Ryan Mitchell | Trainee Solicitor at Morton Fraser
1. Tell us a bit about your background. What university did you attend? What were your favourite/worst subjects in university?
I grew up in North Ayrshire. I studied the LLB at Strathclyde and then transferred to the University of Glasgow to complete the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice. The LLB at Strathclyde was hugely enjoyable. The classes were skewed to provide a more modern perspective and outlook, which was appreciated by many students.
I found competition law and public law to be my favourite subjects whilst at university. My dissertation bridged these two areas and I had great fun writing this. Both subjects piqued my interest, whilst also being useful and ones that I could see myself practicing in in the future.
2. What made you choose to pursue a career in the legal profession?
Honestly, I was never quite sure what I wanted to do with my life. I loved history but wasn’t keen on becoming a teacher. I chose to study law as the degree gives a great amount of flexibility after graduation. I have friends who have since taken roles in banking, the civil service and politics following completion of the LLB which proves how versatile the LLB actually is.
3. You completed your diploma at the University of Glasgow, how did you find the course? Would you recommend applying here to students?
I transferred to the University of Glasgow to complete the diploma mainly to broaden my network. The legal world in Scotland is pretty small, and I felt that attending university with another approximately 200 people, who are almost all going to be working in the profession, wouldn’t be a bad thing.
I would definitely recommend studying the diploma at Glasgow. I loved the course and the feel of the university campus. I particularly enjoyed this year due to the difference in the methods of teaching.
4. Did you find studying at diploma level different to the LLB? What was the biggest challenge you faced during this process?
I found that there was a big difference. I thoroughly enjoyed the practical element of the diploma, and whats expected of you compared to that of the LLB, especially after a year of writing dissertations and over 5000-word essays.
Many comment on the fact that the Diploma at the University of Glasgow does not require any end of semester exams. The preference is continuous assessment, which can take some time getting used to given you are always working toward a particular task each week as opposed to a more typical end of cycle exam period..
5. You are currently completing your traineeship at Morton Fraser. How did you find the application process? Can you give any tips for anyone looking to secure one themselves?
The application process at Morton Fraser is thorough and intensive. It consists of an application followed by two interview stages.
I would say that the interviews themselves weren’t particularly daunting and the feeling was more laid back than you would expect. I attended both our Glasgow office and Edinburgh office to interview, which was a particular highlight. A selection of current trainees is present at the final interview stage who are able to answer any questions, give a tour of the office and generally reassure anyone who might be nervous.
In terms of tips for those applying in the future, I would recommend researching the firms you want to work at and really tailor your applications to give yourself the best chance. Applying to less firms, and spending the additional time perfecting your application, will provide the best results. Also, don’t get yourself down if you aren’t successful – it’s a hugely competitive process.
6. In terms of the traineeship at Morton Fraser more generally, how have you found it? What has been your favourite seat?
I’ve found the traineeship to be a hugely rewarding experience. I worked at Morton Fraser as an assistant in the property team, and then went on to do two six-month seats in our property department. I particularly enjoyed the property seats, firstly working for our Glasgow based pension team and then our Edinburgh based public sector team.
It’s important to mention that as trainees, we are seen as pivotal to the team that we are working in during our seat, providing vital support to senior colleagues on major projects, which in turn, allows us to gain valuable experience. The experience I’ve had has been great and I can’t thank the teams enough for their time and patience these past 18 months.
I’m currently halfway through a seat in commercial litigation, with a focus on insolvency and asset recovery which I am enjoying tremendously. I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn many new skills working with our litigation colleagues including appearing in court on behalf of our clients.
7. Have you had to deal with rejection over the course of your legal career? If so, how did you overcome this?
I applied to go to the University of Glasgow to study the LLB and did not receive an offer. At the time, I knew Glasgow was ranked the best university to study law in Scotland and as such was dejected to find out I would not be completing my LLB there.
As time has passed, I’ve learned that the ranking of the university that you attend is not something that you should concern yourself with and the learning experience at each LLB provider in Scotland will be slightly different and suit different people.
8. After sampling both property and litigation, is there a particular area of law that you would like to go on to do following the completion of your traineeship?
I’m happy to say I have accepted an NQ offer from Morton Fraser to continue working here following the culmination of my traineeship in September 2023. I will be returning to work with our property team in Glasgow.
This team works on general property matters but also has a particular focus on assisting our corporate colleagues with corporate insolvency work where property support is required. As such, the opportunity to work with our commercial litigation team was invaluable for my career.
9. What are your tasks and responsibilities in your traineeship? Do you have the opportunity to work with partners or clients at the firm?
During my three different seats, my responsibilities have shifted depending on the team’s particular needs at the time. My first seat was very transactional, and I found that I would be progressing a larger volume of matters which would involve a lot of drafting of similar documents. In comparison, my second seat had less of a transactional feel, with a focus on matters where the value of the properties was much larger. As such, you got more of a ‘cog in the wheel’ experience working on these transactions, assisting with the drafting and general completion mechanics.
I would find that rather than spearheading a smaller transaction with support from my team, I was providing support to a team in a transaction with a much wider scope. However, throughout my seats, I have consistently taken the lead on crucial tasks and played a vital part in the completion of many matters.
My experience has been wholly positive. I work with senior colleagues and partners regularly on varying tasks and projects whilst retaining a huge amount of client interaction and access. I’ve also been encouraged by colleagues to get involved with business development events and meet clients and contacts to expand my network further in different areas.
10. What is the most rewarding part of your role as a trainee?
The most rewarding role as a trainee has been the ability to work collaboratively with colleagues across the firm on a regular basis. At Morton Fraser, standard practice is to work in a small team within a particular division. However, I find that senior colleagues will request trainee-level support on a regular basis out-with this team and if you have some experience in a particularly niche area you will often be asked to assist by partners.
This collaboration has helped make wider connections within the firm with colleagues I would otherwise not know, nor would they know me.
11. Has covid effected your traineeship? Do you work from home, in office or a combination? Do you think it will have a lasting impact?
I have been in the office the vast majority of the time mainly through personal preference. I started my traineeship in September 2021 and the firm was fully behind ensuring we had as much access to the office as we felt comfortable with. Our offices were opened in a safe manner, allowing the trainees, managers and wider teams to come back to the office.
I’ve found that working in the office, with flexibility within the teams to work from home strikes a great working balance, and also gives the trainees the best opportunity to learn from more senior colleagues in-person.
12. You are passionate about improving social mobility and access to the legal profession, what does this entail?
I grew up in North Ayrshire which has high levels of social deprivation. Access to work experience, information days and the legal profession more generally is difficult and for many this is a barrier to pursuing a career in the law.
I believe that the barriers many face – not just in terms of social mobility but more widely – need to be reviewed, with a view to opening up the profession to everyone who wants the chance. I’ve been involved from the start with our social mobility employee resource group (ERG), which assisted HR in organising the PRIME work experience programme for the first time this summer at Morton Fraser.
13.You have previously written about your experience with the use of RARE software, tell us a bit about this.
RARE’s contextualised recruitment system was trialled at Morton Fraser in 2019 and is now used as a key tool of the recruitment process. The system uses a questionnaire and information in-gathered to highlight those candidates who could be considered out performers amongst their peers. Questions are varied but would include questions like where a person attended high school, whether they received free school meals or were a carer during their studies.
This allows Morton Fraser to select as wide a pool as possible for the final interview stage, where blind interviews take place thereafter. I will add the link below for anyone who wants to access the article for more of a deep-dive in to RARE, how it works and the results.
14. How is your work/life balance as a trainee at Morton Fraser?
My work/life balance is great. It’s impossible to go through university without hearing what sound like horror stories regarding work/life balance as a trainee or junior lawyer. At Morton Fraser, there’s a real emphasis on keeping the work/life balance as favourable as possible.
I am almost never in the office later than 5:30, and if I am required to work late this is hugely appreciated. The firm will also pay for your dinner and a taxi home if necessary.
15. What is the firm culture like at Morton Fraser? Do you see yourself working here in the future?
As I mentioned, I have already accepted an NQ contract at Morton Fraser to start in September 2023. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here so far and was very keen to continue working at Morton Fraser if possible.
The culture is second to none. We work hard every day but are encouraged to explore extracurricular activities, volunteer and take the time to relax and not overdo it.
16. What is your proudest achievement?
Maintaining good grades, whilst working and securing a traineeship all equated to one general achievement that I am very proud of. Juggling work commitments whilst also trying to study and look for traineeships was difficult and I’m sure a familiar situation that many face.
It’s heartening to see that there’s been a focus on the skills a candidate can learn from past working experiences whilst trying to enter the legal profession. I would encourage anyone who has previous work experience no matter what it is, to include this and what they have taken from it whilst they are applying for traineeships.
17. What has been your biggest challenge while entering the legal profession?
I think attending university was a huge culture shock. It was very new and different to my life before – and it took me a while to get used to it. Growing up in a small town on the West coast did not prepare me for life at university.
It was also difficult to deal with a sense of imposter syndrome – there was a feeling that I didn’t quite fit in. Forcing myself to attend events or apply for certain positions was difficult at first and I know there will be many who will feel the same way.
18. Do you have the opportunity to partake in any pro bono work during your traineeship? Is pro-bono encouraged/a priority at Morton Fraser?
We do – I assisted in acting for a large UK charity which supports thousands of homeless people every day during my first seat. Both partaking in pro-bono work and volunteering with our charity of the year are encouraged at Morton Fraser.
Fee earning employees have ‘time targets’ which are abated if you perform charitable work during work hours. Essentially, you can go out and do charity work during work hours without feeling that you are falling behind any sort of target that may be typically set.
19. What is your favourite pastime/hobby to help you unwind?
I love to play golf. Growing up on the west coast, there are an abundance of golf courses within a stone’s throw. I can usually be found on the golf course at the weekend although I can admit that much practice is needed.
Otherwise, watching sports and travelling are my other pastimes.
20. Looking back now, if you could give advice to yourself as a law student what would it be?
I think the best piece of advice I could give myself five years ago would be to be more confident. Speak up in seminars and tutorials, attend mixer evenings and drink receptions. If the university or social club you attend needs volunteers, then get involved. The legal world in Scotland is pretty small and the more you do to make an impression, get to know people and take in as much information as possible will stand you in good stead for when you start looking for traineeships and in your future career.
Interviewed by Kirstin Anderson (President 2022/23). We would like to thank Ryan Mitchell 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 email@example.com.