Corrin Frances Miller | Trainee Solicitor (Corporate) at Anderson Strathern
Our next guest is Corrin Frances Miller. Corrin is a Trainee Solicitor (Corporate) at Anderson Strathern currently in her first year. She obtained her LLB from Napier with First-class Honours and was awarded the university medal for achieving the highest year average in 2019. She then went on to the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice with the University of Edinburgh prior to commencing her traineeship at Anderson Strathern. During her LLB, Corrin was active in many extra-curricular roles including as Secretary of the Law Society, Legal Advisor with the Law Clinic, and Managing Director of the Commercial Law Clinic.
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 grew up in Inverness where I went to the Gaelic medium school. After leaving, I worked as an administrator for an occupational health company for two years before applying to university. Looking back, I think this office experience stood me in good stead for securing jobs with law firms during my studies.
I went to Napier University and cannot recommend the LLB there highly enough. I’m a self-confessed geek and enjoyed most classes but definite highlights were Legal Practice in the 21st Century, all the family law and evidence modules as well as international law. I was the Secretary of the Law & Mooting Society and Managing Director of the Commercial Law Clinic which I set up with my course mates.
I was supposed to go to Berlin for a year abroad but unfortunately there was a mix-up with the law course there so I ended up staying at Napier. Not getting to study abroad is one of my biggest regrets so, if you do get the chance, I recommend you go!
2. What made you choose to pursue a career in the legal profession?
I remember at an early stage of secondary school having to arrange a week’s work experience placement. I spent the week at my local sheriff court and got to spend time with the sheriffs, clerks and agents. I also recall having some really interesting conversations with the journalists who worked there about some local historic cases. Thinking back, it must have been this experience which planted a legal career in my mind.
3. You completed your Diploma in Professional Legal Practice at the University of Edinburgh; how did you find the course? How does studying the Diploma compare to studying the LLB? Would you recommend applying to the University of Edinburgh?
The diploma is much more ‘hands-on’ and practical than the LLB as it is designed to prepare you for your traineeship. A lot of the content is simulation-based around the tasks and scenarios you will face as a trainee. You also have lots of small assessments regularly coupled with long days (my Tuesdays were 9:00am – 9:00pm and back in at 9:00am on the Wednesday). For me, adjusting to this new routine was definitely the hardest part of diploma but it prepared me well for working life. I also used to spend enormous amounts of time on coursework submissions on the LLB whereas the low-mark, regular assessments on diploma teach you to work quickly and accurately to get work submitted.
4. Do you have an idea of the area of law you want to practice after completing your traineeship? Which seat is your favourite that you have completed thus far?
I always wanted to train with a full service firm to ‘test-drive’ different areas of law. Again, having worked for two years prior to starting university, I always understood that a job can be very different in practice once the novelty has worn off! Trying out different seats will allow you to get a feel for the work without committing to two years of that area alone. I have really enjoyed both of my seats so far but will keep an open mind for the second half of my traineeship and hopefully will have reached a decision by next year.
5. When applying for traineeships, how did you find the process? Did you already have a lot of legal experience before applying? How did you bounce back from rejections? What made you decide that Anderson Strathern was the firm for you?
I managed to avoid the traineeship application route by securing my traineeship via summer placement. Although I cannot comment on applying for traineeships, I know that my friends found it really tough and obviously any rejection can be emotionally challenging. For that reason, I recommend starting to apply early and aim for summer placements. These are usually paid placements of around 3-6 weeks where you are assessed on your performance over the entire placement. Although everyone works differently, this route was always more appealing to me than the one-off interviews or assessment centers.
6. What sort of tasks and responsibilities are you undertaking during your traineeship at Anderson Strathern? Do you get to work with partners or have any client contact?
My current mentor is a partner who is highly experienced in intellectual property and data protection. I really enjoy the work that I receive from them. For example, today I got to attend a data protection conference to learn more about the law post-Brexit.
Attending client meetings is particularly helpful as you get to observe how your colleagues conduct themselves and you find yourself learning through osmosis how to handle certain situations or questions.
7. What is the most rewarding part of your role as a trainee?
In private client, you can help clients through a difficult period in their lives (for example following the death of a loved one) by ensuring a smooth process for them. Similarly, in corporate, you may have entrepreneurs taking big risks to start a business and you get to be involved from the very beginning ensuring all legal matters are completed to a high standard for them.
I think it is important to take a step back and appreciate the experience of being a trainee – we put five years into our studies and can now enjoy the rewarding nature of the work we do.
8. Do you have the opportunity to partake in any pro bono work during your traineeship? Is pro bono work encouraged/a priority for Anderson Strathern at all?
Not yet but I have enjoyed getting involved with the firm’s CSR work. I recently took part in the Kiltwalk to raise funds for Cancer Research UK which is our charity of the year. I was also involved in arranging the firm’s programme of events for Mental Health Awareness Week which involved a great session with the charity Playlist for Life (if you haven’t heard of them before, I recommend checking out the work they do).
9. Do you work from home all the time or do you work in the office on occasion? In your opinion, do you think trainees should be able to work remotely more often in the future or do you think trainees should work in the office all the time?
Some departments, like private client, are obviously more paper-heavy so trainees are required to go into the office and help out. Other departments, like corporate, can function almost entirely remotely so I
haven’t been into the office at all during this seat. As we transition out of lockdown, I would like to see an element of flexibility remain with a blend between attending the office and working from home.
10. What is your work/life balance like as a trainee at Anderson Strathern? Do you find that your workload has increased or decreased since the lockdown?
The trainees at Anderson Strathern are encouraged to strike a good work/life balance. We have a certain number of hours to do each day so, as long as you have recorded your hours, there is no need to sit on your laptop all night. As is to be expected, urgent cases may necessitate a late finish from time to time. However, in these instances, everyone is motivated to get the best result for the client and works together as a team to complete on time.
11. What is the firm culture like at Anderson Strathern? Do you see yourself working here for the foreseeable future?
Definitely – the firm is a gold standard Investor in People/Young People and there are lots of initiatives in place, such as the mentoring system, to support us in achieving our career goals. We have regular trainee meetings with HR where a different partner comes along each time to talk about their journey to law and career insights. Trainees are also given a lot of responsibility from the outset which I have really enjoyed.
12. With mental health awareness becoming more of a priority for law students and subsequently law firms; do you think there is an element of acceptance and adequate help at Anderson Strathern for their employees?
I am a member of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee – we meet regularly to consider issues such as promoting mental health awareness within the firm. I have been really impressed by the firm’s dedicated ‘Mental Health Champions’ who are trained to assist in a crisis or available for a chat if anyone is having a bad day.
13. In your opinion, what are the most important skills required to be a successful trainee?
Now more than ever: adaptability. I had been looking forward to joining the firm since my summer placement in 2018 and could never have imagined the circumstances under which I would eventually join in 2020. We have had to keep an open mind, be receptive to non-traditional forms of learning and use technology effectively.
14. What advice would you give yourself as a law student looking back now as a trainee in a prestigious law firm?
Don’t be too hard on yourself, remember the importance of a good work/life balance and don’t feel bad for taking a night off to relax or socialise!
15. You began your journey as a trainee in December 2020; do you feel that the pandemic has interrupted your training and growth to become a fully qualified solicitor?
A good piece of advice in the current climate is to try not to worry about things that are outwith your control. Seek as varied a workload as possible to ensure that you are maximising your exposure and take time to speak to your colleagues so that you fully understand the work you are doing.
16. How do you feel about the future of the legal profession? Do you think dealing with clients will become more virtual permanently?
Covid forced all industries to adapt and, given the large investments that were made in technology, I cannot see things going back post-pandemic. I think it can only be a good thing for clients to have the option of coming into the office or appearing remotely from anywhere in the world.
17. How do you stay commercially aware with current events and what would you recommend for students?
I enjoy reading my email subscriptions either at the beginning or end of my day. I would recommend the Financial Times Daily Digest emails for quick snippets. After work, I attend events on areas of business that I am interested in learning more about. If there is a particular sector you are interested in, connecting with key people from that industry on LinkedIn is a great way of keeping up-to-date with current events or issues affecting that particular business area.
18. What is your proudest achievement?
I would have to say my proudest achievement (so far) would be completing university: it is no small feat and – as you will all know – requires a lot of time and effort!
19. What is your favourite pastime/hobby you like to do in your spare time? Are you watching a Television series at the moment?
I am really into films. Over the last few weekends, I have been working my way through the Oscar nominations and would recommend Promising Young Woman and Sound of Metal. As for a good TV series, I am currently watching ‘The Terror’ which is about two Royal Navy boats who go missing while exploring the Northwest Passage – it’s quite scary and definitely worth a watch! Next on my list is ‘The Wire’ which is an old classic. On the weekend, I enjoy heading home to the Highlands for a day of fly- fishing on our beautiful lochs.
20. If you could write a book/film about your life, what would the title be and why?
I cheated and asked a friend – as I used to compete in athletics and cross-country for Inverness Harriers, they went with:
Cross-Country to Cross-Examination
Tales of an Inverness Harrier Turned Edinburgh Law
Interviewed by Sean Doig (Editor-in-Chief 2020/21). We would like to thank Corrin Frances Miller for taking the time to participate in the interview to share her experience for the Law Review. You can find out more about Anderson Strathern and their experience on their website here.
If you would like to participate in an interview with the Law Review, please get in touch with us at email@example.com.