Lynsey Morgan | Devil at the Faculty of Advocates
Our next guest is Lynsey Morgan. Lynsey undertook her LLB at Napier and went on to complete the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice at the University of Glasgow. Following the completion of her Diploma, Lynsey undertook her traineeship with Beveridge & Kellas in the Litigation department, progressing to a Senior Solicitor and Notary Public. As of October 2021, Lynsey is currently Devilling with the Faculty of Advocates. Lynsey has taken part in an interview to share her journey from student to Senior Solicitor to the Faculty of Advocates.
1. Tell us a bit about your background. Which university(s) did you attend? Did you take a year abroad? What were your favourite/worst subjects in university? Did you participate in any societies?
I had never considered studying Law until my sixth year at school. I knew I wanted to go to university but was unsure what I wanted to study. Whilst at one particular university open day I was waiting to attend a talk about their English degree, I decided to kill some time and sit in on a talk on their Law degree. It really interested me listening to what the degree entailed, and I knew that it was what I wanted to study. I submitted my UCAS application shortly after this.
I studied the LLB (Honours) course at Edinburgh Napier from 2010 – 2014, graduating in July 2014. Whist at Napier, I was involved in Mooting for a period. From there, I studied the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice at The University of Glasgow, from September 2014, completing it in March 2015. I commenced my traineeship in July 2015.
During my undergraduate years, I really enjoyed Business and Company Law, Evidence and Family Law. I elected to study both Business and Family at Honours level and further during my Diploma year. I’m fortunate that I enjoyed most of the Law degree, and there were relatively few subjects I didn’t enjoy, though EU Law was one of them.
2. What made you choose to pursue a career in the legal profession? How did you know the area of law you wanted to practise?
Whilst I enjoyed the undergraduate course, I spent most of it not knowing for certain what I wanted to do career-wise when I finished. I had chosen to do Law as a degree because I thought I would enjoy studying it. I hadn’t seen myself having a career in it. I was actively looking at other non-law postgraduate courses and graduate schemes from third-year onwards. It wasn’t until I was in my fourth year that I decided that I wished to pursue Law as a career. It just sort of clicked one day that as I enjoyed Law, and was relatively good at it, that it would make sense for it to be my career. I put in my application for the Diploma soon after. At this stage, I still wasn’t sure what area of Law I would wish to practise and wanted to keep my options open.
3. You completed your Diploma in Professional Legal Practice at the University of Glasgow; how did you find the course? How does studying the Diploma compare to studying the LLB? Would you recommend applying to the University of Glasgow?
The course in Glasgow was very enjoyable, though also very full-on! Most weeks there were pieces of work due. When you are studying four modules at once, this adds up and it often felt like there was no rest between each hand-in. Reflecting on it now, this was good practice for my traineeship and further on in my career, where the workload can be voluminous at times. There was only one exam for the year, the rest was made up by written and oral assessments. The Diploma itself is far more practical than the undergraduate course as you begin to learn how to apply the law you have learnt in practice. I particularly enjoyed learning how to draft different types of court papers, and the core skills I learnt have remained with me through practice.
4. 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 Beveridge & Kellas Solicitors was the firm for you?
The traineeship job market was and continues to be a very competitive one. I remember spending a lot of time filling out application forms, preparing cover letters, and revising my CV. It could be tough and demoralising at times, especially when the rejections come in and friends around me were being offered traineeships. My advice would be to persevere!
I didn’t have any experience working in a legal setting, though I had spent two years as a Volunteer Advisor with Citizens Advice Bureau. This experience was very useful to speak about in interviews as I had a good amount of experience dealing with the public and providing a service. Beveridge and Kellas were the first firm to offer me a traineeship, and I was very grateful to have been offered the role.
5. What sort of tasks and responsibilities did you undertake during your traineeship? Did you get to work with partners or have any client contact? What seats/practise areas did you undertake?
I spent my entire traineeship within our firm’s Litigation Department. Almost immediately, I was able to sit in with senior colleagues during client meetings. I was also tasked with taking precognition statements very early on in my traineeship. It was very good experience to have such a high level of client contact so early on as it helped me gain more confidence. As soon as I had my restricted practising certificate when I was in my second year, I began to conduct meetings on my own and had my own caseload. I began to appear regularly in Edinburgh Sheriff Court which I would continue to do so until I left the firm.
Whilst I assisted colleagues with a wide range of court actions, latterly, my main caseload involved Family Law and Adults with Incapacity law.
6. What advice would you give yourself as a law student looking back now as a qualified Solicitor?
Don’t allow yourself to be deflated with rejections. As I said above, it is important to persevere and continue with applications even when you’re feeling a bit dejected. I would always have a friend look over any applications, to make sure they read well.
I’d also say that it’s important to put in the work when studying for the course, both for coursework and when revising for exams. The long days in the library can feel like a slog at the time, but it is always worth it in the end.
7. What was a typical day as a Senior Solicitor and Notary Public at Beveridge & Kellas Solicitors like?
There was no typical day whilst I was working as a solicitor! I would usually start the day by arriving at the office for around 8.30am and checking my emails for the first fifteen minutes, being sure to respond to anything urgent. It would then depend on what I had on that day. That could be attending court (in-person hearings pre-pandemic and virtual hearings after the onset of the pandemic), drafting documents, or having a meeting with a client. Often my days consisted of all of the above. Even a day that started off quietly could end up being busy by the end of the day if an urgent case arose.
8. What is the most rewarding part of the role?
For me, a good day is when you can deliver a good result for a client, and they are grateful for your assistance. It’s a feeling I doubt I’ll ever tire of. I have conducted several Proofs (evidential hearings) where I have successfully sought orders in my client’s favour. It is largely the more contentious cases which go to a Proof and so a successful result in court for the client is especially rewarding.
9. You have recently begun your devilling with the Faculty of Advocates; what made you decide to begin your journey to become an Advocate?
From the beginning of my traineeship, I was exposed to the work of advocates as our firm was instructed in several Court of Session actions. I knew this was something I was interested in long-term. From the start, I enjoyed the fast-paced, and sometimes hectic nature of litigation, and knew I wanted to continue doing court work. I was fortunate to be kept on at my firm after my traineeship, and continued for four more years, building up my experience before I left to begin the devilling process.
10. When applying to undertake a period of devilling, how did you find the process? Did you already have legal experience before applying? How did you find the Faculty examinations?
In order to undertake devilling at the Faculty of Advocates, you firstly require having obtained both a Scots Law degree (with Honours), and a Diploma in Professional Legal Practice. There are certain subjects which you must have studied. I did not study International Private Law, Jurisprudence, or Roman Law at university and therefore required to study these with the University of Edinburgh during 2020/21. Most of the learning was online due to the pandemic.
You are also required to pass the Faculty Bar exams in Practice and Procedure and Evidence. They encompass both civil and criminal law. There is a great deal you are expected to know for each, and I began studying at the end of 2020 before taking the exams in February 2021, as I personally don’t like to cram my studying. The hardest part was balancing studying with full-time work – it is pretty tiring.
The revising was hard at times and I often wondered how my brain would remember everything I was learning, however on the day of the exams I was satisfied that I had put in as much revision as possible. I passed both exams the first time which was a huge relief.
11. What sort of tasks and responsibilities are you undertaking during your devilling at the Faculty of Advocates? Do you get on well with your Devil master(s)?
As part of Devilling, you require to have a principal devil master (who must have a civil practice) and a criminal devil master. You may also choose to have a subsidiary devil master. I have chosen to have a second civil devil master to have as much exposure to different advocates and their styles as possible. There is a variation in the work between both of my civil devil masters, so I am hoping it will give me the opportunity to be involved in a variety of work.
I have had a very positive experience with my devil masters to date. They have been very happy to answer questions, explain matters clearly, and generally provide support.
12. What is your work/life balance like? Do you feel that you are worked harder during your devilling compared with your work as a Solicitor?
For the first part of devilling, there is a five-week Foundation Course. As part of this, we had to prepare different types of cases to present a few times per week. There were some nights where I was required to do preparation for the next day, though this did not involve as much work as the revision for the exams had.
Since I have been working with my principal devil master, I have only needed to work normal office hours, with no evening or weekend work.
It’s difficult to say how this all compares to working as a solicitor. Whilst I am given written work to complete and observe consultations and court hearings, I generally do not need to prepare for them in the way that I did when I was a solicitor. When I am working on written work by myself, there is more flexibility as to the hours I work, unlike when I was working at the firm of solicitors, where there were set working hours.
13. In your opinion, what are the most important skills required for a successful career as an Advocate?
For me, the key skills are to be focussed and organised, and to have confidence, resilience, and be good at communicating. As with any job, I also consider it is crucial to be friendly to everyone you encounter, whether that be other advocates, solicitors, or court staff. A please, thank-you, and smile doesn’t cost a thing.
14. What would you say to inspire law students who are currently considering a career as an Advocate?
It is a reachable goal if you are prepared to put in the work. I’d advise looking at the Faculty of Advocates website which details what is required as part of the application process. As I said, I knew well before I applied that there would be additional exams I required to sit. This gave me a bit of time to decide when the best opportunity would be to sit them. I would recommend speaking to any Advocates you know (or know of). I found that anyone I spoke to was very happy to take the time to answer any questions I had.
15. How do you feel about the future of the legal profession? Do you think court procedure and dealing with clients will become more virtual permanently?
There has recently been a consultation on whether virtual court hearings should remain as the norm. The overwhelming consensus appears that most professionals consider that court hearings operate better when they take place in person as opposed to behind a computer screen. There are of course short, non-contentious matters where it is more efficient for them to continue to be heard virtually. In my own opinion, there is no substitute for a case taking place in person. In-person hearings allow the Sheriff or Judge to see people giving evidence and observe matters first-hand rather than from behind a screen.
There is usually waiting time before a hearing starts, when you can discuss the case with your opponent, which may help to narrow the issues. There isn’t really the same opportunity to do so when cases are heard virtually.
16. How do you stay commercially aware with current events and what would you recommend for students?
I subscribe to Scottish Legal News and Legal Matters Scotland. Both send daily emails with legal news. These are both free and I would recommend them to anyone who is not already subscribed.
17. How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Driven, organised, and enthusiastic.
18. What is your proudest achievement?
Professionally, this would have to be passing the Bar Exams on first sitting. They were the hardest exams I have ever sat and there was a lot of work which went into revising for them. I was very glad this hard work paid off.
Personally, it would be completing my first marathon in Edinburgh in 2015. This was something I had wanted to do for a long time though thought it was an unachievable goal until I set about working towards it.
19. What is your favourite pastime/hobby you like to do in your spare time? What Television series are you watching at the moment?
I’m a bit late to start it, I have just begun Schitt’s Creek. It’s an easy and fun watch which doesn’t need too much concentration, which I very much welcome after a long day. Each episode is only around twenty minutes too, so it doesn’t require sitting down for too long. I’ve also just finished Squid Game. I hadn’t thought it was something I would be at all interested in, but wanted to see what the hype was about. I’ve enjoyed it a lot more than I thought. There’s a lot more to it than just gore and violence in my view. I’ve also got a pile of (non-legal!) books to read this year. My worst-case scenario is finishing a good book and not having another to immediately start.
I’m a keen runner and have just signed up for my third marathon in Edinburgh in May. I was due to run the 2020 Manchester marathon, though that plan was scuppered by the pandemic. I am hopeful that this one will go ahead!
20. If you could write a book/film about your life, what would the title be and why?
I had to ask my friends for this one, and they decided “Eat, Play, Law” would be fitting.
I would be happy to answer any questions any readers have about the process of applying to the Faculty of Advocates and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Interviewed by Sean Doig (President 2021/22). We would like to thank Lynsey Morgan for taking the time out of her busy schedule to participate in the interview for the Law Review. If you would like to participate in an interview with the Law Review, please do not hesitate to contact us at email@example.com.