How Tim Collins helps lawyers secure major career breakthroughs

Tim Collins is helping lawyers to become judges while at the same time easing the plight of homeless people, writes Deputy Business Editor Greg Wright.

CONFIDENCE adds an air of conviction and polish which can help the well-prepared applicant secure the job of their dreams.

Tim Collins has built a consultancy business with a simple mission; to help legal candidates achieve their potential by doing themselves justice at interviews which could transform their careers.

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A lack of composure can ruin the prospects of the brightest candidates. Mr Collins works with hundreds of clients across the UK each year, who want to become judges or QCs, from his home in Guiseley, near Leeds.

Tim Collins has built a consultancy business with a simple mission; to help legal candidates achieve their potential by doing themselves justice at interviews which could transform their careers.

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He also operates a business model which allows his clients to back the work of Simon on the Streets, a charity based in Leeds, Bradford and Huddersfield which supports people who are homeless but may not be engaging with other services.

“I set up my consultancy so I could be in control of my own values,” he said. “I work on trust rather than contracts. It’s the complete opposites of box-ticking and dealing with red tape. A lot of interview technique is around story telling. It’s about managing stress, which you’re bound to experience at interview, by preparing.”

Mr Collins started his career with Procter & Gamble (P&G), the multinational consumer goods corporation, and then moved on to work for an advertising agency, before becoming a practice director at a barristers’ chambers in Leeds.

“This was in the late 1990s when the business model within Chambers was changing and they started to bring in people with more general business experience to help them grow,” he said.

“I spent 16 years at No 6 Chambers in Leeds and over that time, 16 members of the chambers became full-time judges. There was a war for talent going on at the time as we tried to attract barristers from other chambers.

“I supported our members who aimed to become judges by helping them with their application forms and their interview techniques, based on my previous P&G recruitment experience.”

A successful interviewing technique is not solely based around your choice of words.

Mr Collins added: “More than 80 per cent of communication is non- verbal. You need to be able to answer the questions but also display confidence under pressure.

“If you exhibit confidence that helps hugely. At pupillage interview, for example, some interviewees can try too hard. I remember telling one candidate that they needed to just relax and be themselves. He finally got the pupillage after a number of unsuccessful attempts.

“I’ve worked with around 1,700 clients and the vast majority are solicitors, barristers and judges,” said Mr Collins. “I do workshops around the country, and I’m always aware that the people I am helping are much smarter than me.

“Why do they need somebody like me?,” he said. “They have the confidence to argue persuasively in front of a judge. But some of them may not have had an interview for 20 years.

“During workshops I often ask people to write with their non-dominant hand, to show that we can build our skills and confidence if we practice.”

Any successful consultancy must be based on strong values, according to Mr Collins.

“You’ve also got to have a cash flow buffer and if you can, develop a niche,” said Mr Collins. “You have to decide how you differentiate yourself. I work with many clients from diverse backgrounds. The concern is that, although barristers and solicitors have become more diverse over the years, it’s become harder to get a training contract or pupillage.

For better or worse, people often recruit in their own image to replicate themselves.

“Interview panels often make up their minds about a candidate within the first 16 words of an interview,” Mr Collins said. “One of the techniques I encourage is to listen to a favourite songs before an interview.

“It helps to stimulate the mind and distract you which could give you that little extra edge.”

His support for Simon on the Streets reflects his belief that business leaders should give something back to the community that supports them.

He recalled: “I decided to support Simon on the Streets after I went to a meeting and heard one of their outreach workers talk about the charity’s work.

“Just a couple of things can go wrong in your life and you can find yourself homeless. Simon on the Streets supports those who have fallen through the net.

“I regularly have successful clients who overpay me, knowing I’ll donate the extra to support Simon on the Streets. Additionally, some successful clients give their first week’s judicial salary of sitting fees as a donation to the charity’s work.”

He takes pride in watching his clients’ development.

“I’m happy to be behind the scenes helping and encouraging people to achieve their potential, who otherwise might not have achieved it.”

Before starting your own business, it pays to work out your core beliefs.

He recalled: “Just before I started my business, I met a friend in London and told him about my plans.

“He told me my description of what I stood for was too complicated.”

On the train home, he came up with words to define his business philosophy: Challenging, honest, creative and fun. Suddenly, everything became clearer.

“They are values I have always tried to lived by,” he said.

Tim Collins has built a consultancy around mentoring, coaching, and training individuals, businesses and organisations; helping them to face challenges and move forward.

He has developed a niche expertise – working closely with lawyers to help them become judges, take silk and secure senior appointments.

He was previously Practice Director at No.6 Barristers Chambers from July 1997 to August 2013.

He is a psychology graduate from the University of Sheffield who also worked as an area manager for Procter & Gamble from 1984 to 1988.

He was a registered and approved Growth Coach for GrowthAccelerator and now mentors growing businesses with Entrepreneurial Spark.