Traineeships

Calum Fairbairn, a PRIME student with Brodies in 2015, describes his summer work placement at the firm

This summer, I took part in a work placement at Brodies’ Edinburgh office, spending time with the litigation and banking teams. This gave me invaluable first-hand experience that complemented my academic legal studies at university.

However, this wasn’t my first time at the firm. In S5, while still at school, I took part in the PRIME scheme, which gives pupils from a wide range of backgrounds access to workshops and sessions that taught us a great deal about the many practice areas of a commercial law firm. This was an invaluable opportunity for me to learn more about what a leading firm like Brodies actually does, and what it’s like to work for one. The reality challenged many of the popular conceptions and misconceptions that one might have. It’s safe to say that it’s nothing like the storylines portrayed in the popular TV show ‘Suits’!

As well as introducing us to the legal side of the firm, the PRIME week also covered the support functions that are essential to Brodies’ operation, but which may be overlooked by many. From HR to finance, these sessions demonstrated the many different departments within a large firm like Brodies – and that there are many different non-legal opportunities within such firms, aside from the more obvious paths.

One of the most striking aspects of my time at Brodies was the fact that its people come from many different backgrounds. It was especially helpful to have this experience before applying to do law at university, and then starting my course. It reaffirmed my conviction that this was definitely a career path I could see myself pursuing.

My experience this summer was just as enjoyable and beneficial. It allowed me to see topics and concepts, which can feel quite abstract and remote on the pages of a textbook, play out tangibly in the real world.

The first part of my time was spent in the litigation department. I particularly wanted to experience this practice area, as I enjoyed my public law course at university, and was keen to see how the ideas covered were applied in the real world. Getting involved in a range of cases, I was particularly struck by the wide variety of work carried out within this one department. From researching the effects of new legislation to reviewing submissions for a Supreme Court hearing, and helping to prepare for a criminal defence case, I was able to appreciate the great variety of work involved in a typical solicitor’s day.

The next part of my work experience was spent in the banking department. While litigation involves a significant amount of contentious work, I learned that banking tends to be concerned with the non-contentious aspects of law, such as deals and contracts.

It was fascinating to discover how the banking industry, and by extension, the banking departments of law firms, are being transformed by ‘fintech’(financial technology). Through research for a blog post, I saw how new innovations – from apps that can evaluate risk for insurance policies, to peer-to-peer lending platforms – are forcing major changes to companies’ business models. I also enjoyed carrying out more routine work such as conducting a Companies House search and completing a company details report.

As well as gaining first-hand experience of the work in two interesting but very different departments in the firm, I also had the opportunity to assist with some of the workshops and visits for this year’s PRIME programme at Brodies. It was great to get the chance to meet some potential law students of the future, and help answer their questions about university life.

Overall, not only have I greatly enjoyed my time with Brodies, both the PRIME scheme and my experience this summer, I’ve also found it very beneficial because it makes it much easier to visualise the content covered at university when you have been personally involved in its practical implementation. In addition, everyone at the firm was welcoming and inclusive, which is clearly an important part of the ethos and culture at Brodies.

Brodies is a founding member of PRIME. For more information about the programme, click here