HM Insights

What do summer law students do?

Part one of the Harper Macleod Trainees blog series to give an insight into the life of a trainee, or in this case a summer researcher, at Harper Macleod. First up Robert McConnell, University of Edinburgh and University of Stirling Graduate and now a trainee in Dispute Resolution team, details what you need to know about being a summer researcher at a law firm. Enjoy. 

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What is it like to be a summer researcher at Harper Macleod?

Harper Macleod offer paid summer placements to university law students following completion of their third year, or first-year if doing the Accelerated LLB. I was a summer researcher in 2016 and will outline my experience to give you a feel for what it's like to work during the summer at one of Scotland's leading law firms.

Why you should look for a Summer Placement?

Summer placements give students the chance to work in one of the firm's departments for six weeks and really experience life in a busy and growing full-service law firm. The summer placement program is also the firm's principal method of hiring trainees– so think of it as a six-week job interview.  

How can you apply for a summer placement at Harper Macleod?

It starts, as it so often does, with an application form. I completed this and returned it before the deadline. I was then later contacted to come in for an interview with HR to go through my application and discuss the role. This was informal in nature and I was put at ease in discussing my academic results and work experiences up to that point. Should you proceed past this stage, you will then be invited to attend a further interview with two Partners at the firm.

This will be a more rigorous interview and will involve you not only speaking about yourself but also showing how you would be a correct fit for the firm. Detailed knowledge of the kind of work the firms does as well as its values is vital – I would recommend preparation before this interview and have answers ready for why you think you would add value as a summer researcher. If successful, you will be later contacted by HR to inform you of your start date!

Top tip: A good place to start your research on the latest news and insights from the firm can be found using the links below:

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What department did I work in? 

I was placed in the Dispute Resolution team in our Edinburgh office and was excited to learn more about court procedure and attending court. The Dispute Resolution team in the Edinburgh office is largely concerned with high-value actions in both the Court of Session and Sheriff Court so whilst it was daunting at first to join such a high-functioning department, it was also exciting.

Who will you be working with during your summer placement? 

As a summer researcher, you will certainly at first be working closely with the department's trainee and all support staff. They will help you find your feet and feel comfortable in the department. I was made to feel at comfortable and part of the team, despite it being so busy and hectic at times!

As time progresses over the summer, you will get to better know your colleagues and you will be asked to assist with increasingly complex matters as your experience grows. However, there is always support and help available as the firm is aware this is a learning experience for you and that this is your first step on the legal ladder.

Looking back on my Summer Placement 

My experience over the summer was fantastic. I was involved in multiple cases and really got to work closely with my colleagues. I drafted documents and court papers, did court running and attended client meetings amongst many other things. There were also opportunities for me to meet Advocates and sit in on hearings in the Court of Session, which was a great experience. Of course, as your job title says, you can also expect a lot of research tasks!

It was hard work but very enjoyable and I learned a great deal. My experiences as a summer researcher really sold me on becoming a solicitor at Harper Macleod and to my great delight, I was offered a traineeship at the end of the summer! I am currently in my third seat as a trainee and the summer placement program was a great foundation for the traineeship.

If you are interested in applying for our summer researcher program, keep an eye out for the application process opening on our website in December 2019.

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