Being a trainee - case studies

To find out more about being a trainee, read our case studies below. They will give you a flavour of life in the office and what a typical day as a trainee is like.

Thomas Murdock, trainee, Tods Murray

Thomas Murdock is working as a trainee at Tods Murray LLP, a Scottish law firm serving commercial and private client sectors. He describes why he chose this career, and life as a trainee solicitor.

"I was looking for a career that would be challenging, to provide many opportunities, that would allow me to use my brain and think logically, and ultimately be rewarded for doing so. I think it's an exciting time to begin a career in law - lawyers are changing the way they practise and having to evolve.

"I found the interview and application process tough, but I don't think there's ever been an easy path to becoming a lawyer. You have to really want to do it, and be committed to it. If you aren't, it's fairly obvious to prospective employers. There are of course a few Einsteins out there in huge demand for their sheer academic ability, but for the majority of applicants success will come from having a wide skills base and being a great communicator.

"The best possible advice I could give would be that you have to make your own luck - create your own opportunities. Follow up any and all contacts you may have. Think creatively about how you can get involved with firms, and importantly, show your enthusiasm.

"In terms of a typical day as a trainee, I'll arrive at my desk for 9am, and I'll usually have lots of emails to work through. I'll then prioritise my work for the day - at any one time I'll usually have between five and 20 tasks on the go, so it's often a case of juggling these. We take lunch any time between 12pm and 2pm, and afternoons can often be spent tying up any loose ends and delivering Companies House forms. Unless I'm working on something with an urgent close, I'll usually leave by 5.30pm or 6pm.

"My first seat was in the banking department, which has given me a breadth of work, from discharging standard securities for large lenders, preparing the monthly Banking Update, to undertaking due diligence reports for opinions. I was also involved with an assignation portfolio of 900 standard securities, which although was hard work, proved great experience.

"My current seat has been in commercial property in our Glasgow office. It's been a particularly varied and fast-paced seat, with calls to clients from the first day. I've had experience of leasing, drafting rent review memoranda, and buying and selling commercial and residential property for large companies and individual clients. I'll be moving back to Edinburgh for my next seat in litigation, beginning in September.

"The firm has provided opportunities to get involved outwith my own department. I've received work from my cross-departmental team, including drafting an agreement for a comedy promoter and advising a record company about to broadcast music videos on Connecticut PBS. I've also written a few articles published in the local press, been asked to guest lecture at Edinburgh Napier University, attended a number of client-development events and conferences, and was a debating judge for the Law Society."

Arezo Darvishzadeh, trainee, HBJ Gateley LLP

Arezo Darvishzadeh is a trainee solicitor at HBJ Gateley LLP. She describes her career and life as a trainee solicitor.

"I was always attracted to entering a profession that would be challenging and diverse whilst enabling me to use my problem solving and research skills; for me, law encompasses all of this. Law is constantly evolving and updating which means even after I have left university, I am still learning on a daily basis.

"The route to qualification as a solicitor is not easy. The application and interview process is particularly tough in the current economic climate. It is important for prospective trainees to make themselves stand out and this can be achieved either academically and/or through skills gained from non-academic experiences. My advice would be to try and create a well-rounded CV through both work experience and extra-curricular activities as it should make interview and application questions easier to answer!

"Attending law fairs can be very helpful in terms of getting an idea of what employers are looking for as well as getting a better idea of the differences between organisations, law firms and practice areas. In terms of gaining a traineeship, there are a range of options available, including: commercial or criminal; small, medium or large law firms; and, public sector, private sector or in-house traineeships. The structure of the traineeship can also vary from multiple seats lasting a number of months each to a single seat in one practice area or indeed a general traineeship with no particular practice area assigned.

"I am currently in the second of my four six-month seats, working within the Corporate Department in the Edinburgh office of HBJ Gateley. Typically my workload includes drafting and completing Companies House forms, compiling bibles, preparing ancillary documents (eg board minutes, resolutions, certificates etc) and conducting research. On an average day, I arrive at my desk for 8.30am and leave around 6pm.

"My first seat was a shared litigation and construction seat, and this included some time working in our Glasgow office. In contrast to the Corporate Department, I was mainly involved in contentious work and my workload included appearing in court, drafting letters of advice, lodging motions and defences etc, attending court with fee earners to take notes, conducting research and court running.

"During my time at the firm, I have had the opportunity to attend various events organised by the firm including the Firm Handshake event (a networking event for young professionals) and Sportsquest (a large charity event organised and sponsored by HBJ Gateley), enabling me to observe business development from an early stage in my career. The firm also places a great deal of emphasis on corporate social responsibility, with a focus on charity, community, people, and environmental projects. Through this, I have attended the Transition into Work day, which involved me speaking to groups of primary school students about the realities of working in the legal profession."