Career choice: Head of employment

Kevin Poulter

Name: Kevin Poulter
Level of PQE: 12 years
Current position and immediate former position: Head of employment, Child & Child. Formerly legal director, Bircham Dyson Bell.

Why did you go into the law in the first place?

It's a very good question and one that I'm afraid I don't have an inspiring answer to. Although I had no family or friends working in the law, it was my aspiration from an early age, around 12 years old. I don't know why.

My fate was sealed when a teacher told my parents to dissuade me from my chosen career because I was "too soft" to be a lawyer. Subconsciously, I think it was then that it became my mission to prove her wrong.

What was your first job as a qualified solicitor?

Just after qualifying with a high street firm, I moved to a commercial firm in Leeds to continue to build my experience in employment law. This was before the property crash, and was a great time to be a junior lawyer, even in a northern city.

What was your reason(s) for choosing your career path?

There was never a grand plan to follow a particular path. Each time I have changed jobs, there has been a good reason, and each move has brought me closer to where I am today. Although some decisions I may look back on and wonder if it really was the best thing for me, I knew it was at the time.

Aside from my main day job, I got involved with the Law Society's Junior Lawyers Division, and through that, found myself gaining new experiences that I might not otherwise have been exposed to.

Without doubt, that gave me a taste for London - where I eventually moved to after seven years' PQE. I also caught the writing bug - since then, I've been involved with various publications, and was the first editor at large for Solicitors Journal.

What steps did you take to make that move a reality (include details of resources that you found particularly helpful)?

I have always been quite open, and take each opportunity that presents itself. Following your own path and not burning bridges along the way is essential. Speaking to people who have had similar experiences or who work in other firms or practice areas helps.

How easy or difficult did you find the move?

The first move after qualification was a difficult decision, mainly because I had spent time with my training firm since I did work experience there at 14. Leaving behind those relationships was difficult, but the right thing to do.

What do you consider to have been the key factor in enabling you to make that successful move?

Embracing the opportunity and not looking back.

How did you find the transition after you made the move?

After nearly every transition from firm to firm, I have been well supported and made to feel immediately welcome. I think it's important for anyone established in a firm to go out of their way to get to know new starters, and this was exactly how I was treated.

What do you most enjoy about your current role?

The freedom to succeed is a welcome change, but comes with its own self-imposed pressure that now drives my ambitions, both personally and professionally. Plus the opportunity to continue to practise whilst also developing a team, supporting my colleagues and making the most of new opportunities.

What did you learn about how to make change effectively and what would you have done differently?

You can never be sure what to expect, but doing research is key. I also find that using interviews as an opportunity not just to be interviewed but to interview the firm or organisation on things that are important to you can give you a deeper insight into what to expect.

What are your three tips for a successful change in career direction?

I have been fortunate not to have to choose to make a career change, but to be able to have one career that allows me to split my time between writing/business development and being a lawyer.

That said, change can only be successful with:

  • research
  • commitment to the change
  • passion

It also helps if you enjoy what you do, and I am lucky that I do. Most of the time, anyway!

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