Interview with Stacey Gourley – A Day in the Life of a Second Year Trainee

Stacey Gourley is a newly qualified solicitor practicing in the Personal & Family Department in Edinburgh’s Atholl Crescent office.

Can you give me a breakdown of your typical day as a second-year trainee?

In personal & family, every day brings something different. My daily activities consist of a wide variety of work which you can really get stuck into from the start. This might include drafting wills and powers of attorney, tax planning or executry administration, and any of the accompanying work that goes along with that. In personal & family specifically, you find there is much more face-to-face client contact, which in itself requires a different approach to client contact than in other departments. On average I can attend two to three client meetings per week, which can be for the purpose of taking instructions, providing updates, or following up with clients to ensure documents are properly signed and witnessed.

How has your day-to-day activity changed from first year to second year?

My first seat was divided between both employment and litigation, which complemented each other even though they are very different disciplines. My second seat was in commercial property and I completed my final seat in personal & family. As a trainee, you are given different levels of responsibility from first to second year as there is a big difference in your level of competence across all transferable skills – for example, drafting abilities, using the Document Management System, developing a style of communication with clients and colleagues, time management and multi-file management. On a more general level, you also learn how to prioritise more effectively. With more experience comes a higher level of confidence, which encourages your colleagues to give you different tasks and they can feel assured that you will be able to ‘just get on with it’.

How different have you found your daily activities to be depending on the department in which you are seated?

My workload has increased in my last seats, coming both from being more experienced in managing a greater caseload as well as changing departments. I found I had a higher level of confidence and delivered a higher standard of work that I was able to turn around more quickly, and was therefore exposed to a wider range of activities. In P&F specifically, I have far more client contact, which I feel requires a different style of communication with clients than in more commercial disciplines. A high level of emotional intelligence is required to effectively support your clients both emotionally and professionally, and this is demonstrated in the empathetic way we handle clients’ personal aspirations and goals.

How does the prospect of starting your career as a fully-qualified solicitor compare with the feeling when you started out as a new trainee?

From helping the new trainees in the department get up to speed and settle in, I have realised that both from the technical and legal side, and in terms of firm knowledge, I really have learned a lot. It’s hard to imagine as a first year ever having that confidence and knowledge yourself that the second years and newly-qualified solicitors seem to have. Until a new trainee asks you questions on how to carry out tasks that are now almost second nature to you, you don’t realise how far you’ve come since you first joined the firm.  

How have your expectations and ambitions for life as an NQ changed (if at all) from the start of your traineeship experience?

My idea, when I started my legal career, of working in a more corporate-orientated department couldn’t be further from where I am now. However, now that I have qualified into this department, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. The most important thing in the attitude of a trainee is always to have an open mind. You’ll be pleasantly surprised where you end up and what you discover about yourself when you make a point of embracing all opportunities that come your way.

What’s been your favourite part of your traineeship?

Working alongside, and being mentored by, lawyers who are regarded as experts in their fields gives you an incredible advantage when you are beginning your legal career. I have gained so much experience from working with lawyers of that calibre and being involved in complex and challenging work.

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