Highlands law firm becomes first to partner with skills development initiative
Harper Macleod is supporting skills development in the Highlands by becoming the first law firm in the region to partner with the Developing the Young Workforce initiative in Inverness.
To kick off the relationship, lawyers from the firm’s Inverness office recently hosted a virtual question-and-answer session with around 100 S4 to S6 students from 14 schools across the Highlands, including Culloden Academy and Thurso High School.
The event, held in partnership with the Developing the Young Workforce team, gave the region’s young people an opportunity to understand how to start a legal career, an insight into some of the work undertaken by local lawyers, as well as the wider careers available in a law firm.
A competition run during the event, asking students to explain in 500 words what was their dream job and how they would make a difference to society, was won by Leah Hardwick from Culloden Academy.
The partnership does not stop at skills development. Harper Macleod lawyers will soon be visiting Culloden Academy to talk to young people preparing to leave school. The discussion will focus on property, covering aspects such as renting vs buying, what young people need if they are looking to buy a property, or become a rental tenant, as well as careers in the property sector.
Jill Fryer is a partner at Harper Macleod based in Inverness, and led the Q&A session as well as the firm’s partnership with the DYW team. An Invernessian herself, Jill grew up in the city but studied in Glasgow, France and Belgium and her career has taken her to London, Brussels and even the Falkland Islands.
“As one of the area’s largest independent firms, we have a responsibility to pass on our experience to young people across the Highlands. The local economy is growing, and there are a variety of careers on offer today which perhaps weren’t a few years ago, so it’s important we contribute to supporting the development of different and diverse skills. “It’s also important we show young people that there are a variety of ways to start and develop a career in the legal industry, and that it isn’t all just dealing with the law. Around half of our Harper Macleod colleagues work in teams such as marketing, human resources or IT, and they are equally as important.”
Stewart Nicol, chief executive of Inverness Chamber of Commerce, which coordinates the region’s Developing the Young Workforce programme, said:
“We are delighted to have worked with the team from Harper Macleod to help young people in our area be inspired and informed about careers in law. With a coordinator in every secondary school, DYW aims to connect employers and the world of education to enable young people to learn more about the career options they have and what steps they need to take to achieve their goals. This event was a fantastic opportunity for those interested in a career in law to hear directly from the team at Harper Macleod.”
There is no law degree or legal diploma provision for students in the Highlands, so the experience of many Highlands-based lawyers is to move away to study, but to return to the region once qualified.
Harper Macleod trainee Lori Butler is in her first “seat” in Shetland – one of four six-month positions over a two-year traineeship. Lori attended Anderson High School in Lerwick before going to Aberdeen’s RGU to study law, where she also gained her legal diploma.
Lori studied law, and joined Harper Macleod, because it gave her the opportunity to study and work around Scotland, but with the option to return to Shetland. She is currently finishing her first seat in Lerwick before she moves on to Edinburgh.
Lori hopes to return to Shetland at some point in the future. She said: “Joining a firm like Harper Macleod has given me so many options whether that is where I want to study, or the different areas of the law to see what suits me best. The team has really encouraged me to explore my options to find my strengths, as well as giving me the opportunity to return to Shetland when it suits me.”
Kyna Malcolmson from Lerwick is studying for her law degree in Edinburgh. Kyna completed her Modern Apprenticeship with the firm after she left Anderson High School. Once fully-qualified, Kyna intends to return to Shetland to work in the firm’s Lerwick office.
Kyna said: “Harper Macleod has really helped me with my legal qualifications and accommodated my desire to return to Shetland at the right time. I started with the firm when I left school in an administration role. That really sparked my interest in the law, and was encouraged by the partners to develop my skills further.”
Harper Macleod has offices in Inverness, Elgin, Thurso and Lerwick, as well as Edinburgh and Glasgow, providing trainees and young people at the start of their careers the opportunity to learn and work in a variety of teams across the country. It also provides a wide range of careers in its business services teams such as HR, marketing and IT.
Each year Harper Macleod takes on around 10 graduates and 10 modern apprentices. Last year it signed the Young Person’s Guarantee, the Scottish Government-backed commitment to bring together employers and young people to increase employment opportunities for 16 to 24-year-olds. The firm also hold Investors in Young People Gold status.