Kathryn Smith

Kathryn Smith Solicitor

Overview

I grew up in Scotland but decided to study English law at university, then completed an undergraduate law degree and a masters in social policy. So, by the time I applied for training contracts, I had had plenty of time to consider the type of firm I wanted to train at and the areas of law I might want to practise.

Burges Salmon stood out to me because of the culture, high quality work and reputation for excellent training. I felt strongly that I would best grow and succeed in a firm which prioritised mutual respect and collaboration and in which I could be myself. Completing a vacation scheme in 2014 confirmed that I wanted to work here. It is well known that a vacation scheme is one of the best ways to get to know a firm, for better or for worse and the extremely positive experience from those two weeks has been replicated in my training contract.

Before starting, future trainees are invited to the firm for a day to hear about the different seat choices and to chat to lawyers from each department. With around fifteen choices, having a six seat training contract instead of the usual four has been a huge benefit. This is especially true if, like me, there are lots of areas which interest you. There is definitely a feeling that trainees’ preferences are taken very seriously, both in the seat allocation process and in the type of work you can do during the seat.

For example, my first seat was with the construction team. As I was interested in contentious work, I was assigned a supervisor who is a specialist in construction disputes. We had a coffee break away from our desks every few weeks to catch up, discuss what work I would like to do more of, or any concerns. I left the seat feeling satisfied that I had crammed more variety of work into four months than I expected to be possible, together with a greater depth of knowledge and responsibility than I would have expected of such a technical area.

My other seats were pensions, family, disputes and real estate, where I am qualifying. Each seat has had its own highlights and challenges, and I am happy to have been able to experience transactional, contentious, advisory and private client work. Overall I am finishing my training contract confident that I have experienced the variety needed to make an informed decision on where to qualify. In each seat I have surprised myself at how much it is possible to pick up in a new area in just a few months. I know this is in large part due to being made to feel part of the team from the start and that investment in training is a true priority.

For those applying, my advice would be to be as thoughtful and analytical as possible with what you want from your training contract, including factors such as practice areas, specialist client sectors and the firm's culture, location, social life and training. The impact that each of these factors will have is immense – fortunately, as future solicitors we have better opportunities than many careers to gain insight into our potential employers. Ultimately, genuine motivation is important in applying for training contracts, but much more so during the training contract itself.