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Why I chose to do my apprenticeship contract internally

Newly qualified legal counsel Laiana Alleyne explains why city law isn’t the ultimate solution

Throughout my college life, my general understanding of the path to becoming a lawyer in the UK was limited to attending a ‘good’ university and then undertaking a training contract with a ‘good’ company in town. Although I was fortunate to be raised in a large family of academics, those around me seemed to have the same understanding: there was a path to a successful career in law.

It was with this in mind that I dove into the rather brutal world of vacation plans and training contract applications. A failed vacation plan, many rejection emails, and many blows to my confidence later on, I began to wonder why I had taken this journey in the first place. This is the question I pondered for a considerable amount of time, eventually concluding that I was in fact taking this path because it was the only path I could see. I had no real experience in the legal industry and no understanding of what I was hoping to accomplish other than doing it on the SRA website. I realized that for a long time I had been guided by other people’s preconceptions of what a successful lawyer looked like and had not considered the very real possibility that there were other ways to achieve my goal outside of this narrow path that I was trying to follow.

To give myself some perspective and learn more about the area I intended to develop a career in, I chose to spend several months as a legal interim, doing work ranging from financial services contracts GDPR and everything in between. I realized that I deeply enjoyed the more business-like aspects of legal work. Understand the granular details of a business and apply the law to achieve a common goal. I began to consider that in reality a city law firm, or more generally a private practice training contract, may not align with such interests.

It was through my temporary work that I discovered the Robert Walters Group. By joining as a paralegal supporting their staffing agency division, I gained significant exposure to the workings of a publicly traded company and the in-house legal team supporting it. At the end of March 2020, as the world plunged into chaos due to the global pandemic, I started my training contract. Over the next two years, I spent my time training under the many experienced lawyers of the global in-house team, gaining knowledge and gaining valuable experience from some of the best in the field.

Flash forward two years, with my name proudly displayed on the SRA website, I had time to reflect on the events that brought me here. I can now say without a doubt that I am extremely grateful for the direction life has taken me and believe that I can now pass on knowledge that was not available to me when I started this journey. Reflecting on my experience as a corporate intern, I notice how different my training contract experience was from that of my university friends who had obtained a private practice training contract and although I recognize that a corporate training contract may not be for everyone, i want to share some of the benefits i have experienced.

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One of the benefits of a corporate training contract that I have come to recognize is the diversity. Not just gender and/or ethnic diversity (although as a mixed-race woman that was also a big plus for me), but diversity of thought and character. While private practice firms, especially big city companies, tend to recruit in their image, working in a larger company allows you to meet people from all walks of life with different approaches and priorities. From front office to HR, finance to technology, you have the opportunity to be part of a larger team and leverage the skills of each of these divisions as you grow.

Within my team, we have lawyers who have qualified in large law firms in the city as well as those who have qualified by different means and in different countries. Some members entered the legal profession directly after graduation and those who worked in a wide range of industries before moving into the legal sector. Being able to work closely with so many different characters has really allowed me to consider approaches and skills that I would not have been exposed to so early in my career in private practice. I had the opportunity to work with our specialists in areas such as employment, technology and outsourcing as well as business leaders, providing invaluable opportunities to develop my knowledge and skills. Being able to undertake a pick’n’mix exercise to model myself on so many high achievers in their respective fields has been invaluable.

Another benefit I have found is the flexibility that a company training contract offers. For those who need more structure, this might not be for you. However, for those who like to learn, like project work and are happy to drive their own development, a company training contract is a comprehensive and entrepreneurial option. I am extremely grateful that my team always listened when I asked to gain experience in a certain area of ​​law or in a broader area of ​​practice. I was able to get involved in many group projects ranging from data strategy to new service delivery lines and business set-ups.

All team members take the time to foster an environment in which junior lawyers can grow, giving them exposure to work that truly interests them. Although your BAU work needs to be done, there is always something else you can get involved in. improve skills. Not only that, but there is also a much wider scope to take responsibility and ownership as a junior in-house attorney. On several occasions I have been able to own a project/workflow. While there are of course experienced lawyers supporting workflows and outcomes, this provides a key opportunity for junior lawyers to develop project management and case management skills and gain confidence when interact with senior stakeholders.

While I never underestimate the technical skills and discipline that a private practice training contract can impart, the primary distinguishing factor between a private practice training contract and in-house training is the level of commerciality that can be acquired as an in-house junior lawyer. . It’s one thing to have to think about your client’s goals as a lawyer in private practice. It’s a very different thing to immerse yourself in the business environment, where every action you take is aimed at strengthening your company’s business position. The work of a corporate lawyer is not so black and white from a legal standpoint. As a business partner, the question posed to the legal team tends to be “how do we make this work?” rather than “what does the law say?” “.

There’s a lot more creativity in the role and a chance to really understand your client’s motivations and goals. As a member of an internal team, particularly a team supporting a PLC, you are encouraged to understand concepts that may not at first glance be seen as “legal”, for example financial risk and board priorities. ‘administration. Understanding these concepts and how they affect the day-to-day running of a business can differentiate a junior attorney in how they deal with and advise on legal concepts.

The legal industry is changing – clients want diversity of thought and a partner in (hopefully not) crime rather than someone to act as the main police. I hope those considering a career in law can use this article to remind themselves that there is more than one path to a career in law. If you have the confidence and drive to drive your training progress and also want to experience the more business-like aspects of a career in law, a corporate training contract is a route to consider. What better way to understand a customer’s needs than to be part of their lifeblood.

Laiana Alleyne graduated from the University of Nottingham with a law degree. She qualified as a barrister in March 2022 and is now legal counsel at Robert Walters Group.