Claire Withers qualified as a solicitor in Brodies' Corporate Tax and Incentives team in July 2019

In July this year, 13 years after I started my undergraduate studies in law at the University of Edinburgh, I finally qualified as a solicitor in Scotland.

The journey getting to this point was slightly protracted. After graduating in 2010, I made the decision to take a year out from studying and moved to Thailand where I planned to teach English for six months. Captivated by the culture and excitement of a place where no day is the same as the last, I found myself still there two and a half years later.

Wanting to get back on track with pursuing a career in law but unsure whether I saw my future in Scotland, I then moved to Newfoundland, Canada. I worked in a law firm as a legal assistant across various practice areas. At the same time, I studied Canadian common law and passed conversion exams. While this put me on track to becoming qualified as a Canadian lawyer within a year, I realised that I ultimately wanted to return to Scotland and so, after 18 months in Canada, I once again packed my bags and boarded a plane back to Scotland.

I was fortunate to be offered a position as a paralegal in Brodies’ commercial real estate team and, a year later, was offered a traineeship with the firm to start the following year. I undertook the Diploma in Legal Practice that year and in 2017 started my traineeship. Fast forward two years and I have now qualified into Brodies’ Corporate Tax & Incentives team.

As I look back at my journey, I find myself reflecting on the value of my experiences in getting me to this point in my career. Had I not spent those years in Thailand and Canada, would I have been where I am now, six years ago? Would I have had the same career opportunities?

The answer I have reached is no. The skills and insights I gained from these experiences gave me the confidence to pursue opportunities that I may not otherwise have pursued, to make the most of these opportunities and to believe in what I am capable of, all of which have been instrumental in getting me to where I am now.

Living and teaching in Thailand, in the context of a vastly different culture with a language barrier, helped to develop a number of skills transferable to the legal profession. From a daunting first day in a classroom of 60 students, I developed public speaking skills and the ability to explain concepts in a way that could be easily understood, skills which continue to be of particular relevance to me today advising on tax. I developed organisational and project management skills through preparing and implementing lesson plans and, having quickly learnt to expect the unexpected, I built resilience and learnt to adapt quickly to change.

Working in a law firm in Canada provided the opportunity to develop these skills in a legal context, and while the content of my Canadian law studies is of limited direct relevance to practising Scottish law, balancing study with work did require the discipline and time management skills that continue to benefit me today.

Grateful for the experiences I have had to date, I now look forward to where my journey will take me next.

An outside view of the Atria One building in Edinburgh

Qualifying as a Scottish solicitor

Find out the routes to qualify as a Scottish solicitor; including studying the LLB and Diploma in Professional Legal Practice, alternatives to university and how to requalify from other jurisdictions.