Commercial Solicitor at Royal Mail
I ended up in law after completing my History degree. I realised that most people who study this subject either end up in politics, teaching or law and of the three, I decided that law was probably my preference.
"Studying and working at the same time is not something I would recommend to someone lightly. It took a lot of grit and determination to get through those years"
I spent the following five years studying both the Graduate Diploma in Law and the Legal Practice Course part-time whilst working, with a much-needed years’ break between; I initially worked at the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing and later at LexisNexis. Studying and working at the same time was hard going, I had to use most of my annual leave across those years for studying, and to attend my exams. Plus, most of my salary went towards paying for the courses, I was only able to afford it because I lived at home with my parents. Studying and working at the same time is not something I would recommend to someone lightly. It took a lot of grit and determination to get through those years, and whilst I may have only ‘passed’ those courses, I am very proud of my achievement.
The time commitment of working and studying simultaneously did not provide much time to apply for training contracts. However, I had roughly a couple of months after my LPC exams to make applications, before the deadline for training contracts. As I was still writing my masters dissertation, I stuck to just two: one for Gowlings WLG LLP (“Gowlings”) and another for Royal Mail Group Limited (“Royal Mail”), and treated them as additional pieces of coursework which I would keep returning to. After a series of online tests and interviews, I was offered a training contract with Royal Mail, coincidentally just as I was walking out of the final assessment centre with Gowlings.
The in-house legal team at Royal Mail is unusually large and consists of approximately fifty people. This meant that I was able to do traditional seat rotations between the different legal teams, which are based across several offices and also completed a six month Disputes seat with one of our panel firms: Hebert Smith Freehills LLP. My training principal, who is one of our Assistant General Counsels, checked in with me once a month and I would send across a copy of my training record every fortnight. I also had fortnightly meetings with my seat supervisor throughout my training.
I started off in our Strategic Transactions team which covers both Technology and Corporate Law, and also took on a lot of Data and Privacy related work, as we were reviewing all our terms in the run up to the General Data Protection Regulation coming into effect. The logistics industry involves a lot of technology to function, so I spent a considerable amount of time looking at various software license agreements and also sat in on negotiations with one of our largest software suppliers. Following this, I did a seat with our Property team. Royal Mail owns one of the largest property portfolios in the UK; we roughly have about 2,000 leasehold and freehold properties, and have 115,500 post boxes across the UK as part of our Universal Service Obligation. This generates a considerable amount of property and planning work!
"I had a very varied training contract to say the least and did not even cover all the areas of law that our in-house legal function advises on."
After my Property seat, I went on secondment and then came back to a seat in our Commercial Transactions team. The Commercial team look after everything from international and procurement related agreements, to our wholesale and retail contracts. I primarily worked on our retail contracts with mid to large customers. I also did a brief seat in our Criminal Law team, who deal with theft, revenue protection, money laundering and fraud cases, as well as a lot of dog bites incidents.
I had a very varied training contract to say the least and did not even cover all the areas of law that our in-house legal function advises on. I was also fortunate enough to be in a non-hierarchical environment, where the business viewed me as another member of the legal team and was therefore handed lots of responsibility. I also got further scope to work more independently as I progressed through my training and grew more confident in my abilities.
"I am very pleased about my decision to train in-house and definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a more commercial training experience with lots of responsibility and client contact!"
There are a lot of pros to training in-house, but it is worth bearing in mind that as the recruitment number for in-house training contracts are typically small i.e. one or two, you are unlikely to have to a wide group of peers to share your training experience with. I have made some wonderful friends whilst studying, on secondment and through networking, but it would probably have been easier to meet peers if I had worked in the same firm as them. There was also more onus placed on me to further my learning by finding suitable seminars and Practical Law or LexisNexis articles to read. Whilst I enjoyed having the flexibility to choose learning that was both of interest to me and topical, this may not suit everyone.
Following my training contract, I qualified into our Commercial Transactions team. I can honestly say that I am very pleased about my decision to train in-house and definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a more commercial training experience with lots of responsibility and client contact!