How my vac scheme led straight to a training contract
Ahead of the 3 January application deadline for the CMS Academy, trainee-to-be Euan Alston tells Alex Wade about his route into the firm
“I’ve got no regrets at all. I’m very pleased to be going into the law, and I feel passionate about the firm I’m joining.”
Euan Alston, who joins CMS as a trainee solicitor in September 2018, adds that he’s “never felt as comfortable in a workplace” as during his stint on a CMS vacation scheme in summer last year. “I was lucky to work on two other vacation schemes with City firms,” says Alston, “and both were good. But the experience at CMS was the best. The people were fantastic. I learnt a tremendous amount about the firm and the kind of work its people do.”
In Alston’s case, CMS made sense because of his background: he has a Biomedical Sciences B.Sc from Dundee University and a law degree from Glasgow University. In addition to its global corporate practice and leading real estate and media divisions, the firm is known for its expertise in the legal work underpinning the life sciences and healthcare sector, and so, once Alston had decided on a legal career, they were an obvious front-runner when it came to looking for a training contract. But how did he come to bag a place at the firm? And what prompted Alston, a fitness fanatic in his spare time, to forsake working in science for the law?
With Highers in Chemistry, Human Biology, Maths, Technical Studies, History and English, and Advanced Highers in Biology and Chemistry, Alston looked was heading for a career in science, until an epiphany in his third year at Dundee. “I was focused on being a science academic but I realised I didn’t want a lab-based career, and started looking at alternatives,” he says. “My dissertation was on gene therapy and while working on it I kept coming across a lot of law, for example in the way legal principles and questions interact with pharmaceutical research. It struck me that being a lawyer would marry my interest in science with a rewarding and challenging profession in its own right.”
His mind made up, Alston finished his B.Sc and then headed to Glasgow to start his law degree. He soon discovered that law firms recruit a long way in advance of the start date for training contracts. “About two months into my legal studies, I knew I had to begin the process of finding a job, so I went to law fairs and began researching law firms.” CMS had a stand at one such fair, and Alston made a point of talking to its representatives and then attended a presentation by the firm. “Their people were friendly and helpful, and impressed me a lot,” he says. He also had a literal sense of at least one of CMS’s many clients: “The Wellcome Trust is a client, and I’d often pass one of its offices on my way to university when I was at Dundee.”
Once on the CMS vacation scheme — now known as the CMS Academy, with attendees gaining an enhanced insight into business and commerce as well as working on legal and tech matters — Alston knew that CMS was for him. He was “absolutely delighted” when, shortly afterwards, he was offered a training contract. “I’d given a presentation to the three partners at the end of the placement, and was also formally interviewed by a partner,” he remembers. “There was quite a lot of pressure — it’s inevitable because everyone on law degrees is gunning for a job — so I was thrilled to be offered a contract.” It’s worth noting that the new CMS Academy vacation scheme doesn’t feature the same final partner interview format, but the firm will be recruiting trainees directly from it.
Now half-way through a Diploma in Professional Legal Practice (Scotland’s equivalent to the LPC) at the University of Edinburgh, Alston works part-time as a sales associate for Hugo Boss, a role he enjoys because “it helps demonstrate the value of good relationships in business, of getting on well with people and providing a good service.”
Alston also finds time to be a brand ambassador for CMS. “The firm has been good to me,” he says, “so I take pride in representing it, talking to undergraduates about life in the law and organising events.” One such event was a night-time tour of Glasgow, on an open-top bus. “It was fun, and interesting,” says Alston. “We pointed out the offices of various CMS clients, or places where the firm had been involved in legal work in some way. It was fascinating seeing how much the law permeates everyday life.”
The young man who used to walk past the Wellcome Trust in Dundee may not be going into science after all, but CMS, and the legal profession, look set to gain a dedicated new practitioner — not to mention one who knows, literally, where all the clients are.
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