Traineeships

With the deadline for applying for a traineeship at Brodies looming (Sunday 12 October), it seems a good time to blog about Brodies’ application process and what the firm are looking for in their future trainees.

If you, like me, trawled through countless law firm recruitment websites then you might be sceptical about firms’ claims that there is no “typical” trainee. It turns out though that, for Brodies, that’s very true. Speaking to the 2014 intake it’s apparent just how varied our backgrounds, universities, legal interests and outside pursuits actually are. However, despite the fact that we’ve only been here a month it’s also very clear there’s a definite ‘above and beyond’ Brodies culture fostered by the firm-wide competency framework.

When completing your traineeship application form there are certain competencies that are valued by the firm and explored in further detail at assessment centres. If you can show strength in all the areas outlined below, then you’ll be well on your way to joining Brodies. Here is my competency based guide to applying and how these competencies have played such a big part in my first few months as a trainee

Self-motivated and Driven

At my university it seemed like everyone was pretty driven. Brodies look to see whether you push yourself above and beyond the regular studies. This can be getting involved with your law society, with law reviews and legal clinics, and beyond into citizens advice bureaux, public sector placements and part time jobs. Examples such as, taking the opportunity to study abroad  – several of my fellow trainees undertook both Erasmus and summer programmes – demonstrates an amazing motivation to push yourself to the limits of your capabilities.

All of these are a great way not just to show that you’re motivated and driven (most law students are, for better or worse!) but to actually gain experience that will be useful during your traineeship and beyond. Two small examples: every time I’ve ever interviewed a client, I utilise the advice given to me on my first day at the Gorbals Law Centre, and any time I draft a letter, I’m following the style tips I learned while on a placement in the Scottish Parliament. These skills are really helpful and at let you hit the ground running.

Prepared, Organised and Able to Prioritise

This was something I personally struggled with at university, and something that is connected with the items I discussed above. The ability to prioritise and organise – to ensure nothing ever slips unnoticed off your to-do list – has perhaps been the most crucial during the first months of my traineeship. This is something that university alone – with the long deadlines and generous time to think – won’t really prepare you for. But if you’ve thrown yourself into as many things as possible at university you’ll have developed some ability to organise your own life around studying, jobs, placements and societies and worked out some scheme – whether it be diaries, phone calendar alerts, or scribbled notes – to organise and prioritise the different parts of your life.

At a firm like Brodies, this has practical application in that from day one you’ll be given work from a number of different lawyers. It’s up to you to both manage the workload and manage expectations. One of the most crucial skills you can learn is how to tell whether something is urgent, or whether you can negotiate another hour before the solicitor expects it to be completed. Indeed, I was told that one of the interview answers that impressed HR most was when asked about prioritisation I answered that it was all about communication. So long as you can manage people’s expectations, there are rarely any problems.

Commercial and Profit Focus

This is one that many larger commercial firms emphasise, but one that is given particular weight at Brodies because of the utility it has for the client. We’ve won a lot of awards for legal service in the past, but what everyone in the firm is particularly proud of is that we’re also recognised in general business and entrepreneurial awards also. If a client can see that we not only understand but also experience the same commercial realities as they do, we’re already on common ground. You may be wondering how to demonstrate this on an application form, but for me it was really more about being able to understand business and the economy. While you’re a student you’ll get heavily subsidised copies of the Financial Times and other quality newspapers. Take advantage of it while you still can!

As a trainee, commercial understanding will be required every day. In my seat in Banking, every transaction I’ve been involved in had a myriad of different legal factors, but it was often the ability to quickly grasp the commercial motivations behind each clause that the client was most appreciative of. One of the best things about the Brodies traineeship in particular is the wide range of opportunities for secondment out to our clients, and if you get the opportunity I’d grasp it with both hands. To properly understand the commercial realities, there’s nothing better than being at the coal face!

Conduct and Communication Skills

As I’ve said, this is very much about how you present yourself. Even if you have a face, like mine, which looks as if you’re still in high school, clients expect a level of professionalism and gravity from their lawyers. It can be very much subconscious, but nothing beats a firm handshake and the ability to hold eye contact. Within the office, things are a little more ad hoc. Like anything in life, it’s crucial to be able to quickly understand what somebody’s expectations are and then fit in with them. Different departments have different styles, and that’s all part of what makes the traineeship interesting.

Good luck with that application!