Norwich legal firm proud to home grow talent

Chloe Smith congratulates Leathes Prior on becoming the 100th business to support Norwich For Jobs and meets(l to r) post room assistant Talia Baxter, chartered legal executive Jill Wheeler and conveyancing administrator James Hunt.
Photo by Simon Finlay. Chloe Smith congratulates Leathes Prior on becoming the 100th business to support Norwich For Jobs and meets(l to r) post room assistant Talia Baxter, chartered legal executive Jill Wheeler and conveyancing administrator James Hunt. Photo by Simon Finlay.

Saturday, March 8, 2014
4:30 PM

Based in Norwich’s Cathedral Close it is a legal firm with a history and tradition dating back to the 19th century,

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However, Leathes Prior has been hailed for its very modern approach to training as it this week became the 100th firm to pledge its support for the Norwich For Jobs campaign.

City MP Chloe Smith, who launched the initiative a year ago, dropped by to meet two of the youngest staff and hear legal executive Jill Wheeler, head of one of Leathes Prior’s conveyancing teams, explain their policy of home growing talent.

Ms Wheeler, who is proud to have started “at the rock bottom as a typist on a manual typewriter at another firm of solicitors in The Close”, is keen to support others on the same journey.

Since being head-hunted to join Leathes Prior in November 2012 “with zero case load and no members of staff” she has successfully grown business and used her talent spotting to build a three-strong team.

James Hunt, 22, now a member of her conveyancing team, started out as post room assistant but was spotted by Ms Wheeler as a “bright young spark who was so nice with clients”.

He has since progressed through an NVQ and after gaining more experience is likely to start formal training to become a legal executive.

“In James, I see myself,” said Ms Wheeler.

Another of her team, Claire Watson, who is further along the same journey, started out as a PA in the firm.

Also meeting Ms Smith was Talia Baxter, 19, who joined on Monday as post room assistant and is planning to progress through an NVQ.

Lauren Smith, Leathes Prior’s HR advisor, said many people were surprised that it was possible to join a legal firm as a college leaver, but they had found it beneficial to home grow talent and mould staff to their way of working.

Congratulating the firm on becoming the 100th to support Norwich For Jobs, Ms Smith said: “It shows it makes business sense to put your faith in young people.”

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