When I packed my bags and set course for Urbana, Ohio, the idea of pursuing a legal career in my home town of Inverness was not on my radar. I left school not quite knowing what I wanted to do, deciding to study for a Business Law degree in Glasgow before jetting off to the US, in pursuit of a Master's in Business Administration (MBA) and ambitions to continue playing football at a collegiate level.
It didn’t take me long to realise that a career in law was where my passion was, and on completion of my MBA studies, I returned to Glasgow to undertake my LLB and Diploma in Legal Practice. Despite my cross-country and somewhat protracted journey to law, my career to date - summer placement, traineeship, NQ and beyond - has been in Inverness, which has been a deliberate choice.
My journey demonstrates two important messages. First, there is no single correct path to a career in law. The second, is that a legal career in the Highlands comes with an abundance of interesting and exciting opportunities for any aspiring lawyer.
Perception vs reality
Something that I encountered frequently in the past – particularly at university – was the perception that all of the "real" and exciting legal work in Scotland, only takes place in cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh. There is no denying that interesting legal work and transactions happen in these cities, but the notion that this doesn’t extend to the rest of Scotland is not true. In fact, my own legal career to date demonstrates the opposite – particularly in the modern workplace where an individual's physical location is no longer as important as it used to be.
Today, as a practising corporate and commercial lawyer for Brodies LLP, based in Inverness, I have worked alongside clients ranging from large public sector organisations and global energy producers, to innovative SMEs, individuals and charities. I've also been involved in a varied portfolio of high value projects and commercial matters stretching the length and breadth of the UK. In addition, with the opening of Brodies Middle East LLP in Abu Dhabi this year, my day-to-day responsibilities regularly involve supporting Scottish and UK-based clients, and clients based in and/or operating out of the Middle East (including some of the world's largest energy producers). This is my reality as an Inverness-based corporate and commercial lawyer, working for Scotland's largest law firm.
Living and working in the Highlands also provides access to spectacular scenery, with activities on water and land to suit a whole spectrum of hobbies and preferences. Inverness also has a well-established and diverse 'Young Professionals' networking group, which regularly organises networking and social events for all interested young professionals to attend. These events are a great way to meet friendly faces, and to build up networking experience and contacts.
A Highlands and Islands renaissance on the horizon?
I have always been naturally drawn to Inverness, and instinctively proud to call the city my home. It's no secret however, that the Highlands and Islands generally, continues to battle ongoing and historic depopulation, with a recent HIE survey finding that almost half of young people plan to move away from the area within the next five years.
While there is no single quick-fix solution, there is palpable and renewed optimism for the region, following the award of green freeport status to the Inverness & Cromarty Firth (ICF) Green Freeport bid. The prospect of targeted tax reliefs, simplified customs processes, and support for research and innovation, has the potential to stimulate investment and regenerate the Highlands and Islands, increasing opportunities and employment for those living and working in the region.
It is still relatively early days for the true scale and impact of green freeport status to be realised, but what I can attest to, is that there is no lack of exciting opportunities for aspiring lawyers to build and develop a fulfilling career in the Highlands and Islands – right now.
Learn more about life at Brodies in our video below, and view our vacancies here.