Kundai Phute, Governance Solicitor at Aberdeen City Council, reflects on her first few months as an in-house solicitor and some of the things she loves about her move over from private practice.
After completing the LLB and Diploma at the University of Strathclyde, I moved to Aberdeen where I trained and qualified at a private practice firm.
Making the move in-house
I didn’t initially set out to leave private practice, however towards the end of my traineeship I realised that I didn’t want to specialise in a niche area of law. I wanted the challenge and flexibility that comes with being responsible for providing legal advice on pretty much any area of law. When I saw the advert for the job at Aberdeen City Council, I was immediately interested.
Moving in-house at such an early stage of my career was both daunting and exciting. While I was prepared for the adjustment from trainee to qualified solicitor, I had no idea what it would be like working in a political environment. I brought this to the attention of my team leaders and they were fantastic in helping me understand the relationship between officers and elected members. I have supplemented this knowledge by taking the initiative to attend council meetings and networking events held by the Society of Local Authority Lawyers & Administrators (SOLAR).
Looking back – the first six months
Six months into the job, the work I have been involved in has been extremely varied. I have provided legal and governance support and advice to the council in respect of data protection, freedom of information, human rights, pensions, adoption and fostering, employment appeals and covert surveillance, to name a few areas of work. My current project is the governance review of all the trusts that the council is involved with. The overall aim is to ensure that the trust deeds are more closely aligned to the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005 and the socio-economic issues faced by the community. This is an exciting project that has kept me on my toes.
The list of things I love about working in-house is quite long, so I will only mention a few aspects. I enjoy being involved in strategic decision-making and feeling like I am really making a difference in the community. The work life balance is also wonderful.
Top tips for a successful transition
My advice to any solicitor thinking of making the transition from private practice to in-house is that it’s important to understand the business structure as well as the culture and political drivers of the organisation you’re joining. Knowing the business is key to understanding the bigger picture and ensures that the advice you give is fully rounded.