Becky Brook joined Burnetts as a Trainee Solicitor in September 2018. Here she offers an insight into starting out on a legal career.
The interest in law was always there even though none of my family are in the legal world.
I remember being around eight years old, arguing with my dad and he said, ‘you’d make a really good lawyer’. As I went through school the thought of law appealed to me more and more, I decided to do A Level law at college, really enjoyed it, and decided to study it at Northumbria University.
Securing a training contract
In my second year of university I was advised to apply for training contracts as firms hire two years in advance. It’s a rigorous process and there’s a lot of competition and pressure. I applied to a number of different firms and the application process was fairly intense.
I graduated from the MLaw degree programme in 2015 but, unfortunately, I hadn’t secured a training contract. I was given an opportunity working in the Student Recruitment team at Northumbria University.
After working for the university for a couple of years, I was ready to begin my legal career. I came across Burnetts from a friend who had completed the work experience programme and he only had good things to say about the firm and the people.
I applied here sending a CV and cover letter and had two interviews, including a presentation. My first impression of the firm was very positive and the recruitment process was a lot more relaxed than I had experienced before.
It was evident from the start that all staff including partners had time for trainees. From the moment I stepped through the door everyone was very friendly. The focus was very much on you as an individual rather than you being a cog in a massive machine.
Life at Burnetts
My first six months was with the Medical Negligence and Serious Injury team in Newcastle. Typical tasks I experienced included researching medical procedures, requesting medical records and reviewing those records.
That was quite challenging to start with - I jokingly asked my family for a medical dictionary for Christmas so I could understand the language - but you pick it up. I also would draft letters to medical professionals to advice on the case, draft letters of claim, have telephone calls with clients and take witness statements.
I always felt the work I was doing was helping support the team build the case, so you can always see the value in what you’re doing. I then moved into the Employment and HR team, which is a very different area of law. Tasks included legal research, drafting settlement agreements, assisting with investigations, taking new enquiries and providing advice.
As a trainee I had some of my own files (supervised by a Partner) and some of my work would be delegated to me as part of bigger files.
I am currently in the Corporate Team, and sometimes it does feel like I am a beginner again. But that’s the benefit of a training contract, you get to see different areas of law and where you are suited.
Although the transition between departments can be challenging, the culture in the firm is very open, social, and it is very much about being a team. All the partners are really accessible and I feel I can talk to them about any issues I may have.
As a trainee you are encouraged to be independent, but you are supported every step of the way. You keep a training record of everything you’ve learned and it’s reviewed at regular meetings with your mentor.
Everyone wants you to learn and develop. As a trainee you will be invited to client meetings, do research, draft documents and the more you do the more confident you become in your ability. Every time you change departments you will submerge yourself into a different area of law. I always compare it to the best way to learn a language. The best way to learn French is to go to France.
Another aspect of training is the requirement to attend the Professional Skills Course. This is a 12-day course across the two years. I study mine at Northumbria University and there are key modules that you must complete.
You have to do a minimum of three seats (departments) during the two-year training contract, including one contentious and one non-contentious area. I am starting to think about my final seat and the firm will work with you to ensure that it is beneficial for the area you want to qualify into. It obviously depends on the needs of the business. But it’s about working with you and putting you in the best position to help you qualify.
Best advice for those considering a career in law?
Do as much as you can outside of your university course. Just because you have a degree it does not guarantee you a job in that area, it’s all about the extra things that you do so you can demonstrate skills outside of university.
Secondly, don’t be disheartened if you aren’t successful with your first attempt at gaining a training contract. Every firm has its own unique culture. Just because you are not successful at one doesn’t mean you’re not going to be successful at them all.
A training contract is about finding the firm that’s the right fit. I personally feel like I’ve found my right fit.
If you would like to undertake your training contract at one of the largest firms in Northern England, we would like to hear from you. Here are details on 2022 Training Contracts.