Andrew Wallace | Employment Lawyer at Balfour+Manson LLP
Our next guest is Andrew Wallace. Andrew is an Associate in employment law at the prestigious law firm Balfour+Manson LLP. He obtained his LLB and Diploma in Legal Practice from the University of Aberdeen before undertaking his traineeship with Blackadders. Andrew is an exceptional lawyer with commendable experience and awards to prove it.
1. Tell us a bit about your background. What university did you attend? Did you take a year abroad? What were your favourite/worst subjects in university? Did you participate in any societies?
I went to university in Aberdeen. I did not take a year abroad as part of an Erasmus, but I did take the opportunity to travel after my Diploma. In an ideal world, if you are to go traveling (and I definitely recommend that, you learn a lot about yourself that you cannot learn in an office) I would recommend doing it before your diploma so what you learn is still fresh when you start working.
My favourite subject was Family Law at university, and my worst subject was definitely Commercial. I was heavily involved in the cricket club at university, but I was too shy to put myself forward for the mooting society, or other legal related societies, which is a regret looking back.
2. What made you choose to pursue a career in the legal profession? How did you know you wanted to work in employment law?
I wanted a career that would challenge me every day and look to help people in difficult situations. I didn’t actually study employment law at university, but I did a seat as part of my traineeship. I love the fast-paced nature of employment law, and that employment issues apply to everyone. You also hear a lot of interesting stories about the goings-on in various workplaces.
3. When applying for traineeships, how did you find the process? Did you already have a lot of legal experience before applying? What made you decide that Blackadders was the firm for you?
I was applying for traineeships in 2010 on the back of the financial crash. In truth the process was brutal and at times soul-destroying, however it only takes one acceptance and I have never looked back since. Being from Dundee, Blackadders was a local firm for me.
I had done a placement with Simpson and Marwick, and shadowed a couple of sole practitioners, but nothing that gave me an insight into the different firms across the country, which made interviews particularly hard.
4. What sort of tasks and responsibilities did you undertake during your traineeship at Blackadders? Did you get to work with partners or have any client contact?
I was lucky enough to have a lot of hands-on experience in each of the 4 seats I had at Blackadders, dealing directly with clients and working closely with a number of Partners there. In my employment seat, I was given the chance to interact with the employment tribunals directly, and appear at a number of preliminary hearings. In conveyancing, I was given a number of my own transactions from start to finish which helped develop my organisational skills somewhat!
5. What advice would you give yourself as a law student looking back now as a qualified solicitor?
Work harder during your Diploma, and don’t treat it as a skive which I definitely did… The skills you develop during this time will help you be confident in what you are doing when you do start working.
6. What does your role as a Balfour+Manson Employment Lawyer look like day-to-day?
My role is mainly litigation, so day-to-day this will usually involve advising clients on prospects, preparing for, and attending employment tribunals. The good thing about employment law is that there can be an overlap with sports matters, and we have a few really interesting cases on the go at the moment.
7. What is the most rewarding part of your role?
Keeping employers honest.
8. Do you work from home all the time or do you work in the office on occasion? Do you appear in court at all?
Before Christmas, I was going into the office twice a week to help support and develop the trainee in the team. That has been put on pause for the time being, but looking forward to getting back into the office a couple days a week when I can.
I have my first video full hearing in a couple of weeks which will be interesting.
9. What is your work/life balance like? Do you find that your workload has increased or decreased since the lockdown?
Not having a commute has definitely helped the work/life balance, although it has eroded my podcast listening time. In fairness, Balfour+Manson place a significant value on work/life balance which I really appreciate.
I find that in employment law, your workload varies significantly from week to week. Overall my workload remains similar – there are always going to be employment issues whether there is a lockdown or not.
10. What is the firm culture like where you are currently working? Does the culture at Balfour+Manson differ from the culture at Blackadders?
I am very lucky in that both firms that I have worked for have been sociable and make a real effort to look after their staff.
11. In your opinion, what are the most important skills required for a successful career as an employment lawyer?
In my view, you need to be inquisitive to ensure that you have a grasp of any case, and you need to be an effective communicator with clients, judges, and other solicitors.
12. How do you feel about the future of the legal profession? Do you think dealing with clients will become more virtual permanently?
In employment law, there are some particularly sensitive issues to be discussed. I think that virtual meetings will have their place, but I also feel that at times a good old fashioned face to face meeting will be needed.
13. How do you stay commercially aware with current events and what would you recommend for students?
Haha that is a good question, and something that I definitely struggled with as a student. I found signing up for the Journal from the Law Society helpful, as well as the daily legal news bulletins Scottish Legal News and Legal Matters Scotland. Keeping an eye on mergers and which firms are growing to different areas of the country are usually an indicator of a firm doing well.
14. How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Friendly, hard-working, caring.
15. Who was your role model growing up and why?
My best friend growing up, his dad was a judge. I don’t remember this having a conscious influence on me, but there are no lawyers in my family and the desire to be a lawyer must have come from somewhere. I have no plans to be a judge I must admit!
16. What is your proudest achievement?
Winning a highly commended in the Rising Star category of the Scottish Legal Awards in 2017.
17. If you could travel anywhere right now, where would you go and why?
I was meant to go to Mexico for the day of the dead festival last October, but obviously could not go. Think that is still number 1 on the hit list.
18. What is your favourite pastime/hobby you like to do in your spare time? What Television series are you watching at the moment?
I love my sport and play a lot of competitive cricket, although my time on the golf course has increased substantially since lockdown.
My wife and I are rolling back the years and making our way through Sons of Anarchy on Netflix, balanced out with watching New Girl from start to finish.
19. If not law, what other career would you be interested in pursuing and why?
Very different to law, but part of me sometimes wonders if I could have been an architect or an engineer. I just think that it would be pretty cool to have something tangible to point to and say “I made that” or “I created this”.
20. If you could write a book/film about your life, what would the title be and why?
Dark Horse – I sometimes feel that people think that I am too nice to be a lawyer, but they’ve not seen my reaction to some questionable emails landing in my inbox!
Interviewed by Sean Doig (Editor-in-Chief 2020/21). We would like to thank Andrew Wallace for taking the time out of his busy schedule to participate in the interview for the Law Review. You can find out more about Andrew’s legal experience and specialisms on the Balfour+Manson website here.
If you would like to participate in an interview with the Law Review, please do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org