Why aspiring lawyers should seriously consider in house training contracts

After completing a law degree and LPC LLM, Catherine McGrath joined a large city legal practice in Leeds as a paralegal. When it came to deciding where to complete her training contract, she knew she wanted a more hands on commercial role. 

“Having had work experience in an in house environment at university I knew how much I enjoyed the business side of law and getting to know the organisation I was working for,” says Catherine.

“The work I was carrying out at the law firm felt remote from the clients and I was concerned about the lack of flexibility to move between department on qualification and carrying out the same routine tasks.”

Catherine decided to apply for an in house paralegal role with a technology company in Harrogate. She started working at IDHL in 2016 and has never looked back.

After taking the role at IDHL, she was introduced to James Haddleton at Haddleton Legal, a firm that specialises in supporting in-house legal teams. James offered to support Catherine and she has worked alongside him throughout her training contract with IDHL. She is now a fully qualified solicitor.

Practical commercial experience

Catherine’s work initially involved compliance work and confidentiality agreements and she quickly moved on to wider commercial work and intellectual property.

“The experience I have had at IDHL is far more in-depth and interesting than anything I would have been involved in if I had trained at a law firm. I have gained a real understanding of the dynamics of a business and have developed a level of commercial awareness that allows me to apply my legal knowledge in a very practical and purposeful way,” Catherine explains.

“Having James on hand to support and advise me has allowed me to take on far more complex work than a trainee would normally be entrusted with and this has fast-tracked my learning tremendously. I feel as if I am much further ahead in my career having completed my training contract in house rather than with a law firm.”

Trainee mentoring

Throughout her training contract, Catherine kept a detailed work diary and had weekly and monthly meetings with James.

“James set me regular legal learning objectives and made sure I was covering all the competencies I needed to satisfy my qualification,” says Catherine.

“I love the variety of in house work and the fact that I am required to respond to whatever issues arise. I feel really involved in the business and I hope my role will grow as the business expands.”

Haddleton Legal is a unique law firm with a team that is almost entirely made up of former and current experienced in house lawyers. The firm works closely with the BPP in Leeds to offer supervision  to law students who opt to complete their training within a business environment rather than within a law firm.

Business benefits

There are clear benefits for students but the advantages for businesses are huge.

“Small and medium sized businesses can have the benefit of a full-time lawyer on their team with a senior in house lawyer from Haddleton Legal on call to support them with any issues that might arise, however complex. In effect, they are getting two lawyers for the price of one and are saving on law firm fees.

“This is an ideal situation for growing businesses who will really benefit from the level of advice they will be receiving on issues such as GDPR, compliance, employment contracts and IP.

“Larger firms can boost their in house legal team by offering training contracts and mentoring the students themselves so that they can enjoy the benefit of having someone brought up understanding that business.”

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