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Deborah Alexander

Employment Law Solicitor in Scotland - Deborah Alexander

Joined: 2017
Office: Glasgow

Why did you choose Harper Macleod?

I chose to apply to Harper Macleod due to their reputation as a strong and independent Scottish firm who are proud of their modest roots but eager to grow and expand.  Throughout my time at university I had the opportunity to meet with a range of other firms but Harper Macleod really stood out as a friendly and inclusive firm with an atmosphere that I could really envisage myself thriving in.  I have always had an interest in business and commercial matters and the idea of Harper Macleod being ‘more than just a law firm’ really appealed to me. 

What did your Summer Placement involve?

During my 6-week summer placement I was based primarily within the private client department.  This gave me an overview of all aspects of private client work although there was a focus on executory cases.  I assisted two of the firm’s solicitors with obtaining Confirmation on a number of executries and conducted a will review to ensure all wills which were held on file were accurate and up to date.  I had previously undertaken placements with other firms however my placement with Harper Macleod was different – I really felt that I was being given the chance to be involved in ‘real’ client-facing legal work for the first time.

I also assisted the personal injury department with a complex medical negligence case which involved telephone conversations with the family of a deceased man in order to obtain witness statements from them and details of how his death had affected them.  Although initially daunting due to the sensitive subject matter it was really encouraging to know that the firm had such faith in my ability.  Following my summer placement, I worked part time in the personal injury department while I completed my degree and diploma and seeing the case come to close almost 2 years later was very rewarding.  

What was your highlight during placement?

I really enjoyed the full summer placement with Harper Macleod and I know it sounds clichéd, but I genuinely did not have a bad day.  When I started the placement I was not necessarily expecting any hands on client contact but I was lucky enough to be exposed to clients throughout the 6 weeks.  I attended client meetings and was asked to make numerous phone calls.   Such high levels of client exposure encouraged me further because it allowed me to see the real difference I was having the chance of making to their life.  A sad reality of working in a private client department is that you often meet with clients at the hardest times of their lives and it was really rewarding to know that I was easing the burden on our clients at such a hard time.   

How did placement prepare you for becoming a Trainee?

Due to the length of the placement and the fact that you are primarily based within 1 department, the summer placement is extremely good preparation for the traineeship.  6 weeks really allows you to get involved in cases and experience communication with individual clients as well as other solicitors and intermediaries.  You get to know everyone really well and build professional relationships within the department.  In most cases you will be given similar work than that given to a trainee and so the summer placement really is just a mini-traineeship! 

What advice do you have to people looking for a Summer Placement?

The most important bit of advice I think I could give anyone considering a traineeship is to be open and willing to give anything a try.  Although the undergraduate degree does give you a general idea of what areas you do and don’t like, the reality of real life practice is often very different.  Don’t pigeon hole yourself and grasp any opportunity you are offered – this is the best time to try everything and decide what avenue you want to pursue further through your traineeship and the rest of your career!

Perhaps contradictory to what I have just said, I would also recommend that you do your homework and be selective in the firms that you are applying to.  Summer placement application processes are time consuming and demanding and it would be almost impossible to apply everywhere with a comprehensive and well-tailored application.  The Legal 500 and the Chambers and Partners directories are useful and provide information on which areas certain firms are strongest in.  Attend the law fairs and speak to the firms, consider what kind of ethos you will thrive in and consider this when sending out applications.  Despite the pressure to get any sort of experience you can, it really does payoff to be selective to a certain degree.

Finally, just try to get involved in everything you can!  Take brief notes of tasks you have completed and anything else you have been involved in.  This will be invaluable when you reflect on your placement and provides you with talking points during the traineeship recruitment.  Say hello to everyone and don’t be scared to ask any questions no matter how stupid they might seem.  The placement is an excellent opportunity to get your face known within the firm.  

Challenges you may face?

At times, the summer placement can seem as challenging as it is rewarding and with hindsight it is easy to say that you really shouldn’t worry too much about it.  Undoubtedly you will make some mistakes – for most people the summer placement is unlike anything they have ever done before and accordingly not everything will go to plan all of the time.  It is important that you remember that everyone is in the same boat and even the partners have been where you are now.  Almost any mistake can be rectified so long as you are honest about it and ask for help at the earliest possibly opportunity.     

How has your Harper Macleod Experience been so far?

I have absolutely loved my time at Harper Macleod so far.  I am currently completing a quasi-legal/business development seat within the HM Connect department who run a referral and support network and work closely with high street and rural firms across Scotland.  This has been a fantastic opportunity which I was not expecting at all, but one which I am very grateful to have had.  Business development is such a key part of every successful solicitor's career and I think that it is probably something which is overlooked at many other firms. 

Due to the nature of the work I am doing at the moment, there are few members of staff within the firm who I have not had some form of communication with and I can genuinely say that I have yet to come across anyone who is difficult to get along with.  From day 1 I have truly felt welcomed and part of the team and I could not recommend a career with Harper Macleod any more highly.

Describe Harper Macleod and it's people in 5 words?

  1. Entrepreneurial
  2. Driven
  3. Inclusive
  4. Exciting
  5. Challenging

I really enjoyed the full summer placement with Harper Macleod and I know it sounds clichéd, but I genuinely did not have a bad day. When I started the placement I was not necessarily expecting any hands on client contact but I was lucky enough to be exposed to clients throughout the 6 weeks. Deborah Alexander