We asked some of our trainees about life at MacRoberts. Here’s what they had to say:
“My first day at MacRoberts was one of total “nervcitement” (a mixture of nerves and excitement). I made the error of arriving about 30 minutes before everyone else (it is possible to look too keen) and having to sit in reception awkwardly flicking through the morning’s Herald (not quite the Harvey Specter style introduction I was going for). Once the other new trainees had arrived and it was obvious we all had similar feelings, I started to calm down. The next two days were spent meeting various people and going through some basic training. The training was very informative but the huge volume of information left me feeling a bit like a rabbit in the headlights and I remember feeling wildly out of my depth when we were taken to our seats at about 4.30pm on our second day. Fortunately though, everyone at MacRoberts is incredibly helpful and friendly and will take the time to explain things to you and help you in any way they can.”
“Thinking back to the bundle of nerves that I was, walking into the Glasgow office as a fresh-faced, first year trainee back in September with no idea what to expect, I can scarcely believe that I am now reaching the half-way point of my traineeship. The first couple of days are a whirlwind of training and information before you are introduced to the team that you will be spending the next 6 months with. I have been extremely fortunate with my first two departments and the friendly and knowledgeable teams that I have worked with. My first seat was in Non-Contentious Construction, which was a completely new area of law to me but I got training and lots of support to ease me in. The work in Commercial Property, my second seat, has ranged from negotiating electricity sub-station leases to the sale of multi-million pound shopping centres, and almost everything in between and has given me a great deal of exposure to a vast variety of work and responsibilities.
Both teams have always been happy to answer my every question, no matter how daft I thought it was. Everyone, across the firm, is very approachable and realise that, as a trainee, you won’t know everything. Don’t worry about asking for help and try ask as much as you can, it’s how you learn.”
“I can hardly believe that I am almost at the end of the first year of my traineeship. So far, I have had a diverse traineeship with seats in commercial property and more recently in corporate finance. In addition to getting used to the early starts and late finishes, learning the IT systems and thinking more commercially, these seats have helped me to develop new legal skills that I will take forward in my future seats. I have assisted on international and local deals including the sale and purchase of newspapers, hotels, quarries and vet practices. I have drafted various transactional documents, learnt the ‘art of critical analysis in practice’ and have been involved in much more client contact than I was expecting.
I have learned to break tasks down into stages and to remain composed if my first attempt has not always been accepted as the final result. I have learned to ask questions when the solution hasn’t been obvious to me and the support network available at MacRoberts ensures I have always have someone to ask if I need help. I have gained confidence as a solicitor in training but I can see there will be many new challenges ahead and I recognise that new work which seems daunting at first can be stimulating and satisfying to complete. In no way have I been left to make cups of tea or scan documents for a year!
The social side to MacRoberts has been good fun. I joined the social committee which has allowed me to take advantage of every opportunity, not just those relating to work. The “end of month drinks” are a great way to relax and also to get to know other members of the firm. On top of that there are also special events including Wimbledon drinks, a trip to a show at the Edinburgh Festival, a Halloween party, Christmas parties and the firmwide summer day out. This was a great way to catch up with people in the different offices.
I have really enjoyed my first year at MacRoberts and definitely agree that the phrase “you get out what you put in” applies. My advice would be to take advantage of every opportunity, as that way not only will you develop but you will enjoy yourself along the way!”
“I have to admit that being told my first seat would be in Real Estate didn’t exactly have me fuelled with excitement. However, having now spent a year in the department I am pleased to say that I couldn’t have been more wrong. From my very first day, I felt like a valued member of the team and was fully immersed in transactional work. As scary as this was at the time, the experience has been invaluable and allowed me to pick up not only the IT systems, but also how live transactions really work in practice. Unlike other firms I have experienced or heard of, MacRoberts trainees are given real work from the very beginning. A year down the line, I now have my own case load and am enjoying dealing with other lawyers and clients independently every day. No two days are the same, I never know what is going to land on my desk and have dealt with some really interesting cases – from selling a small flat in Burnside, to purchasing holiday lodges and now a Scottish island! It really is a varied and exciting job.”
“I took a year out after university and before starting the traineeship I was a bit anxious I’d have forgotten everything about “the law” and that this would be a problem for me. However, once I started, I realised there is such a massive gap between “the law” you learn at university and the kind of work you do in practice that I needn’t have worried so much about this. Partners and fee earners don’t expect you to be able to recite precedents or statute to them off the top of your head (you’re not Mike Ross), but they do expect you to have an idea of where to find the answer and to do your best to construct an argument. As long as you have exhausted every option you can think of and tried your best to figure out the answer, no one will criticise you (even if you come to a conclusion the Partner or fee earner disagrees with).”
“One of MacRoberts’ achievements is managing to achieve the often elusive, ever talked about, Holy Grail that is the work/life balance. While you are often worked hard as a trainee, MacRoberts has a thriving social side, including a weekly running club, 5-aside football team and we often enter teams in tournaments in both rugby and football against other firms and clients alike. I hear our Edinburgh office even has a yoga club, but this craze has yet to sweep the Glasgow office.
For the less athletically-inclined, like myself, there are plenty of other social sides to MacRoberts. The firm’s business development committee, The MacRoberts Network, supports and encourages the trainees and junior lawyers to attend external networking events which often involve a drink or two after work and are often held in popular venues around the city. While networking can be daunting at first, the more events that you attend, the easier it definitely becomes.
The firm puts on drinks on the last Friday of every month, which I have found is a good way to unwind, chat to friends and also to meet colleagues from other areas of the firm. We even have the occasional unofficial Friday night drinks in a local pub on other Fridays in the month. Other calendar events which are organised by the Social Committee include the office Christmas parties and the annual summer day out where all three offices meet up. This year’s summer day out saw the MacRoberts Olympics come to Solgirth which had something for everyone including a live band, multiple sporting events, a BBQ and we even had kangaroos (although sadly not real ones). These events are a great way to meet colleagues from different departments and even the other offices on an informal basis, away from the pressures of the office.”
“Lawyers are typically characterised as being boring and miserable but that’s definitely not the case here. I expected MacRoberts to have brilliant lawyers, but I certainly didn’t expect to be able to laugh and enjoy myself at work as much as I have! The Christmas party at Cameron House and the summer party at Solsgirth are undoubtedly two of the highlights of my first year in the legal profession. Being part of the MacRoberts football team has also given me an opportunity to interact with members of the firm from different departments (and occasionally clients) and get to know them outside of work, something which has made me more comfortable when having to deal with them on a professional basis. As a trainee group we’ve organised days out doing activities like “bubble football”, a “subcrawl” and even attending one of our fellow 1st year trainee’s engagement party! These have been excellent ways to get to know your peers which is something I have found to be crucial. They are the people with the same feelings, worries and pressures that you have and being able to share those with them is important when it comes to dealing with the stresses and strains that being a trainee lawyer at a top firm will sometimes bring.”
Give it your best shot. As clichéd as it sounds, the more you put in, the more you will definitely get out. Being a trainee is about getting as much experience as you can in your two years and learning from those around you. Don’t worry, you will have fantastic support from all levels in the firm and everyone is here to ensure that you succeed. Above all else, just enjoy your time as a trainee. Time will fly by, but honestly, you will have great fun at MacRoberts.
Keep an open mind. At MacRoberts, you will have the opportunity to work in different departments. There will have been subjects at university that you will have enjoyed and excelled in, and others that you have never seen yourself working in. In reality, working life is rather different from the academic side. So don’t worry if you are given your least favourite practice area, you will probably find that you enjoy the seat. Above all else, you will learn a lot – just look at everything as a new opportunity and a new interesting and exciting challenge!
Be organised. One of the most important skills that trainees must learn and implement on a daily basis is organisation. You will quickly discover that working life is very different from university life, and as a trainee you will have various commitments going on at the same time, all with shorter deadlines than you will be used to. Trainees must learn to prioritise what is important and manage their time effectively. I find calendar reminders are a very useful organisational tool. It is also important to stay informed. I find it helpful to sign up to newsletters, updates and Google alerts that are relevant to the department and sector I am working in so that I am up to date on current developments. This will help to improve your confidence when speaking to colleagues and advising clients.
Ask questions. There is no getting away from feeling nervous on your first day, or feeling daunted when you are taken to your department and given your first piece of work to do. If you don’t ask questions, people will be wondering how you know what you are doing. It’s expected of trainees – so ask away!
As a trainee, you are not expected to know everything. Everyone at MacRoberts is very approachable and willing to help which makes asking those ‘silly’ questions less daunting. However, it is important to show initiative and to try to work things out by yourself first and to avoid asking the same question repeatedly.
Don’t panic! It is extremely easy, when asked to do something that you have never seen or heard of before, to start panicking. When you first start, everything will be new to you, and you will spend your first few weeks getting used to the IT systems and how the offices operate. It’s a lot of information to take in! Everyone at MacRoberts is mindful of this and are there if you have any questions. In terms of work, you will come across new things every day. If you don’t know how to do something, give yourself 20 minutes to consider the issue, and then if you are still unsure, ask. If you give yourself that time to think about the issue, you will be surprised how you can actually work it out and answer your own questions. Your traineeship is about learning and building on your knowledge, so don’t hesitate to approach other people for help.
Remember, you are not alone. There is a lot of support for trainees at MacRoberts – you are allocated a Mentor in each seat, there is always someone to turn to with queries and you have the comfort in knowing that your fellow trainees are all in the same position as you.
Keep an open mind, show your enthusiasm and get yourself out there. You have worked hard and done well to get here, so make the most of it!
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