Case study

Stuart Houston — Trainee Solicitor

Employer
Slaughter and May

Stuart Houston studied law at Glasgow University and worked behind the scenes in theatres before becoming a trainee solicitor at Slaughter and May.

Photo of Stuart Houston

How did you get your job?

The application process was simple. I had to submit an online form, and attach my CV and cover letter.

On the day, I had an hour to draft some commercial advice based on a fictional scenario. Then the interview itself, which was with two partners and lasted about an hour. We talked about everything from my previous work in theatre to my views on consolidation within the charity sector (I’d been given 15 minutes to read a newspaper article on this before the interview). Afterwards, I toured the office with a current trainee, who was on hand to answer any questions about life at the firm.

What is a typical day like as a trainee and what are the challenges?

One of the best things about this job is that there isn’t really a typical day. In my real estate seat, I could find myself researching niche points of health and safety law for a dispute resolution case in the morning and drafting contract clauses for a football stadium construction project in the afternoon.

Each group has its own challenges, too. I started out in competition, where I worked for three months on a high-profile antitrust case before the European Commission. When helping prepare our client’s defence submissions, I spent several weeks researching case law and our client’s business sector. I enjoyed the challenge of distilling this vast quantity of information in to something easily digestible and, importantly, relevant to both our case and the client’s business.

In my corporate seat, I worked on a transatlantic merger, several asset sales and the defence of a hostile takeover, as well as providing ad-hoc corporate governance advice. The pace of transactional work – especially as deadlines loom – could easily shift from fast to frenetic, given the chance. I quickly learned the importance of staying organised, providing regular progress updates to the team and, above all else, keeping a level head under pressure.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The people are great. I work with some of the sharpest minds in the legal sector, and the firm’s open-door policy encourages a collegiate atmosphere where I feel comfortable seeking advice and learning from the partners and associates I work with. We don’t have billable hours targets, so even the most senior people here are very willing to spend their time imparting knowledge to a trainee.

The LPC (we do it in seven-and-a-half months with future trainees from four other firms) gave me the perfect opportunity to get to know my cohort of trainees before starting in the office. It really helps – especially in the first few months – to have a tight-knit group of people you can call on, whether that be for help with work, because you’ve forgotten how to set up your printer for letters, or even just for a coffee on a quiet afternoon.