‘Sabotage the Saboteur’. As soon as I could, I looked this firm up. It was Schillings.

Fast forward to January 2021 (several Hungarian steins and a global pandemic later), I started at Schillings – the first law firm I have worked at – as an Associate in the Intelligence & Investigations team.

A month into this fantastic new role, I thought I would share a few tenets that I have kept routed at the forefront of my mind, and heart, during my career so far. I hope this may help one or two of you who are trying to either get into the legal sector or seeking to find a new role during 2021.

Be efficient

Balancing the interview process (Schillings’ process was particularly rigorous!) with a consistently heavy workload can be managed by strong time management. This is a skill that is key not only for acquiring a job but will also result in greater enjoyment and efficiency in your workday once you have landed the role. Moreover, this ability is paramount at a law firm where we as fee-earners need to meticulously record our time. ‘Work smarter, not harder’ is an ethic that, by my own admission, I have been toying with since high school, but in practice – it does help. I think time management and communication go hand-in-hand to feeling under control and being effective.

Be curious

Turning up to an AGM of the Female Fraud Forum (FFF) about a year ago, without being a member and having sent a quick email to the Chair, resulted in me becoming a Committee Member a matter of weeks’ later. When starting a career, especially within the legal sector, it’s important to network with peers. In my previous role, most of my clients were law firms and I wanted to connect with like-minded professional women. I attended the AGM, quite simply, because I wanted to know more about them. Joining the FFF has given me the opportunity to regularly communicate with and learn from some of the 200 participants who are from the legal, investigations, financial, and criminal and civil fraud sectors. Go forth and network, wine in-hand (whether it will be at your kitchen table wearing joggers or not).

Staying curious is an extremely powerful tool, and as cliché as it may sound, you just never know where you will end up (for me, it is the fiercely brilliant Schillings – all from being inquisitive sitting on that aeroplane).

Be confident

I knew I wanted my career to be centred around investigations at about 15 years’ old. Of course, like every teenager, university student and beyond, there were doubts in my mind about how to achieve what I truly desired. My advice is to trust in yourself, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, and try your best.

A logistical tip about confidence in lockdown is have your camera on during networking – we want to see you as well as hear your ideas. Non-verbal communication can make your messages more influential, and it is great to be able to connect a face to a name, so you will be better remembered in the future. After speaking up (with video) once during a session your self-assurance will naturally build.

Be kind

Life is challenging enough as it is – be nice! I am strong believer in ‘lifting each other up’ and supporting one another. Plus, reaching out with genuine kindness to help someone may even lead to new opportunities for you. Being kind is even more vital now we are all experiencing difficulties during the pandemic (kindness towards yourself, as well as to others).