Life as a Trainee: Alasdair Lennie
I studied both the LLB and the Diploma at the University of Glasgow, and secured my traineeship following a six-week summer placement at Burness Paull at the end of my fourth year. With my Diploma in hand, I faced a year-out ahead of starting my traineeship. Worried it was to be a year of refreshing the Scottish Legal News website in order to keep up-to-date, I contacted the firm to ask what they felt I should be doing. They actively encouraged me to get out and pursue whatever I wanted for the year (with the proviso I promised to show up for my first day on 3 September!). This reinforced my impression that the firm really care about the well-being of their employees, valuing individuality and life experience alongside legal knowledge and skill. They also made sure to touch-base with me, inviting me to firm-wide events like Christmas parties and summer BBQs.
Having qualified into the firm’s Corporate Finance team, it’s great to look back on a very rounded traineeship, which has allowed me to see the ins and outs of a corporate law firm, as well as a stint on secondment with a client.
My first seat was in the firm’s Banking and Funds team. Having avoided Banking law like the plague whilst at university, and googling “what is a fund?” the night before starting, I was concerned that I would be out of my depth, spending 6 months as a legal headless chicken. The reality was far from that! The team offer one of the most in-depth and thorough training programs in the firm, and take you step-by-step through typical Banking and Funds transactions. Armed with a literal bible, I was able to get stuck in from day one. A great aspect of this seat was the opportunity to work alongside some of the big City firms, as well as firms in the Channel Islands, America and Australia. Engaging with lawyers in London on a daily basis led to the development of some genuine friendships, and I have managed to meet up with colleagues from transactions whilst down in London.
Next up was a seat in the firm’s Property team. This offered a wide variety of work: from advising agricultural clients on where the title boundary of their field actually was, to negotiating new lease agreements for commercial tenants and landlords, to assisting the Corporate team on the property aspects of a business sale. The wide variety in client type and the opportunity to work with colleagues across the firm meant that no two days were ever the same, and allowed me to sharpen client communication skills as well as strengthen my relationships with colleagues.
My third seat was a secondment to one of the firm’s energy clients, and is an opportunity I would advise every trainee to take if offered. Secondment gives you the chance to get out into industry and really get to understand how a client business works. As I was joining a relatively small team, I was given a huge amount of independence and autonomy, which rocketed me from being a trainee towards being a NQ. The chance to get out and not only show what I could do, but also what the firm could offer the client was a really liberating experience, and I returned to the firm with far more confidence and as a better lawyer than when I left.
My fourth seat was in the firm’s Corporate Finance team. This lasted three and a half weeks before COVID struck. Despite barely making it to a month in the team, I managed to gain plenty of experience, assisting with advising clients in relation to funding rounds, windfarm acquisitions and the readmission of a client’s entire issued share capital to trading on AIM. Not bad! As we moved to working from home, I was offered the opportunity to go back out on secondment for a second time, where I have been ever since! This has been fantastic as I’ve been able to further strengthen the relationship between both myself and the client, and the firm and the client. Seeing how a client navigates COVID has also been invaluable, and it was great to be able to pick up where I left off at the end of my previous secondment.
Upon qualifying, I had no doubts that I wanted to stay with the firm due to the friendly, social atmosphere and the opportunity to work on some top quality work with some of the highest quality lawyers in the game! I have always felt that the firm is fully invested in my development and that I have been viewed as a valued member of the firm as a whole from day one.
Qualifying as an NQ on secondment was a bizarre experience, although nothing is too normal just now! Typically, most days will involve some calls with the client along with review of documents such as supplier contracts, NDAs and board minutes. Teammates from the Corporate Finance team are excellent at keeping in touch, and I look forward to returning to the firm to begin my journey as a Corporate Finance solicitor in November.