Don't waste opportunity to develop your career

Last year, I was delighted to achieve full membership of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM). This accreditation gives me the distinction of being the first Scottish solicitor to become a fully fledged chartered waste manager and puts me on a par with a number of my clients in the sector.

Laura Tainish, Davidson Chalmers solicitors photography shoot in Edinburgh.
Laura Tainish, Davidson Chalmers solicitors photography shoot in Edinburgh.

Gaining full CIWM membership has been a very worthwhile process, benefitting my client base within this ever-changing sector. I am not the first lawyer to achieve accreditation from an industry sector organisation. However, the experience has certainly opened my eyes to the benefits. For those who have not yet done so, I urge legal practitioners to consider this route. It is helpful in career development and can enhance the value of the wider legal profession, addressing a perception that some lawyers don’t have a broader understanding of how business operates.

To be a legal specialist in any given area, you cannot expect to limit your knowledge and experience to just the law. The practical and commercial issues in any sector play a big part in the way businesses operate with an expectation that key advisers, including lawyers, will be able to provide guidance beyond their professional field of practice. Gaining an industry qualification builds on that ethos and can help a lawyer as a fully rounded sector specialist.

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Achieving such a qualification is a challenging journey, requiring a high level of commitment. For me, this started with a long-term focus on the waste management sector and a desire to gain a deeper knowledge and understanding of key legislation and policy, and commercial issues impacted by it.

Expect the level of commitment to intensify once you are ready to apply yourself to an accreditation programme. In preparing for my CIWM membership, I had to dedicate a significant amount of time towards the interview process, ensuring I was suitably prepared and fully up-to-date with all industry developments. Maintaining this level of engagement as an ongoing part of your legal practice is vital if you are to build on your role as a sector specialist adviser.

Since gaining my qualification, I have noticed an increase in discussions with clients and other professionals in the industry that transcend the practice of law and relate to the wider issues affecting the waste industry. By investing time and energy on achieving a recognised industry standard, I’m much better-placed to understand and advise on broader practical and commercial issues affecting the sector. In developing this business adviser role, I can pre-empt a client’s position in a legal transaction as I’m more frequently involved in initial discussions leading up to it.

My own accreditation process has enabled me to build a more useful relationship with SEPA and other industry bodies. This has given me an opportunity to feed in my clients’ perspectives and concerns to try to influence how changes to practice, policy and legislation are developed. In the year ahead, in which I believe the industry’s fight against waste crime is going to be a huge issue, I look forward to both gaining and sharing insights with fellow members on how to deliver further positive changes within the sector.

Full CIWM membership has also opened new doors. I have been elected to its Scientific & Technical Committee, where I work with fellow industry colleagues on a national level, developing technical policies and promoting best practice for CIWM.

From my perspective in a commercial firm which does focus on sector specialisms, investing time and focus to achieve an industry accreditation has been invaluable. I’d recommend this route to any lawyer in a similar position, looking to raise their game within a specific industry sector as it can open up new avenues and help elevate a legal practitioner to the role of specialist business adviser. That’s a positive development for an individual’s career and a progressive step for the wider legal sector.

Laura Tainsh is Partner and waste management specialist at Davidson Chalmers LLP