13 March 2017

By trainee solicitor Lizzy Rowlands

What is a sector-focused approach?

If you have spent time researching law firms for your vacation scheme and training contract applications, you may have seen various sectors referred to regularly on websites and marketing materials.

Burges Salmon’s sector expertise lies in a number of fields, including energy, transport, infrastructure, real estate, private wealth and the public sector. These are some of the areas in which the firm has built up a strong reputation through its extensive knowledge and understanding of the challenges, opportunities and risks that may affect clients working within these sectors.

Having such a detailed understanding of these sectors allows the firm to deliver commercial and pragmatic advice which is completely tailored to the individual client.

Now I am in my second year of my training contract, I thought I would look back at how this approach has shaped my own training contract experience.

Commercial awareness

Commercial awareness is all about staying up to date with news, developments and opportunities in the business world and is crucial at any stage in a lawyer’s career. Commercial awareness is also essential right from the very beginning when making training contract applications.

Having a sector-focused approach throughout my training contract has helped to build my commercial awareness in a number of ways. Although I have changed departments regularly as a trainee, I have ended up working within the same sector in a number of different practice areas. For example, I have worked for a number of energy clients across my time spent in real estate, projects and planning, which has given me the chance to start building a more comprehensive understanding of the challenges facing this particular sector.

This exposure allows trainees to develop their awareness of client’s businesses from an early stage, meaning you can start to go the ‘extra mile’ and tailor pieces of advice to the client’s particular industry. The commercial, financial and practical knowledge you may build through working within a specific sector can be combined with legal research and analysis to create useful advice for the client.

In addition, working alongside lawyers who have developed significant expertise in a particular sector is a brilliant way of improving your own commercial awareness.

Transferable skills

Every time you move departments, you are given the chance to develop a wide-range of specific legal skills, for example drafting a lease in real estate, or a claim form in dispute resolution. However, the sector focused approach allows you to develop a useful set of transferable skills to apply across a number of departments.

For example, writing an article on developments within the transport sector in one seat can help you to find the relevant resources, legislation and guidance a lot more quickly when you come across a similar research task in another seat. These transferable skills can sometimes help make the four-monthly seat change process feel a little bit easier!


Networking can be a daunting experience for any trainee, especially when you feel that you know very little about a business area or know nobody else in the room.

Burges Salmon’s approach means that there are always plenty of cross-sector seminars, presentations and networking events, which will be relevant across a number of different practice areas throughout your training contract.

The more exposure you have to clients within a particular sector, the more confident you begin to feel when meeting new people who work within that particular area.

The sector-focused approach has therefore helped me to develop in a number of ways throughout my training contract and has been an especially useful way of improving my commercial awareness.

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What does a sector-focused approach mean for your training contract?

Although I have changed departments regularly as a trainee, I have ended up working within the same sector in a number of different practice areas.
Lizzy Rowlands, Trainee Solicitor

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