After graduating from Durham University with a degree in German and Spanish, Kathryn returned to her native Edinburgh for the LLB and Diploma. She is now a second-year trainee at Brodies and is currently working in the Insurance & Risk litigation team, having spent her first seat in Commercial Property.

Say yes

The first week of my traineeship was mostly a blur but one piece of advice from our HR manager stuck in my mind: “You need to take control of your own career.” Day one of my traineeship and suddenly I had a career! Until then, my sole focus had been making it to the traineeship. The prospect of being an actual lawyer was something to be dealt with in the distant future, or two years at least. But time flies and in a few short months I’ll be applying for NQ jobs which will determine the direction of my career for years to come.

Of course, it takes a while to settle into your traineeship, but being proactive about your professional development from an early stage pays dividends in the long run. Say yes to everything. Even if you’re busy, take on work you’ve never done before. It’s challenging, but you only have six or eight months in a seat and gathering varied experience will help you decide which areas of law you prefer. You can also mention this at your review as evidence of being self-motivated and enthusiastic. Taking this approach has given me great opportunities, from taking the lead in completing the sale of a hotel, to appearing in court in ordinary cause debt recovery actions.

It’s equally important to build your network within the firm or, in layman’s terms, to be friendly and get to know lots of people. At Brodies, trainees are often asked to help out with our extensive seminar programme. This is a great way to meet fee earners in other departments and find out more about what they do. When the next seat rotation comes round, you’re more informed about the various choices and it never hurts to have made a good impression on a team you want to join by showing an interest in their work.

Don’t just stick to events in the office, though. Getting involved in charity events, sports teams or departmental nights out gives you the opportunity to make new contacts in a more informal setting. You never know, your hockey teammate might end up interviewing you for an NQ job. A friendly face can put you at ease, giving you the best chance to impress.

But taking control of your career doesn’t stop at simply saying yes when opportunities come your way. As you become more comfortable in your traineeship, think about creating your own opportunities. Do you have an idea for a charity fundraiser? Is there a training event which you think would be particularly useful for you or your team? What about writing articles for industry publications? Be bold and discuss any ideas with your mentor or line manager, though make sure you’re ready to back up your suggestion with a solid business case. Even if it doesn’t come to fruition, you’ll get credit for trying.

The bottom line is that a traineeship is more than just another step on the long road to becoming a lawyer. It’s an opportunity for you to try out new areas of law, challenge your preconceptions and decide what sort of lawyer you want to be. Make the most of it: your career starts now.

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.