In her final seat and looking forward to qualifying, Joan McHutchison, Glasgow City Council, reflects on an in-house traineeship.

As I begin my final seat and move toward the end of my traineeship, I am both looking forward to qualification and looking back on the years it has taken me to reach this point.

My path to qualification was certainly not straightforward, there were points at which I thought I would never qualify and many times when I considered alternative career options. I think it is always valuable to look back on lessons learned and carry forward experiences and memories that can be relied upon to face future challenges

1. It's a journey

Enjoying the journey instead of focusing obsessively on reaching my final destination is something that I have tried to do throughout my traineeship. Although I am sometimes preoccupied with thoughts of the future, I find that I am happiest and gain the most during a seat when I am fully present in the moment. I have experienced peaks and troughs throughout my traineeship; looking back I can see that this is part of my unique journey to qualifying. Although I do not feel like I am reaching journeys end, I am looking forward to beginning a new chapter and feel that my experiences in-house have laid the perfect foundation for whatever might be ahead. This is of course the purpose of a traineeship; it is an opportunity to build new skills and capacity, to create something new to allow for the achievement of something previously unaccomplished. I have learned not to expect myself to know everything from day one in a new seat, although I am always impatient to feel familiar and competent in my work, I am more comfortable and accepting of the time that it takes to learn new skills.  

2. The people you meet

This is by far and away my happiest reflection of my traineeship. The people that I have worked with throughout my various seats have shaped my understanding of law, have changed my perception of certain practice areas and left an indelible mark on my life. I associate certain seats with the people I worked with and the projects we worked on together. My colleagues have taught me lessons and shared their experiences beyond a legal context. I have been inspired by some exceptionally strong mentors who seem to balance more than any one person should be capable of managing and I have been encouraged to want so much more for myself.

3. The more you give, the more you get back in return

I think this applies in every aspect of life. Looking back over my traineeship I can see that I learned the most when I really committed to projects, when I dedicated time and energy over and above what was required. Although it can be challenging to become fully immersed in one aspect of work when there are other equally important deadlines and priorities requiring attention, I think it is possible to identify what your interests are and pursue work of that nature. 

4. Embrace the unfamiliar

At the start of my traineeship I didn’t believe myself to have a corporate bone in my body. I avoided corporate commercial law subjects throughout university and I was, for this reason, apprehensive to start my third seat in Corporate. I loved my time in Corporate from my very first day in the department. I think this experience has taught me to be more open to areas of law that I had previously dismissed on the basis of tenuous misconceptions. I think practice is often very different to the experience of studying an area of law at university and owing to my unexpectedly wonderful experience during my Corporate Seat, I am open to practicing in a more diverse range of legal areas than I imagined at the end of the Diploma. I would encourage anyone considering seat choices to have an open mind and consider choosing a practice area that is outside their comfort zone.

5. Everything happens for a reason

It took me a long time to secure a traineeship, but looking back I can see that the disappointments and rejections I experienced were a source of motivation that in the end led me to somewhere wonderful. The disappointments I experienced were necessary lessons for me at crucial moments in my life, they forced me to reflect on my choices and make important changes. I feel that every experience I had along the way, both good and bad, led me to where I am today. I think students who are pursuing a traineeship should view any rejections or disappointments as a step forward in a wider journey and as a point of reflection from which change can grow. 

Although each journey to qualification is unique, I feel that there are certain universal lessons learned throughout a traineeship. I hope these reflections provide a snapshot of what to expect during a traineeship and encourage anyone disheartened by rejection not to give up.

Joan McHutchison is a second year trainee solicitor at Glasgow City Council. Joan obtained a LLB and LLM in International Law from the University of Glasgow. She worked as part of the British Civil Service for a year before returning home to complete her Diploma at the University of Glasgow. Joan is about to complete her final seat in litigation before qualifying in September 2018.

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