For part two of our trainee blog series, we spoke to Brianella Scott about her journey as a trainee solicitor and her experience with Harper Macleod LLP so far. Enjoy.
My journey into becoming a trainee solicitor was very unconventional. I was offered a traineeship at Harper Macleod LLP eleven days before my Diploma in Professional Legal Practice Certificate expired. To say I was ecstatic to start was an understatement. Nonetheless, as I walked into the office, I had numerous questions running through my mind about the two year journey that I was about to undertake. Will I like my first seat? Do you really work until 1am? What if I've forgotten everything from University? (This was my biggest worry). It was a daunting thought to think that I would now be utilising the skills and knowledge that I had accumulated at University and put these into practice. It dawned on me that I was finally a trainee solicitor (it's still sinking in).
What does your role involve?
At Harper Macleod LLP the period of training consists of four distinctive areas of law or "seats", each lasting six months. My first seat was in the Dispute Resolution department. For me, my past experience was in Litigation and as such a seat in Dispute Resolution seemed like a fitting way to commence my traineeship. I have certainly enjoyed the variety of challenging work, from acquiring experience in critical drafting, to researching legislation/cases and shadowing the experienced solicitors in court (this has been a highlight). It did take some adjusting to the idea of time recording which involves logging every 6 minutes of my day, every single day! But I got there in the end. I recently had my first appearance in Glasgow Sheriff Court and I can confirm that it is nothing like "Suits" or "The Good Wife"(who would have thought). These shows tend to glamorise the idea of going to court, in practice it is much more hands on and far less theatrical. Nonetheless, I won my first appearance in court and it has taught me a valuable lesson. Don't discount yourself if you have taken an unconventional route into your traineeship and capitalise on your past experience. My experience as a paralegal in my previous job came in handy and ultimately resulted in my first win.
I am currently undertaking my second seat in Energy and Natural Resources. This is diametrically opposed to my first seat as both teams are vastly different in how they operate as well as their case management system. This is also a transactional seat as opposed to my previous seat being a contentious seat. I have had much more client interaction. As a result, my approach to my current seat was very different to my first (although the enthusiasm stayed the same).I had to adapt. For example, being a trainee in the rural team involves a lot of drafting of offers and dispositions for the sale or acquisition of land. These are skills that you learn overtime. As a trainee my drafting will never be perfect, I will make mistakes both big and small. However, I am comfortable in making those mistakes as there is supervision and a supportive network at Harper Macleod LLP to ensure that my work is completed to the best of my ability and in accordance with the firm's standard. In both seats, I have received support, guidance and constant constructive feedback ensuring that I develop the necessary skills going forward.
Do you have any advice?
A traineeship can be a daunting experience and I believe it would be helpful to share a few tips or insights which I have learned over the past eight months:
- Approach every seat with the same enthusiasm (be adaptable): Keep an open mind. You might not get the seat that you initially wanted but every seat is a good seat and there is a wealth of knowledge to be learned from each department. Make the most of the opportunities given to you in each seat.
- Everyone has been where you are now: There is a great balance of having a degree of autonomy as well as an appreciation that you're a trainee in a new field at Harper Macleod LLP. There is no such thing as a stupid question (although it might feel like this, a lot!). There might not always be a clear answer and some questions/problems may require critical and creative thinking. Just don't stress the 'small stuff'.
- Everyone makes mistakes (learn from it and don't repeat it): During my first week of training, we were welcomed by the Chairman and Chief Executive of Harper Macleod LLP. They both reiterated the same point, 'everyone makes mistakes and when you do, tell us and we will fix it together'. These words always resonate with me if I'm ever feeling overwhelmed. So don't panic, no one is perfect and you are always supported.
- Enjoy the journey (two years will fly by in the blink of an eye): Enjoy the journey and all the challenges and rewards that it brings. Build relationships with the other trainees, you're all in the same boat and the journey is much easier as a collective. Listen and learn from your colleagues. Take every opportunity that you have and make the most of it, whether that's going to a pub quiz for the Glasgow Warriors, baking for a charity event or writing this blog! Just have fun; you're only a trainee once.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my traineeship thus far. I am constantly learning and I feel privileged to have a traineeship in such a supportive and nurturing law firm. I have learned a lot more in the eight months at Harper Macleod LLP than I have in my six years at University. The experience has been invaluable and rewarding. I am ecstatic to see what my next seat and my second year has in store and I can honestly say that, I liked my first (and second seat); I have not worked until 1am and I do remember most things from University (Thank goodness).
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