Kirsten Belk is a second year trainee with Brodies LLP. Kirsten is about to move into a litigation seat having completed a secondment with a professional regulatory body. Her previous seats were in private client and land and rural property

I have recently finished a secondment with the in-house legal team of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA). The IFoA is the UK’s only chartered professional body dedicated to educating, developing and regulating actuaries based both in the UK and internationally. Prior to joining the in-house team, I wondered: what on earth do they do?

It turns out they do rather a lot. First of all, they obviously have a regulatory function. The in-house team write and review the ethical standards which govern their members. They are responsible for producing the policies and guidance which help members in their professional lives.  They also have a disciplinary function, and when professional standards are breached the in-house disciplinary team is responsible for holding members to account. Where necessary they prosecute cases in professional disciplinary tribunals with some hefty sanctions available. There is a clear public interest dimension to this element of their work.

The team also has a conventional corporate function. They oversee the contracts, subsidiaries and joint ventures to which the IFoA is party. Contracts range between procurement, employment, property and research contracts. They advise on a range of governance and compliance issues; for instance, they ensure compliance with data protection laws and the current roll out of GDPR.

The in-house team also provides a broad support structure for the various working parties and research groups which exist to explore a multiplicity of topics relevant to the profession.

The top five things I have learned working in-house:

  1. In-house lawyers are specialists at applying legal skills in a business environment, and are required to move quickly between a number of unrelated areas, while at all times recognising the limits of their expertise and abilities.
  2. In-house legal teams work very closely with a variety of other teams within their organisation. They have a support and advice role for everyone from HR to marketing, and work with staff, both senior and junior. Good communication is essential as in-house lawyers work closely and constantly with their clients.
  3. An understanding of the organisation is central to working in-house. In-house lawyers are often drawn on to provide support in other areas if this is what is needed to support the client. In-house lawyers move between doing traditional legal work and less conventional roles like writing policies, presenting at conferences and delivering training to non-lawyers.
  4. Lawyers move in-house from a wide variety of legal backgrounds and for an equally wide range of reasons, and some lawyers have never worked anywhere else.
  5. All work places should have a pumpkin carving competition and a book club!

The traineeship

Finish your legal education by learning 'on the job', by 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.