Career choice: Learning and quality director, LawNet
Name: Peter Riddleston
Level of PQE: Qualified in 1998
Current position and immediate former position: Current: learning and quality director, LawNet, previous role: training and development manager, Landmark Information Group.
Why did you go into the law in the first place?
The problem solving aspects of the law were always something that I enjoyed, although it is fair to say that I largely fell into it as a career after studying law at university.
What was your first job as a qualified solicitor?
I worked as an environmental lawyer with the firm that I'd completed my training contract with. Most of my work involved providing support on large corporate and commercial property transactions.
What was your reason(s) for choosing your career path?
I got involved in some training projects and really enjoyed researching, designing and delivering training sessions. It took me a while to work out whether I wanted to go down an academic, research based career path or work in professional training. I opted for the latter because the interaction with people in a learning environment was something I really enjoyed.
What steps did you take to make that move a reality (include details of resources that you found particularly helpful)?
I knew a few people who'd pursued a similar career path and speaking to them helped me to identify the steps I needed to take. Getting a good understanding of the courses that I wanted to teach was important. This helped me to identify areas where I could add value and where my experience would help.
How easy or difficult did you find the move?
Initially, it wasn't easy. It took me a while after leaving practice to find the right opportunity and I worked in legal recruitment for a year or two as a result. I learnt a lot about how lawyers think about their careers as well as some really useful communication and business skills.
When I started as an LPC tutor, I worried that my lack of teaching experience would show and I wouldn't be able to help students learn and progress.
What do you consider to have been the key factor in enabling you to make that successful move?
After the initial shock and realisation of being responsible for part of my students' education, it was largely engaging, interesting and enjoyable. I realised quickly that the main objective for me was to create an environment where people could learn rather than impart great wisdom and knowledge of the law. Good job really because if it had been the latter, I'd have fallen very short.
What do you most enjoy about your current role?
The interaction with LawNet members and the consultants and trainers that we work with is both interesting and enjoyable.
I find the changing nature of how lawyers learn and the challenge of innovating and developing strategies to meet these needs fascinating and a huge motivating factor in my work. Seeing people learn new skills and progress through the courses that we provide is immensely rewarding.
What did you learn about how to make change effectively and what would you have done differently?
I learnt to map out very clearly each step that you think you will need to take to make the change. Once you've established the key steps, you can adapt as you move forward.
What I would have done differently is a difficult question because I regard things that don't quite work as vital learning experiences and keep focused on what is coming next. Saying that, I probably specialised too early in my career as a solicitor. Broader post qualification experience would certainly have helped me.
What are your three tips for a successful change in career direction?
- Involve others. Talk to people about your plans and ask them to check in with you occasionally to see how you're getting on, it creates accountability
- Map out the journey to your goal. You won't always get it right but setting out the steps you think you'll need to take is vital
- Be flexible in your thinking and open to new opportunities