Name: Michael Duffy

Firm: Boodle Hatfield

Position: Trainee solicitor

Degree: Law

University: University of Cambridge (St. Catharine’s College)

Hobbies: Languages (German), European history and travel

Current department: Family

Number of TC applications made and interviews attended: 9/6

Why did you decide to train as a solicitor?

I studied law at university and initially didn’t actually think I wanted to be a solicitor. I enjoyed the academic side of my degree but the practice areas of many of the lawyers that were trying to recruit from Cambridge didn’t interest me (or were, as a student, too unrelatable at that point in life for me to be interested in them). I then started studying family law and law focussing on individuals. That allowed me to apply the law to much more relatable situations and help others using the problem solving skills I learnt in my degree.

I really enjoyed discussing and relating to others’ problems and how to resolve them and that’s when I realised that I did want to be a solicitor.

What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to secure a training contract?

There are a finite number of places and you are competing against a lot of other students, post-graduates and career changers, each with different backgrounds and at different stages of life. There’s a lot of competition and you have to make yourself stand out for the right reasons, within the confines of answering very similar standardised questions, e.g., “why law?”

What was the toughest training contract interview question you were asked (at any firm) and how did you answer?

“If you could go forwards or backwards in time, would you go forwards or backwards? Why?”

This was difficult because I didn’t expect it and hadn’t prepared for it. I knew the interviewer was just trying to gauge my personality but found it difficult because I felt pressured to say something profound. In the end I said I would go back to my childhood and leave myself a list of dos and don’ts – some serious and some less so. The interviewer seemed to like it as it gave me the chance to speak more about myself.

Tell us a bit about the type of work handled by the department you’re in at the moment

The bread and butter are applications for financial remedies on divorce, i.e., bringing or defending claims about who is entitled to what/how much on divorce. There’s a lot of court work and also a lot of negotiation between solicitors about how potential settlements should be structured.

Child contact disputes, international enforcement of orders, cohabitation disputes (disputes between former non-married partners) and pre- and post-nups are also standard work in the department.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?

It’s a bit cheesy, but it is rewarding when a client is happy with your work. Finishing a technical piece of drafting is also oddly satisfying. 

What about your job didn’t you expect before you started?

The non-legal elements. In every discussion or speech on training contract applications I was always told to show commercial awareness. It was always framed in the context of giving commercially focussed legal advice to clients, but there was less attention on the need to be commercial in terms of growing and contributing to your firm as a business. Engaging with PR, marketing and developing my own business acumen has been an unexpected but interesting aspect of my training contract.

Who’s the most recent email in your inbox from, and what’s it about?

An email from the Solicitors Regulation Authority, telling me that they are admitting me as a solicitor. 

Where’s the best place to go to get your office’s gossip?

I’m not giving away my sources. 

Describe your training partner in three words.

A good guy!

Tell us two truths and one lie about yourself (in any order).

  • I’m a Capricorn.
  • I was born in the Chinese year of the Goat.
  • I like celery.

If you had not decided to become a lawyer, what career would you have chosen?

When I started university I wanted to become a EU civil servant…

What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in law?

Be prepared to work hard and for people to rely on you to advise on some of the most important decisions in their life/their business. Perhaps most importantly, think of the practice area/sector that interests you and that you want to work in: being a lawyer in one field can be very different from being a lawyer in another field.