Andrew Richmond | Trainee Solicitor at Anderson Strathern
Our next guest is Andrew Richmond. Andrew completed his LLB and went on to complete the Diploma in Legal Practice with the University of Strathclyde. He is currently a Trainee Solicitor with Anderson Strathern in his first year. Andrew has participated in an interview to share his personal journey from being a part-time student to life as a trainee in a prestigious firm.
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 completed both my LLB and Diploma at the University of Strathclyde. I did the LLB part-time whilst I was working full-time. I didn’t spend any time abroad and because I was working full-time and had a family, I just concentrated my efforts on my studies for the LLB and Diploma. During the LLB, I particularly enjoyed Competition Law, International Private Law, and Voluntary Obligations (or Contract Law).
2. What made you choose to pursue a career in the legal profession?
I had always been interested in the law and the varied career it could offer. I had been at university before, progressed into a career in the Civil Service and decided one day to take the plunge and go back to university part-time in the evenings to complete my LLB.
3. You completed your Diploma in Professional Legal Practice at the University of Strathclyde; how did you find the course? How does studying the Diploma compare to studying the LLB? Would you recommend applying to the University of Strathclyde?
I really enjoyed the course. Strathclyde operates differently from other Diploma providers in that it embraces the ‘firm’ approach, where you work alongside 3 other people in a pseudo-firm to complete many elements of the course. It’s not for everyone and I think some people are put off by the thought. I’ve always worked as part of a team and in the real world, you’re often working collaboratively so it definitely brings out those skills. I had a great experience on the course. It was pre-pandemic and I finished just as the initial lockdown came in to force.
The Diploma itself is very different from the LLB in that it is very practical and gives some valuable experience of what a typical day might be like for someone once they progress to Trainee Solicitor.
I would definitely recommend the University of Strathclyde to anyone looking to complete the Diploma.
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?
At my firm, I am lucky enough that we are a full-service firm so I’m able to get a wide range of training and experience in the course of my traineeship. I’m not certain what I’d like to qualify into. My first seat was in Commercial Real Estate, which was an excellent experience, where I was given a lot of responsibility early on, dealt with clients fairly quickly, with good supervision and interesting work. I’m currently coming towards the end of my second seat in Employment, Immigration and Pensions, which has been fantastic too, with some really interesting research, involvement in Employment Tribunal cases, and given me exposure to a different type of drafting skill, which I’ve really enjoyed. My next seat is in Dispute Resolution, which I am looking forward to very much. I feel I’ve dodged both questions a bit here, but I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed both seats so far and the jury’s still out (pardon the pun) on where I want to practice after completion of my traineeship.
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’ll be honest in that I probably should have started earlier. I use the excuse that I was working full-time and had a family, so came to law a bit later. I didn’t have any legal experience at all. In that respect, I was also lucky that because I was working, I had a good CV and commercial experience that many law firms look for. I think this may have been my USP when it came to applying. I think it’s important to remember that there are plenty of people out there looking for traineeships all at once, and a firm only has so many positions available, so rejection at some point is inevitable. I think asking for feedback is important, recognising where any ‘weaknesses’ might lie in your application/CV, etc, and being ready to address these in future applications. Anderson Strathern just had a good feel to it as a firm. It’s a very practical, yet professional firm where everyone is keen to help trainees progress and develop.
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?
I’ve been lucky to have a wide range of responsibilities so far in my traineeship. I’ve drafted various documents, notes of advice, completed legal research, taken notes in witness statement meetings, prepared bundles for hearings, attended tribunal hearings, attended client and counsel consultations to name but a few.
I work quite regularly with partners in both my current and previous seat. I have a really good mentor who supervises my work and gives me good quality work which leads to good client contact. This was also the case in my previous seat in Commercial Real Estate.
7. What is the most rewarding part of your role as a trainee?
I think seeing a task through to the end and obtaining a positive, tangible result for a client is very rewarding. Our clients are the lifeblood of what we do at the firm and it’s great when you’re able to assist in producing a positive outcome for them.
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?
Yes, the firm actively encourages all of its staff to participate in our Corporate Social Responsibility programme and we are given time to do so. We regularly receive email updates asking for people to get involved with a variety of projects. In my current seat, along with another couple of colleagues, I was able to assist in the drafting of an agreement for use by a charity that does fantastic work in many communities across the UK. This allowed me to develop my drafting skills, all for a good cause.
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?
I began my traineeship from home, but I’ve been coming into the office more and more over the course of the last 6 months. I’m now in the office 3 days per week on average, with the other 2 spent working from home. I prefer working from the office, although I do enjoy the flexibility of being able to work from home on certain occasions. For trainees, mentoring and supervision is a massive element of the traineeship itself. I think if more senior colleagues are in the office, learning by osmosis is an under-rated thing. I’ve learned a lot from seeing and hearing how solicitors and partners in the office deal with certain scenarios and I think I’ve benefitted from being able to be in the office more.
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?
At the firm, we have a flexible approach to start/finish times. I have a young family, so on the days I work from home, I’m able to walk my daughter to school and then get back to my desk in the house to start work. I’ll be forever grateful to the firm for that opportunity and I think this is the best example of what I could describe as work/life balance. There are times when deadlines are tight or meetings run on, but such is life as a trainee solicitor or qualified solicitor. I am of the mindset that I’d rather see something through to the end and do a good job. I find my wellbeing will over the course be much better if I put in that extra 5-10% to get something done, even if it takes me a bit of extra time.
11. What is the firm culture like at Anderson Strathern? Do you see yourself working here for the foreseeable future?
I can’t speak highly enough of my experience so far. Everyone at the firm has been so welcoming, helped me develop and wants to see you succeed as a trainee. I would say it’s a very inclusive and encouraging culture. I’d love to stay with the firm if the opportunity presents itself.
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?
Absolutely, the firm has Mental Health First Aiders. We regularly see and are signposted to the relevant resources. We have informal MS Teams catch-ups booked on a regular basis and the firm has a really personable and practicable approach to the wellbeing of everyone at the firm.
13. In your opinion, what are the most important skills required to be a successful trainee?
Flexibility and adaptability. If you’re in a full-service firm, you might be given 4 very different seats over 2 years. Even within a seat, you are likely to be given a variety of different tasks/pieces of work from a variety of sources, so being able to adapt to what the task is and be flexible in how you approach your work will set you up well. In my opinion, you’re also likely to learn more about what you want from a career in law as a result. You might not think that you want to qualify in a particular area initially, but if you’re open to experiencing something new and are adaptable, you’re more likely to enjoy it and may want to do it long term.
14. What advice would you give yourself as a law student looking back now as a trainee in a prestigious law firm?
In my own circumstances, probably make the jump to study law sooner! Trust yourself and forge your own path to law. I was lucky to study alongside people on the part-time LLB who all had unique paths to law and you quickly learn that there’s no one right way of doing things, just be yourself.
15. You began your journey as a trainee in March 2021; do you feel that the pandemic has interrupted your training and growth to become a fully qualified solicitor?
Not really. I was lucky in that I was in my previous job right up until I started with Anderson Strathern and I did enjoy that job. I was used to working with things like MS Teams and having colleagues I didn’t see every day, so was able to adapt a bit more readily. The firm has also provided some really good support and mentoring throughout. I think having started in this manner and not really knowing anything different, it’s been a bit easier.
16. How do you feel about the future of the legal profession? Do you think dealing with clients will become more virtual permanently?
I think that will depend on the client. Some clients love the fact that they can get a meeting with their solicitor virtually and don’t have to travel, etc. On the other hand, some clients love being able to be in the room, see and read faces and interact better that way. I think there’s room for both. I think the legal profession has probably leaped forward 20 years in the space of 2, in terms of interacting digitally, as a result of the pandemic. There’s still work to be done in a number of areas, but I think the profession and its members have adapted fantastically well in the circumstances.
17. How do you stay commercially aware with current events and what would you recommend for students?
I still read newspapers, online and in print. I follow things like Scottish Legal News, various sources on LinkedIn as well as the LSS’ journal and Insider. My firm also shares various sector updates twice weekly and this is a great digest of what’s going on commercially in our areas of work. I’d probably recommend students to get their news and keep up to date with what’s happening in society from as many sources as possible, spanning as many sectors as you can.
18. What is your proudest achievement?
Becoming a parent, without a doubt. I always say that you don’t realise how much spare time you had until you no longer have it. No matter how well I do in my professional career, parenting has and continues to be the most incredible journey. To see the kids grow up is special and it definitely gives you an extra push to succeed.
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 play football and go to the gym quite regularly. I used to do the latter in order to do better at the former, but now that I’m a dad, I go to the gym really to keep up with my daughters. Other than playing football, I spend most of my time with family. In terms of TV, I’ve been watching the Jeen-Yuhs documentary on Kanye West on Netflix and recently re-watched The Wire, which is my all-time favourite series.
20. If you could write a book/film about your life, what would the title be and why?
“Not the Smartest in the Room”. That’s not meant to be as self-deprecating as it sounds. I’ve always lived by the mantra that as soon as you think you’re the smartest in a room, you’re more than likely not. My eldest daughter, who is 5 (going on 15!), already ensures that this is the case anyway.
Interviewed by Sean Doig (President 2021/22). We would like to thank Andrew Richmond for taking the time out of his 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
[For some context, the photo attached with the interview is from the recent Business Fives football tournament in Glasgow, where we fielded a team from Anderson Strathern and raised some cash for our Charity of the Year, Cancer Research UK].