Why I went freelance before my training contract

There’s not just one route into law—it’s a sector that thrives on variety. Jaimie Hunter knows this all too well: before embarking on her training contract, she went freelance, setting up her own company and working as a paralegal. Here, she talks about her unique experience.

  • Last updated Jan 2, 2019 5:03:21 PM
  • Jaimie Hunter, Paralegal for Vario

Securing a training contract with a top law firm remains an elusive objective for many graduates as they seek to enter the legal profession and embark upon their careers. Contracts are notoriously competitive with the applicants easily out-numbering the spaces available. Once starting a contact, it is well-known that this two-year period is deliberately designed to stretch and test people, as they learn new skills and develop into lawyers. Therefore, once they have secured a training contract, some future trainees decide to take time out and either travel, relax, or develop skills not associated with law.

However, with a contract lined up for September 2019, I decided to continue developing toward my goal of becoming a lawyer, albeit with plenty of time to enjoy the year ahead leading up my contract commencing. 

I applied to and was interviewed by Vario in the spring of 2018. After this, I became director of my own company—JJH Legal Services—and I have been working as a Paralegal in the Oil and Gas Sector in Aberdeen. I joined Shell UK with a contract set to run until the end of the year and through this contract, I have been involved in a range of activities, primarily managing and running third-party licence transfer work; whilst being the focal point for Master Deed, Legal Information Management matters and the Oil and Gas Portal; as well as drafting documents and assisting lawyers with research and contact matters.

Working in this way has really given me an incredible level of exposure ahead of my training contract starting. Working within a global business that is at the forefront of development on the UKCS at such a critical time has been an invaluable experience. I’ve been dealing with a real range of people and I am learning a lot from their wealth of knowledge and experience. I feel as if I have gained so much understanding of how the business works, what the priorities are and how a well-managed legal function can have such a significant impact across the organisation. 

I also like the fact that I’m working within one client for such a long period of time; it’s allowing me to see work through to completion. I’ve seen how the work I have been involved with is being applied in real-world situations, which is both extremely rewarding and satisfying. 

I think my time at Shell will provide me with advantages when I start my training contract as I have already been completing some quite stretching work; alongside this I’ve undertaken my master-deed training. I have been fortunate enough to attend a site visit at the St. Fergus Gas Terminal Plant, which has really put the work I do into perspective from beyond a legal perspective. Most importantly of all though has been the business understanding I’ve built up, how companies work and what it is clients really need and want from a law firm.

It is great that this path is available to future trainees who want to experience legal life before their career kicks off and I would certainly recommend this route to those who are wondering how to best utilise their time before their training contract.

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