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CASE STUDY – Melissa Symes

11 April 2023 | Category

Joined nplaw in January of 2020, just before the pandemic
Solicitor – Governance Team

Tell us about your career journey

My first career was in the emergency services. I then studied law as a mature student after which I spent time as a paralegal with an insurance broker. I then trained at a regional commercial firm in East Anglia, before moving in-house for the majority of my career.

I have reached a bit of an anniversary this year, reaching 10 years PQE as a solicitor (although I still owe my team a cake!).

Why did you choose to work at nplaw?

It was an opportunity to move from a specialist in-house compliance role, back into a general commercial role that would make use of my corporate law and governance experience and provide better opportunities for career development.

More importantly, it was an opportunity to work for an organisation that complemented my personal values and beliefs, focussing much less on profit and more on serving our community.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

There is genuine variety in the work that I and my team carry out. It varies from routine commercial contracts of every size and nature, through to complex project work and strategic development work. We work very closely with our clients to provide practical legal advice that ultimately benefits many areas of our community.

I also enjoy working with such a diverse and experienced team that have a wealth of knowledge and talent in the area of public law. When we come together to provide a multi-disciplinary service for our clients, it very much feels like a collegiate team effort and quite different to my experiences in the private sector.

What is the biggest opportunity you have been given since joining nplaw?

I was given the opportunity in July 2021 to step up into a senior lawyer role, taking on more complex work and leading a small team of junior lawyers and supporting our trainee solicitors completing their seats in commercial law.

I’ve completed some of Norfolk County Council’s own in-house training and development, and in the next few weeks I’m also starting an Institute of Learning and Management accredited leadership course.

I’ve also recently completed my Mental Health First Aid Certificate.

What is your proudest achievement at work?

First of all, being the first in my immediate family to graduate, and then qualifying as a solicitor.

I am particularly proud to have continued to deliver legal advice and support to our clients during the covid pandemic. Not only did we ensure the continuity of routine commercial work, but we supported our clients with the response to Covid-19 and their efforts to continue to deliver critical services.

I also enjoy offering support and mentorship to our trainees and junior lawyers, drawing on the experience I’ve gained in my own career. It’s always great to see them progress their own careers and grow in confidence and skills.

Are there any interesting projects/matters that you are working on at the moment?

I’m supporting one of our clients with a major carbon reduction initiative across a considerable property estate, which is going to be an innovative and important project.

I’ve also currently been working on some very high-profile strategic developments across Norfolk, including green energy projects and sustainable farming projects, that will bring in investment and job opportunities across our region.

I particularly enjoy the various opportunities I’ve had to work on projects connected with the coast, everything from sustainable beach huts to coastal paths, and supporting our local Environment and In shore Fisheries and Conservation Authority.

I also assist a number of local authority owned companies with company secretarial and governance work.

What is the work/life balance and the wider culture like?

The work life balance is very good here at nplaw. We have the benefit of hybrid working, which incorporate flexible working, as well as a flex time policy. The culture in nplaw is very supportive and is also one that encourages innovation and career development.

It’s also a friendly working environment. We don’t work in isolated teams, there is a lot of cross working and that’s also reflected in the various social events that we regularly take part in, whether that’s pizza and beer once a month, or taking part (and beating some of our clients) in charity business sports events.

Within Norfolk County Council there are also a number of advisory groups representing staff and I participate in the LGBTQ+ group that includes staff from across the service.

On a more personal level, I have a long-term health condition and I feel that nplaw is not just a supportive practice, but a genuinely caring and safe place to work, which is very important for me.

What do you do out of work and what is your proudest achievement out of work?

I have been a trustee of a local charity and more recently I’ve helped with establishing a community interest group in Norwich that works to provide support and advice to marginalised communities.

Norfolk is an amazing place to live and work, and I love spending time in the sea surfing and bodyboarding and swimming amongst seals off the coast is an experience that simply can’t be beaten.

I also love performance arts and stand-up comedy, which Norwich is great for and I have an interest in architecture.

What do you think are nplaw’s main selling points to attract new employees?

If you are motivated to do something in law that makes a real difference to our living and working environment, something different from the private practice culture, then I would certainly recommend nplaw.

You’ll have opportunities and a scope of work that isn’t found in private practice and the benefits of career development and specialist areas of law. You’ll also have the opportunity to work in a genuinely supportive environment and you’ll be encouraged to grow and develop and carve your own career path.

It’s been a great experience and I’d thoroughly recommend nplaw to prospective employees.