Niall joined us as a trainee in 2007 after speaking to lawyers from Brodies at a university careers fair. Not only is he now a solicitor advocate – representing clients in the highest courts, tribunals and arbitrations - but he also became a litigation partner in May 2020.

Niall tells us how a seat in employment led him to litigation, the importance of role models in pursuing career ambitions – and why there's nothing quite like a coffee-shop coffee to get you through the working day…

How did you end up becoming a litigation lawyer?

I didn’t do a litigation seat during my traineeship, but I had really enjoyed contentious work as a trainee in our employment practice. In particular, I liked speaking with witnesses, investigating the issues in a case and then shaping those into legal arguments.

I was on holiday when the interviews for NQ jobs took place and after much agonising on my part, I did my interview by phone from Paris. It was back when interviews over the phone were not as common as they probably are now. I was delighted to get offered the role and to stay at Brodies - and in an ideal place to celebrate it!

What helped you to progress from trainee to partner?

I've received a huge amount of support throughout my career at Brodies. Right across the firm there were role models who I was able to look up to, who were generous with their time and supportive. We also have a great training programme at each stage of a lawyer's career, not just on technical skills but on how to manage a team and build a practice.

As I approached partnership the firm arranged for me to have some life coaching which helped me focus before applying for partnership. One of the best things about being here is seeing colleagues across the firm progress, including from trainee to partner. It gave me confidence that I could do it as well.

What one piece of advice would you give to trainees?

Work hard but have fun too. This is the part of your career where you'll get to try out different areas of the law and see what suits you best. It's an opportunity to listen and learn from more senior lawyers while you do that. As a trainee you have a great support network of fellow trainees to draw on who are all going through the same experience. I also found it valuable to have a group of people to ask all my many questions to!

What 3 things can't you live without to do your job?

By no means in order of importance:

Coffee – this is horribly cliched but I cannot start the day without one. A recent trip to Colombia only reinforced my obsession. I've tried, but I cannot recreate the experience of my favourite coffee places at home.

IT – unsurprising but key to being a modern lawyer. We have great IT equipment which allows me to stay connected, wherever I am.

Colleagues – I've spoken elsewhere about how much I enjoy being part of a team. It's more challenging to work together at the moment but we've managed well with our IT and still have fun with team quizzes and virtual drinks on a Friday.

Applications for 2022 traineeships are open until Friday 28 August.


Niall McLean

Partner & Solicitor Advocate