It's hard to believe it has been 12 years since I first arrived at Brodies for my traineeship – bright eyed, bushy tailed and ready for more IT training than I could have imagined possible! I've had an interesting and varied career in the period since and have always really enjoyed working at Brodies. While it is difficult to narrow it down, my five top tips for my 2009 self would be:

(1) Be open minded and challenge yourself

I'm a people person and when I first started my traineeship, I thought I wanted to work with individuals, giving advice on areas such as family law. I was also sure that I did not want to be a litigator – the idea of court seemed alien and scary.

After I completed seats in residential property and private client, the big surprise to me was my commercial litigation seat: I really enjoyed the work, clients and pace of litigation. Working with commercial entities and businesses was often more straightforward than working with individuals and, while appearing in court was daunting, I enjoyed pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I qualified into the restructuring & insolvency team within Litigation in 2011 and, in 2017, after giving advice on the insolvency aspects of professional negligence claims, I transferred to our professional indemnity team, acting on behalf of insurers, brokers, lawyers, accountants and other professionals facing negligence claims. I really enjoy the complex cases we handle and the strategising/problem-solving that goes into resolving claims. If you had told me 12 years ago that I would be a litigator, I wouldn’t have believed you, but I have definitely ended up where I belong!

(2) Mistakes happen

Everyone makes mistakes. The important thing is how you deal with those. I'm lucky to have always worked within supportive teams and, when I have raised any issue, I have been reassured and encouraged to find a solution, rather than criticised. While it might feel like the end of the world when you make a mistake, it's not – you are learning, and people will appreciate that. Be open and honest and everything will work out. Don't be tempted to keep the problem to yourself as mistakes have a tendency to fester.

(3) It's ok not to enjoy a seat

At university I enjoyed private client classes, so I thought that was the area of law for me. Turns out giving complex tax planning advice was not my forté and, while there were deadlines to work to, I missed having hard deadlines. I was a bit disheartened, however, I made the most of my time in the seat and things soon picked up when I moved into commercial litigation and found my feet. Looking back on my private client seat, I now see that I gained valuable experience which has stood me in good stead in my present role, especially when defending negligence claims against lawyers or accountants in relation to estate planning and executries. I sometimes hear of trainees judging a career in law on one bad experience or a traineeship seat that is 'not for them' – to them I would say: stick it out, do the best you can, and you will learn transferable skills that will be valuable as you move on to find what is right for you.

(4) Don't put too much pressure on yourself

Being a trainee can be challenging – you are essentially working through a two-year job interview and will be desperate to impress. Do the best job you can but try not to put too much pressure on yourself. I remember being particularly anxious and stressed about the NQ interview process. While I did manage to secure the role I wanted, I didn't do myself justice in the interviews because I was feeling so tense at the time. Looking back, I wish I had realised that if I did not get the role I wanted, there would be other opportunities. Relax and be yourself so that you can sell yourself when the time comes. Also remember to enjoy your traineeship. It's a time to gain the experience you want, develop and hopefully make some good friends along the way. Some of my best friends are people who I trained with all those years ago!

(5) A tidy inbox is key to a tidy mind

Over the course of my career I've learned different techniques for staying organised and managing competing deadlines and priorities, which is key to feeling in control and prepared. I wasn't always so organised though – as a first-year trainee I recall the partner involved in the firm's traineeship programme ensuring we reviewed our inboxes at the end of our first seat and reduced them to a certain size. I remember working late that night as I had so many emails to clear. That was a great lesson in inbox management and I have never let mine get so out of control again. Good inbox management, using to-do lists, diarising key deadlines and keeping on top of time recording are all essential tools – find a system that works for you and you will feel much better for it.


Laura Fell

Legal Director