Nov 08, 2019

Written By Becky Kells

A Day in the Life – Matt Finnie, second seat trainee at Addleshaw Goddard

Nov 08, 2019

Written By Becky Kells

Matt is a second seat trainee in Addleshaw Goddard's (AG's) Edinburgh office, currently sitting in the Construction, Engineering and Environment Disputes team. He studied the Scots Law LLB (with Honours) and the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice at the University of Aberdeen and began his training contract in September 2018.


How did you get your training contract?

While a student, I was lucky enough to get some part-time work as a Bar Officer for a tribunal in Edinburgh (I would strongly urge anyone considering a career in law to seek out such part-time work!). Through that, I met a lawyer working at the firm and so I went in for a week to see the offices and get a feel for things. A couple of interviews and one summer placement later, I get a call from Carrie Armstrong, Grad Partner for Scotland, inviting me to join the firm.

What’s a typical day like as a trainee lawyer?

There is no "typical" day, as such. As I walk to the office each morning, I'll often go through in my head what I plan to get done—setting things out as tasks x, y and z. I quickly realised that this was largely ridiculous, the main reason being that as a trainee you don't generally see things coming in the way associates and partners do. So by mid-morning your x, y and z have completely morphed without you even realising it as new tasks have materialised.

This is not to say you shouldn't plan—of course, planning is essential. But just accept that the best-laid plans will often go awry, or at least need revising. I have accepted this, and that acceptance allows me to start each day with a very open mind about what I may end up working on. I think that's the way to be the most help to whichever team you're working with, which should be the goal of every trainee!

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The great thing about AG's training contract is that no one day, and no one week, is the same. It sounds like a cliché (and it probably is a bit, to be honest), but I cannot stress enough how true it is. The traineeship runs four six-month seats, all of which expose you to new challenges and experiences, and entirely distinct areas of law. This inevitably leads to a perpetual cycle of entirely new days as you move through each department. So, a Monday in one department might involve a call to the Court, explaining why a document needs to be included in a hearing bundle for X case at the last minute, whereas a Monday in the next could see you discussing with a mechanical engineer the terms of his contract for X development.

This allows trainees maximum exposure to the many offerings of the firm and affords the opportunity to hone in on the area of law they can see themselves practising for the rest of their career.

What are the challenges?

Keeping busy when you're quiet, and keeping calm when you're busy. Such is the nature of a trainee's workflow—where the work is almost exclusively distributed by supervising fee-earners—that sometimes you will be waiting for the next piece of work, while at others you are juggling work assigned by four or five different fee-earners. The biggest challenge for me so far has been managing both of these scenarios. The key thing to remember when busy is that no one expects a miracle, so just be honest about things!

In terms of the challenges in the work itself, I've found that support, if needed, is always there. That being said, I have also found that the quickest way to get your head around something tricky or new is to sit down, get a coffee and puzzle it out.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

I've definitely noticed that as individual supervisors—and indeed the whole team for which you work—gain confidence in your ability to run with the ball, you get passed it more and more. This is a policy endorsed at AG across all levels as part of an aim to target individual potential.

In terms of looking to the future, the international push and unashamed ambition of AG is obviously an exciting prospect for any trainee. I'll take the Fifth on any specific ambitions for now!

How do I get a training contract?

The best way is through the summer placement. I can't stress enough how great an experience mine was and would recommend it to anyone interested in working with the firm. As for advice... I can't say what I think made my application stand out, or what makes an application stand out in general, because there really isn't a magic answer for that one. But don't let it blend in.

When on the summer placement, my one rule was to relax. Don't worry about the tasks—they are no more challenging than anything encountered at university, and are certainly not designed to see anyone struggle. If you can relax into it, enjoy the week, be social, make friends and, most importantly, be as helpful as possible to as many people as possible. Then you're in with a very good shout.