Gavin Smith, a trainee at Standard Life, explains how, whilst in-house and private practice traineeships have their differences, they actually have a lot in common.

‘Do trainees even do different seats at Standard Life?’ This was a question I got asked by a fellow trainee solicitor when I was completing the (highly recommended) mandatory professional ethics and negotiation course at the University of Edinburgh this summer.

My first blog post (which can be found here) and many other blog posts about working in-house focus mainly on the differences between working in-house and in private practice. However, as I gain experience as a trainee solicitor, it’s become clearer that, while there are differences between the two, there are also many similarities.

Anyway, the answer to the question I was asked is ‘yes’.

Exposure to a wide range of work

Working in-house can still expose you to a wide range of legal work. I moved from the Pensions team to the Dispute Resolution team in March and will move to Standard Life’s Legal Commercial team in September.

The Pensions team is a ‘product advisory’ team at Standard Life that offers legal advice on the technical aspects of the company’s products, whereas the Dispute Resolution team deals with contentious matters, ranging from high-value litigation to complex customer complaints.

I’ve been extremely lucky to have the opportunity to get involved with a significant amount of court work. This has included raising and defending claims in both the Scottish and English Courts, as a trainee would expect in a DR seat.

Comprehensive training

It also goes without saying but, as trainee solicitors, we still have access to all the formal PEAT2 training that trainees in private practice have to undertake. Therefore, we get a solid grounding in all areas of the legal profession which can be applied both in-house and more widely if moving to private practice or another in-house role.

No clients?

It’s a common misconception that you don’t have clients when you work in-house. The business may technically be your only client, but within that business are various areas, all of whom will instruct you on matters relevant to their area.

As such, if an area instructs you to carry out work, it is still good practice to treat them as if they were an individual client, particularly if they are involved in a dispute.

For example, the business areas have their own quirks, which need to be taken into account. Relationships need to be formed within each area individually and you still need to get instructions from them and keep them updated on progress as if they were an external client.

However, unlike in private practice, we fortunately don’t need to time record!

The traineeship

Finish your legal education by learning 'on the job' working as a trainee under the supervision of a Scots-qualified solicitor. Traineeships last for a period of two years and, after its successful completion, you are ready to apply to take out a solicitor's practising certificate.