Kirstie Goulder, the youngest president of a local law society, answers questions on her decision to become a lawyer and her experiences of working with local law societies.
Why did you decide to become a solicitor / what attracted you to the law?
As soon as I started secondary school, my Spanish teacher recalls me stating ’en el futuro, quiero ser abogada’ (in the future, I want to be a lawyer). My passion for languages and the law continued to develop, and I went on to study both German and Spanish to A-Level and chose to read Law with Spanish at the University of Sheffield. I was also lucky enough to spend one year studying Spanish Law in Valencia which was an incredible experience and, looking back, was an integral part of my personal development.
How did you get to work for Greenwoods in Peterborough?
During the LPC, I learned that my skill set was more suited to the commercial world and enjoyed the challenge of supporting high achieving clients. In the hunt for a training contract, I researched commercial firms within the county and Greenwoods came top of my list. I was impressed with their excellent reputation, and the firms approach to employing lawyers with personality who clients will enjoy working alongside. I thought little of the 70-mile relocation for a chance to work with there.
How did you secure your training contract and what was your training like?
To apply for a training contract at Greenwoods, you must file your CV with a covering letter by 31 July each year. I took time to identify what Greenwoods’ brand was all about, details of key personnel and examples of the firm’s wide-ranging international work so that I could link it to my language skills and love for travel. In response, I was invited for an assessment day in December. At that time, the process involved an interview, written and IT assessment, lunch with the current trainees and a presentation all in one day. I had to draw on my time management skills to ensure I had enough time to draft and prepare what was required. During the training contract, I experienced a full two years of training across four different departments. Above all else, it was a fantastic opportunity to immerse myself into Greenwoods’ culture and get to know people in the office as well as learning about different areas of the law. Greenwoods is a contemporary legal practice and its investment in people reflects that. As a result, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to work with a great portfolio of interesting and significant projects, enjoy a competitive salary and access to the firm’s discretionary bonus scheme and be welcomed into a professional but fun working culture. Having the support of regular appraisals, an understanding supervisor and training principal as well as inspiring colleagues was the backbone of a successful training contract for me. I was offered an NQ position in our Disputes team during my third seat and happily remain with the firm and have since been promoted to Property Guardianship Lead.
How did you first get involved with the Peterborough and District Law Society?
Around two months into my first seat, the Peterborough and District Law Society (PADLS) made a plea to local lawyers to ’get involved’ and help bring some new energy into the organisation. I saw this as an opportunity to make new friends, heighten my profile and impress my firm.
Alongside trainees from Greenwoods and other local firms, I was involved in in-augurating a new Peterborough Young Lawyers Group, which, nearly six years later is still going strong. I was President of the Peterborough Young Lawyers Group (’PYLG’) for around two and a half years which involved me chairing meetings, organising and co-ordinating social and training events and collaborating with other young professional communities in Peterborough. Alongside this role, I have also been joint social secretary of the ’adult’ Peterborough and District Law Society for almost six years. Having stepped down from my role in PYLG, last March I was elected as president of the Peterborough and District Law Society making me the youngest ever president since the society began in the 1930s.
What are the benefits to you personally and professionally in getting involved with your local society?
Undoubtedly, my officer roles within both the PADLS and PYLG committees have heightened my personal profile - that social butterfly is able to flutter her wings and build important relationships with counterparts in the area. Knowing your opponent first hand can make difficult transactions or proceedings a lot easier to handle and I have even been referred a few pieces of conflict work as a result of those relationships.
Being appointed the youngest president of PADLS is a career highlight. I follow in the footsteps of some iconic names in Peterborough history which makes my firm, my family and friends and most importantly me, proud. I manage committee meetings, events and training sessions - involving lawyers from other law firms with countless combined years of experience. The committee elected me and entrusted me with the role because of my enthusiasm and drive to heighten the profile of the society. During the last Annual Dinner, I delivered the principal speech to 136 lawyers, judges and other distinguished guests before an address from an MP.
What should local law societies do to encourage more junior lawyers to join and get involved (also at a committee level)?
I believe in the law of positivity; like attracts like. The more young lawyers that are involved with local law societies, the more it will grow and become increasingly attractive. Some young lawyers may have a misconception that local law societies are outdated - our society is far from it! Feedback from our last Annual Dinner was that it was ’a breath of fresh air’ and ’an event like no other’. The Annual Dinner is now a key date in everyone’s diaries. Dinner suits are put on, stunning dresses are unveiled and we actively use social media to capture moments and document our success.
For me, I rely on the personal approach and take time to build relationships with as many people as I can to make them feel engaged. Although time consuming to have to email individual contacts in each firm, it pays dividends. When I first took over as social secretary, PADLS struggled to attract large numbers of attendees - our personal best is 136 and I’d like more for 2018!
What would you say to any younger practitioners who might be unaware of their local society?
- Speak to your colleagues and find out whether you already have a relationship with your local law society or junior lawyers group.
- If not, research about professional communities in your area and find out who your local president or secretary is and send them an email - we are always delighted to hear from new people.
- Offer to come along to a committee meeting and find out what’s involved - you really do as little or as much as you would like. I chose to take an active role because I had the luxury of free time in the evenings but even if its contributing in a small way by managing the society’s social media, it’s hugely valuable.
- Suggest a new idea for an event or networking opportunity to breathe new life into the current format.
Follow me on Twitter (‘Kirstie Goulder’) for updates about the Peterborough Law Society, and please tweet me about your plans in other regions, I would be delighted to hear about developments in other local law societies too.