Posted in Interviews on 14 Mar 2019
Tell us a bit about yourself and Maguire Family Law
I guess I have always been a problem solver, and the cut and thrust of litigation naturally appealed to me. Having worked at very small to very large corporate firms. I decided to set up my own firm, Maguire Family Law, in 2010 and have not looked back since.
Why did you choose to pursue a career in the legal sector?
I was pretty clueless at school in terms of what I wanted to do; and quite liked English, the arts etc. However, my father said to me why don’t I do something where there is a job at the end of it. That made sense to me and I studied law at Sheffield University.
Tell us a bit more about your role
I am responsible for overseeing the running of the business and also the legal work; making sure that it is properly delegated and supervised. Financial management is key in terms of ensuring that our work is correctly billed and, importantly, the cash is collected. An intrinsic part of my role also centres around business development and marketing but with changes in society and technology etc. the role is ever changing and part of the skill is to adapt and make yourself and the business different and attractive.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Working with a great team because at the end of the day you spend most of your day working with people and it is very important that we all get on. Yes, the work can be stressful but it is important that we support each other; and certainly I enjoy seeing people develop.
What’s the most challenging element of your job?
The most challenging part of my job is really two-fold:
Firstly, attracting new work because the nature of family law services is such that it is quite transactional so you always have to have an eye on where the next case is coming from and to never forget to say thank you for those referring work. Whilst quite challenging, the business development part of the job is also very rewarding.
Secondly retaining good quality people in the team can be quite challenging as well and I would always wish for there to be a happy hardworking environment. One of the advantages of being a boutique firm is that we are able to make decisions quickly e.g. if someone has an idea rather than go through various chains of commands which I found very frustrating at a large corporate firm.
Have you faced any crossroads in your career so far and if so how did you manage that?
In terms of crossroads, at the early stages of my career I found myself working in different firms and my CV was somewhat chequered in terms of moving around from 0-3 years PQE. However, I was confident in my own ability in terms of the family law work that I wished to specialise in and to find the right firm and platform for my career.
So far what has been your career highlight?
In terms of career highlights, it would have to be setting up my own firm on 1 March 2010 and with the first case on that day actually being before the High Court. It was an extremely hard period and whilst there was the constant fear about not having enough work to generate an income, the opposite happened where there was too much work; and therefore working 7 days a week and long hours etc. That allowed me then to be able to recruit and to reach a stage now where we have different geographical locations, 11 solicitors, a trainee solicitor for the first time, two paralegals and two PAs.
Who or what has had the biggest influence on your professional career so far?
My father, for the reasons set out above in advising me to choose law in the first place. Since then, I have worked at a number of firms and whilst I would not wish to name one individual, what I have picked up over 20 plus years is the fact that each professional has his or her own way of working; some good and some bad. What I have attempted to do is pick up the good traits as I have gone along and developed and leave the bad behind.
Do you have any advice for new trainees or paralegals beginning a career in law?
I have come across a number of trainees and, particularly paralegals who have worked very hard at other firms, often studying part-time and their commitment to the legal profession and their wish to enter it has been amazing. On the one hand, my advice is, however, not to be taken advantage of and to ensure that there is some focus and direction for their career; but at the same time to have patience, particularly upon qualification because I see a lot of people who have become a solicitor have quite high expectations in terms of their skillset, style, career progression (almost seemingly to be immediate) and like any type of relationship and this being a professional one, it does take time and effort; and certainly there is often a long learning curve between years 0-5 years PQE.
What could you see yourself being or doing if you had not pursued a career in the legal sector?
I have absolutely almost no idea but almost certainly something to do with words, writing a book that perhaps no one would ever see.
What do you do to relax outside the office?
I am a very keen photographer, particularly in relation to street photography see www.jamesmaguire.co.uk and this allows me to focus (no pun intended) and something entirely different, attempt to be creative but certainly it gets me outside, allows travel together with the balance of learning a new skillset, with technology, editing etc.