Louise Corcoran, an Associate in our restructuring and insolvency team, carried out her six-month Reignite placement with the firm at the start of 2020, and gave us an insight into her experience with the programme and working at Stevens & Bolton:
- Tell us a bit about yourself – I understand you trained and worked in the City?
I trained at SJ Berwin in the City (which later became King & Wood Mallesons), qualifying into the restructuring and insolvency team there in 2009. Prior to that, I studied law at the London School of Economics and Political Science before taking the LPC course at BPP Law School in London.
- Could you tell us about any other experience in law before you took your career break?
Pre-training contract legal experience included a couple of months of pro-bono work with Clifford Chance (via a scheme the firm ran with my university), working as a paralegal in a small West End firm doing real estate work and a work experience placement sitting with the head of legal at Allied Irish Bank. During my training contract, I did seats in corporate/private equity, restructuring and insolvency and employment.
- How long was your career break?
Four and a half years. I went on maternity leave with my second child at the end of 2015 and joined Stevens & Bolton in March 2020. King & Wood Mallesons went into administration in January 2017 - at the very end of my maternity leave - therefore it seemed like a natural time to take a break in terms of work.
- What brought about your decision to return to a career in the law?
With my eldest child at school, and the younger one soon to go, it felt like the right time to try and re-establish my career. The prospect of using my brain in a different way was also very appealing by that point!
- What sort of routes back into law did you consider? / Did you want to return to private practice as opposed to in-house?
I assumed that if I returned to law it would be within private practice since that was most familiar to me.
- For those not aware of Reignite, please can you explain how the programme works from a candidate’s perspective?
The Reignite Academy Programme is essentially there to open doors back to private practice for lawyers who may have taken time out, for any reason. The first thing the team do is talk to you about your motivations for wanting to return and about the experience of others who have done the same. It can be daunting if you have been out of private practice for a while - talking to Reignite really gave me the confidence that a return to law was possible. Reignite consultants help you with your CV, explain the roles on offer and guide you through the process of applying to different firms. Once you have received and accepted an offer, you join the programme along with other people who might be going to different firms. I joined with people going to Slaughter and May, PwC, RPC and Reed Smith. We did our induction together and have attended Zoom-based training together. We also have access to a personal coach whose focus is on helping us manage the transition back to work. The programme lasts for six months and, ideally, we hope to secure a permanent role at the end - or at least to have the confidence and experience to apply for our next role.
- Is there a typical length of career break for Reignite candidates?
Not at all. It can be anything from just a couple of years to many more. The average is probably a five or six year break, however I understand that one of the Reignite candidates on the pilot programme had a career break of 17 years. Candidates also vary in seniority – a candidate within my intake had been a partner at her previous firm.
- What have you found most valuable about the Reignite programme?
Being part of the programme gave me confidence that returning to law was possible. Hearing the experience of others who had already made the transition back to work, often after far longer career breaks than mine, was really inspiring. I have also found the regular coaching sessions and training really helpful.
- Stevens & Bolton is the first firm outside London to sign up to the Reignite Academy – what factored into your decision to choose Stevens & Bolton for your six-month placement?
I have always known about Stevens & Bolton and heard really positive things about the firm. A former colleague had also left my previous firm to join Stevens & Bolton several years earlier. Therefore I had always known that it had a really strong restructuring and insolvency practice. I live in Surrey, so when Reignite told me that Stevens & Bolton were part of their programme and were looking for someone in restructuring and insolvency, it seemed like it could be a really good fit.
- What have you enjoyed most so far about your placement in the restructuring and insolvency team at Stevens & Bolton?
The variety of work and getting to know the team (albeit mainly via Zoom), whom have all made me feel really welcome.
- Have there been any challenges to returning to a career in law after an extended break?
Getting used to juggling work and family life again has certainly taken some getting used to. Needless to say, Covid-19 has also been a challenge as I only joined Stevens & Bolton around two weeks before lock down/home-working began.
- What would you say to any lawyers thinking of returning to law after a career break?
Go for it - you have absolutely nothing to lose. I genuinely don’t think that I would have made a return to law had it not been for the Reignite programme. I had always thought that having an extended career break would mean it would be very difficult to return. However, Reignite made it clear, at a very early stage, that this simply would not be the case.