We hear a lot at the minute about the advantages for qualified solicitors of working in-house and in industry. Yet despite this clamour, rarely do you hear about the option of being a trainee solicitor in-house. This option offers all the attractions of any in-house legal position and from a trainee solicitor's perspective, the chance to gain experiences and options you will not find anywhere else.
There are very few corporations with in-house legal departments which offer training contracts. BT is one of the few which do. I had already gained some experience of advising in-house during my vacations while I was an undergraduate and was keen to continue.
What type of training do you get?
My training contract was split into four six-month seats. Each seat was spent with a different legal team advising a particular area of the business. I gained experience in teams advising on internet and e-business services, civil and employment litigation, to BT's overseas ventures and on European Union and competition law. In my third seat I was seconded to Ashurst Morris Crisp, which advises BT on property matters.
In addition to the Law Society structure for training contracts, BT operates an independently assessed and audited management structure to ensure a positive working environment and so if there are any issues these are dealt with quickly. During my training contract, I reported to a supervising solicitor for each seat. Supervision and regular reviews of my progress were also carried out by my training principal Tim Shaw and my mentor Anne Fletcher. This reporting structure also ensures that you are gaining high-quality experience as well as allowing you to contribute to the direction your training contract is taking.
Why go in-house?
The experience you get at BT as a trainee is the best you can get. Here are just some of the reasons why I chose to train in-house:
The size of many in-house legal departments is growing. BT has a large highly-skilled legal department with around 170 lawyers.
Training in-house can put you at the cutting edge of technology, particularly the internet and e-commerce.
Many major companies are now multinational, offering opportunities to work overseas.
There is a lot of cross-team working which allows lawyers to gain experience in a broad range of practice areas.
It is a fast track to developing commercial awareness as lawyers work hand-in-hand with other business divisions to meet commercial ends, rather than simply advising in the abstract.
In-house lawyers may have the possibility of moving into a career in the business.
What can it mean for your career?
Following completion of my training contract last year, I decided to stay with BT, because of the people I work with and the opportunities and challenges I am continually given.
I joined my training principal's team and am advising on a wide range of internet
and e-business matters. BT gives a lot of responsibility to its lawyers at all levels and there are high expectations. However, I would not want anything less.
James Paterson qualified in November with BT.