Case study

Matthew Finnie — Trainee solicitor

Addleshaw Goddard
matthew finnie

Matt is a second seat trainee in Addleshaw Goddard's (AG's) Edinburgh office. He studied the Scots Law LLB and the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice at the University of Aberdeen

How did you get your training contract?

While still 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 this experience 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 got a call inviting me to join the firm.

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

As I walk to the office each morning, I'll often go through what I need to get done - setting work out as tasks X, Y and Z. As trainee you don't generally see things coming in the way that 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 don't plan - of course planning is essential - rather 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 are working with.

What do you enjoy about your job?

The great thing about AG's training contract is that no day or week, is the same. It sounds cliché, 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. 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 a case at the last minute, whereas a Monday in the next department could see you discussing the terms of a mechanical engineer’s contract for a development.

This allows trainees maximum exposure to the many offerings of the firm and affords the opportunity to slowly '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 things are quiet, and keeping calm when you're busy. Such is the nature of a trainee's workflow. The work is almost exclusively distributed by supervising fee-earners so they’ll be times when you will be waiting for the next piece of work, while at others you’re juggling work assigned by four or five different fee-earners. The biggest challenge for me so far has been managing both of these scenarios. Key thing to remember when busy is that no one expects a miracle, so just be honest about things.

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

I have noticed that as individual supervisors, and the wider team get confidence in your ability to run with the ball, you get passed more and more. This is a policy endorsed at AG across all levels, as part of an aim to actively 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 a summer placement. I can't stress how great an experience mine was and would recommend it to anyone interested in working with the firm.

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.

I can't say what I think made my application 'stand out', or what I think makes an application in general stand out, there really is not a magic answer - but what I can say is do not let your application blend in.

Find out more