Catriona Hepburn, a second year trainee at Brodies, discusses the five main reasons she believes a seat in litigation is a must.
It’s almost that time of year again! Time for second year trainees at Brodies to qualify, and time for the new first years to take the first steps in their legal careers.
In order to try to give them an idea of what it’s going to be like, the firm recently held an event for some of us to meet to discuss possible seat choices.
I was asked to talk about litigation. Having completed seats in employment; insurance and risk litigation; and government, regulation and competition, all of my seats have had a contentious element. I really enjoyed all three and arrived armed with my elevator pitch about why everyone should choose those options.
During the course of the evening, one of the incoming trainees explained that they were more interested in transactional work and asked whether there was any point in doing a litigation seat if they already knew they wanted to qualify into a transactional team.
My immediate reaction was a definite yes! I realised though that as someone who has done primarily contentious work, my answer wasn’t very convincing - of course I was going to say that. So, having had some time to consider my thoughts, here are five reasons to do a seat in litigation (even if you don’t want to be litigation lawyer).
I think one of the best things that a seat in litigation can give you is confidence. Before my first appearance, I went up to court with one of the other trainees to get a feel for what it was like. I left thinking there was absolutely no chance I would be able to do it. However, the next week I was back and before I knew it I had my first appearance under my belt.
Appearing in court seems very daunting at first, so managing to overcome the nerves and successfully appear is a great way to boost your confidence in your abilities. The more you speak to people you also realise that everyone, no matter their level of experience, gets nervous sometimes. Even the very experienced sometimes say that something is wrong if you don’t have a degree of (manageable) nerves before a court appearance
As you arrive at court and wait for your case to be called there is a tangible feeling of suspense. There is no way to know exactly what will happen when you stand up. The tension and the buzz of the court make the whole experience undeniably exciting.
3. Transferable skills
As well as public speaking, litigation allows you to develop a wide variety of other skills. You are often required to research obscure and difficult points of law. The research, drafting and clear communication skills you develop will serve you well wherever you end up.
Another benefit is gaining practical knowledge of how the courts function in practice. No matter which area you end up specialising in, it could be useful to know where the case will end up and how things will work if things go wrong!
4. Engagement outside the office
Litigation, as a trainee in particular, means you get the chance to work in a lot of different environments. Whether it is going up to court, to a police station to take a precognition or to a pre-trial meeting, it allows you to get out and about.
If you are a people person, this is one of best parts of the job. It is almost impossible to go to court without seeing someone that you recognise from your LLB or Diploma. You also get the chance to meet a huge number of new people, many of whom soon become familiar faces. The opportunity to meet and work with a variety of people from across the profession is a valuable one.
5. You won’t know if you don't try
My last reason, and it might seem like a very obvious one, is that you can’t know whether you will like it until you’ve actually done it.
A friend of mine recently started a seat in litigation as the last seat in her traineeship. When I spoke to her about how she was getting on, her only complaint was that she hadn’t tried it sooner, or realised how much she would like it.
So, no matter what the end goal is, if the option is available, take it. You have nothing to lose.
Catriona Hepburn is a second year trainee with Brodies LLP. She studied Law and European Legal Studies at the University of Aberdeen before moving to London to complete an LLM at UCL. Catriona then moved back north to Glasgow for her Diploma before returning home to Edinburgh to start her traineeship. She is due to qualify in to the Government, Regulation and Competition Division in July 2018.