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
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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