From Legal Cheek blogger to RPC trainee: how doing something a bit different can help you land a TC

Flora Duguid wasn’t afraid to take some chances to bolster her CV — and the result was a job at the City firm which has brought start-up culture to the legal world

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I always knew that I wanted to be a solicitor at a City firm that was dynamic and entrepreneurial; I just wasn’t sure how to get there with so many other good candidates competing for a relatively small number of training contracts.

So, having completed my law degree at the University of Leeds in 2011, I took to blogging to try to stand out from the crowd. After starting my blog I was approached after a few posts by Legal Cheek, which had just launched and was looking for student bloggers. I wrote a couple of articles about the training contract application process, appeared on their podcast, and soon after, in an unrelated stroke of fortune, got a job with a start-up travel and events company.

Through these experiences my CV began to look more interesting, and in summer 2012 I secured a vacation scheme with RPC. The first rule on the firm’s graduate recruitment website is “rip up the rulebook”, which I found intriguing and stood out from the other more traditional campaigns. That ethos is apparent in the way the firm’s offices are completely open plan, with everyone out on the floor in pods usually consisting of a partner, two associates and a trainee. It’s great for training as you learn a lot just by overhearing conversations and you can get involved in work because discussions happen out on the floor, not behind closed doors.

I made some great connections during the two weeks of my vacation scheme, and now, as a second seat trainee, find myself working in the general liability and medical team where I spent time as a vac-schemer. I’m actually working on one of the same cases that I worked on as a vac scheme student!

Prior to that I completed my first seat in the property and casualty insurance department, where, in keeping with the firm’s belief in entrusting trainees with lots of responsibility early on, the learning curve was steep. It seems like one minute you are doing the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and the next you are prepping bundles, taking attendance notes and reviewing court documents. The great thing about being thrown in at the deep end is that you have to learn quickly.

During this time the firm was on a high having won Law Firm of the Year in the 2014 The Lawyer Awards. One of the things behind that win, and the firm’s innovative approach in general, seems to me to be how accepting RPC is of different points of view. A good illustration of this is the trainee Twitter account, @LifeInALawFirm, which all 40 of the firm’s trainees contribute to and is not edited by anyone in the firm’s management. The same applies to the trainee business blog.

RPC has a forward-thinking environment, which encourages creativity — for example, a well-being festival was held last month, complete with hot-pod yoga, lunch time pilates sessions and talks on mindfulness. The recently-appointed Director of Futures Strategy & Animation is putting in place further initiatives, such as town hall-style meetings and a book club. We’re currently reading ‘Happiness by Design’ by Paul Dolan — it’s about how to focus your attention on objectives and activities that yield experiences of “pleasure and purpose over time” (Dolan’s definition of happiness).

It’s tough work getting a training contract — you have to be resilient and stay committed. I now live in Bermondsey, have a 17 minute walk to work (which I’ve timed exactly so that I arrive in time for the free breakfast in the office canteen!). Being a trainee is a unique position in the firm — you are the only group of individuals that rotate through the firm and therefore are exposed to different teams and different types of work. The friendships you develop with the other trainees are invaluable and a real support network; we have a custom of having lunch together in the firm canteen and on a Friday evening we might get together for a drink around St Katharine’s Docks followed by dinner or a bar in Shoreditch.

I think what really drives me is always experiencing and learning new things. No two days are the same and even after qualification, you never stop learning! So far, I’ve found that I really enjoy the client side — helping to put client pitches together, delivering seminars and understanding what our clients want from us. Hopefully I’ll be able to do more of this as my career progresses. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to the second year of my training contract — and that skiing holiday in Japan I have booked in January!

Flora Duguid is a second seat trainee solicitor at RPC.


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14 Comments

HempShoes

Not sure if this is a shameless attempt at career advancement or force fed from RPC’s HR department. Either way, the lack of objectivity in this piece makes this read like a bad advert. But please, tell me some more about how much you love reading Paul Dolan at the book club.

(12)(2)
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hmm

I just want to ask for open plan offices:

How on earth are you able to concentrate?? Overhearing conversation while trying to digest hundred page documents?

Unless you are the kind of person who can concentrate in a noisy Starbucks I don’t see how open plan offices are good?

(11)(0)
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Not Amused

Leave her be, she’s trying and it was an interesting read.

You kids *want* to be corporate solicitors. This is an accurate portrayal of that life from one person’s perspective. There’s no point whining about it and saying “oh it sounds awful” or being snide about her (perfectly engaging) style of prose. It’s a job, if it was that amazing they would need to pay people to do it. RPC wants to be promoted and to be attractive to future graduate applicants – good, at least it’s a firm that values you enough to do that.

So learn what you can from one young person taking the time to share with you knowledge that you would not otherwise have had.

(18)(4)
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Anonymous

Is it accurate though? How much do you know about being a trainee in a corporate firm? It would be better to warn students about the reality – it’s not all yoga and Directors of Futures Strategy & Animation (whatever that is!?!) – it can be up all night copying and proof reading documents for a partner who shouts at you for missing one typo, or not even being able to go to toilet because you’re too busy, and not seeing family and friends for weeks due to being the in the office.

(4)(1)
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Not Amused

It can be all those things. It could be being sacrificed to Bhaal in an elaborate religious ritual conducted by the senior partner in a home made goat mask.

None of these experiences are accurate. They are all subjective experienced events. You have as much right to caution kids as the now deceased Bhaal victim. This young person has an equal right to share her experiences.

My subjective experience is no more ‘accurate’ than your subjective experience. She’s not lying, this is her experience, so she can’t be wrong – no matter how upset you are by that. Kids would do well to listen to a variety of sources, visit individual firms and do vac schemes and make up their own minds.

If you want people to value your own views then I would try to be a little less unhinged.

(5)(3)
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Anonymous

I take a passing interest in these pieces for the frequent unintentional comedy they manage by trying to big up mundane office stuff as thrilling and daring. But this one’s actually OK. It’s a reasonable piece and not the usual breathless account of staying up all night to correct typos in a contract for the purchase of land in Swindon.

Except for the book club. Why would people gather to discuss some preposterous self-help book? Can you not think of a decent novel to read and enjoy? I can’t believe the RPC book club is limited to works that (supposedly) improve productivity or that the lawyers there are completely ignorant of English literature.

(4)(2)
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Puff Piece

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Little Jackie paper loved that rascal puff,
And brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff. oh
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee.
Together they would travel on a boat with billowed sail
Jackie kept a lookout perched on puffs gigantic tail,
Noble kings and princes would bow whenever they came,
Pirate ships would lower their flag when puff roared out his name. oh!
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee.
A dragon lives forever but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys.
One grey night it happened, Jackie paper came no more
And puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.
His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain,
Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.
Without his life-long friend, puff could not be brave,
So puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave. oh!
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee.

(2)(0)
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