Trainee life north of the border

Many of you will be returning to (or beginning) University after the summer break, entering various stages of your degree or career.  I had my fair share of summer breaks, and the fair share of two other people, having completed a degree in English Literature, then Law, then a Masters (I thought there was a three for two offer on. Always read the small print!).  That experience has now taken me to Pinsent Masons as a trainee solicitor.  Based in the Glasgow office, I spent my first year working in TMT (Technology, Media & Telecommunications) and Litigation, as well as being involved in various Corporate Responsibility Programmes. 

In the past year I’ve discussed the finer points of data protection in Europe with French counsel and the funnier points of Roald Dahl with primary school children; appeared before a judge (more than once, and, for the avoidance of doubt, in a professional capacity each time); drafted countless cover letters and numerous notes of advice; left the office at 6pm and left the office after midnight; and learned more about the law each day than I thought possible.  If variety is the spice of life, my training contract has been a challenging dish on Man Versus Food.

And today that starts all over again.  Moving seat every six months keeps you on your toes, sure, but it’s a reset that can be frustrating for the first few days.  All that accumulated knowledge you gained by immersing yourself in six months of work with experts in the field is unceremoniously packed up and left in the recesses of your mind while you try and work out where you new desk is and, in my case, what pensions law is –  a labyrinth, it turns out.  Time to hit the books!

My wide-eyed innocence is, however, nothing compared to the 15 or so new faces in the office, the ones sitting at suspiciously tidy desks.  The first year trainee intake also starts today, and there’s nothing better at bringing your year’s experience into stark relief than meeting yourself a year ago (although if you’re Marty McFly this can cause some serious space-time continuum  issues).  First day worries like time recording and working the printer are a good yardstick of how far a year in a commercial firm can take you, both professionally and personally.  Yes, starting a brand new seat as a second year trainee can be frustrating; but it’s because you’re so eager to get involved with the team, rather than first-day worries about spilling coffee on things that shouldn’t have coffee on them.

Training at a commercial firm is an education that’s just as enriching as academic study, but in practice it is a very different beast.  Seat changes are similar to returning from a summer break in some ways; you see friends you haven’t seen in a while, and you need to start learning new subjects from scratch.  But it also gives you an opportunity to reflect on what you’ve done that the fast pace of life in the office often doesn’t lend itself to.  And with that, I need to sign off, because I just spilled coffee all over my keyboard!

You’re going to be hearing from a number of my other Scottish colleagues in the weeks ahead but if you have any questions don’t hesitate to get in touch.