A new starter’s guide to Coffin Mew; my first two years
Our Recruitment Manager, Brandon Du’chesne, shares his experience of his first two years working for Coffin Mew.
When I joined Coffin Mew in December 2017, I had been working in recruitment, specifically within the legal sector, for just under two years. On the one hand, I felt quite confident about my new role; I had developed a sound knowledge of the industry, its nuances and pressures. On the other hand, I was quietly nervous about the fact that I had zero first-hand experience of working in a law firm!
I would say the first thing that really struck me during my first few days at Coffin Mew was just how dissimilar it was to the picture of a law firm that I had in my head. I had obviously been given a good idea of what I was getting myself into during my interviews (where I was able to meet with the CEO, a senior partner and the Director of HR), but of course you never really know what it’s like until you’re there! The partners were friendly and approachable, my new colleagues were on hand to make me feel settled and offer me guidance, and the general atmosphere was relaxed and amicable.
As I previously mentioned, I joined the firm in the December, which meant that I was able to attend the firm-wide Christmas party after having been with the firm for only two weeks. It was a little daunting to be in a room of 100+ people, most of whom I barely knew, but it was a great opportunity to get to know people in a much more relaxed environment. The party also demonstrated the firm’s culture of reward and recognition, with a whole host of staff members receiving awards for various achievements and accomplishments from the year prior.
If I did have to think of one negative from my first few weeks at Coffin Mew, it was the fact that I had been presented with the newly created dress-down policy shortly after joining – negative only in the sense that I had recently bought three or four brand new suits in preparation for my fancy new job. Having said that, the money I have saved in dry cleaning costs has pacified me slightly.
While there is absolutely a tangible culture at Coffin Mew, I’m cautious not to give off the impression that there is a particular ‘fit’ or ‘type’ that would be effective in describing the people that work here, as I’ve come to find that we’re all quite different. Something that does bring us together though, is a sense of duty to one another and, of course, our clients. Collaboration is so prevalent, with people working across teams and functions, seniorities and sectors, to deliver great results for our clients and internal stakeholders.
One thing that I have found particularly refreshing is that no one, including our partners and directors, feel that they know everything about everything; they respect and leverage the fact that people have differing opinions, skills and experience. When I am suggesting a course of action for a particular project we are working on, even if it is in contradiction to the one put forward by the team leader, they give me the space to draw on my background and experience, and demonstrate how it could be of use.
During an interview which I ran alongside a colleague, they described Coffin Mew as an “output-focussed firm, rather than an input-focussed one”. As a firm, we are not beholden to the classic 9 til’ 5 work structure, and instead, staff are offered the flexibility to strike a balance that allows them to meet their targets and perform their duties comfortably, without demanding some sort of sacrifice from their home-life commitments. For me personally, that flexibility is not as crucial, since my family consists of my partner and two (rather needy) dogs, but the assurance that I can work from home if someone needs to be around to let the plumber in, or that I can leave the office slightly earlier to catch the train back to my hometown for the weekend, is so valuable.
Coffin Mew cuts out a lot of the bureaucratic rubbish that seems to bog down other organisations out there, and instead chooses to do things in a more simplified way. The partners and senior management aren’t hidden away in fancy corner offices, discussions around your performance and future development are clear and direct, there is a lot of engagement with the management board, particularly when it comes to changes in policy and future plans for the business, and, to quote a colleague, “we are treated like adults”.
It wouldn’t be totally inaccurate to say that I somewhat stumbled into the world of recruitment. I was fresh out of university with plans to move to Brighton, and I needed a job to do that. After a few years of working with a (fantastic) agency, I felt like I needed a change, or to at least take a step in a different direction. I had been entertaining the possibility of moving in-house for some time, and when a vacancy arose at Coffin Mew, I applied rather swiftly!
I’ve always been fearful of developing a CV that shows lots of different jobs that don’t really seem to add up to a ‘career’, but it was clear from my interviews, and still is (just under) two years later, that Coffin Mew offered that crucial ‘next step’ as opposed to being ‘just another job’. This role has given me the opportunity to carry the experience I gained in my previous role into a new setting, whilst continuing to develop and hone my skill set. My knowledge of the industry has continued to improve, but at a much faster rate since I am now in it, and I have a much better understanding and appreciation for how recruitment factors into the wider commercial concerns of a law firm.
There is a real and transparent focus on professional development at the firm; it’s something they take really seriously. Since I’ve been with Coffin Mew, I’ve not once felt like I’m just ‘drifting on by’, or that I’m not building towards something more. From the outset, I have been given the opportunity and responsibility to challenge myself and widen the boundaries of my comfort zone, which is all underpinned by a performance management process that places just as much importance on what you have achieved, as it does on what you can achieve. As a result, I feel that I am quite a different person to the one who joined the firm back in 2017. My confidence has grown, my knowledge has expanded, and I feel safe in the knowledge that I am a trusted and valued member of the team.