We caught up with Helin, a trainee solicitor from Macfarlanes, to find out more about her experiences with the firm. She shares insights into her role and gives her top advice for anyone thinking of following in her footsteps.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your career background?
I’m a fourth seat trainee in Macfarlanes’ litigation and dispute resolution practice area. My previous seats include real estate, corporate and M&A and private client.
Before joining Macfarlanes, I studied law at the University of Bristol. I applied directly for the training programme in the summer before my final year. After my undergraduate, I completed the Macfarlanes LPC at BPP.
What stood out to you about Macfarlanes when applying for opportunities?
Three main things stood out to me about Macfarlanes and ultimately prompted my application.
The first was its size and its culture. Whilst competing in the same arena as various multinational firms for multi-million pound deals, Macfarlanes has a single central office in London, with a smaller team in Brussels. Rather than expanding into various jurisdictions like its competitors, Macfarlanes takes a distinctly international approach, whereby it forms relationships with leading local firms in other jurisdictions who are specialists in a particular field. This not only allows the firm to be flexible in who it approaches but also means the clients get the best possible advice. From a cultural perspective, the firm’s size has created a very tight-knit community, where people across different practice groups have a sense of belonging to the firm, developing a very “big but small” feel.
The second was the breadth of practice areas. Being able to experience both market-leading international private client work and multi-million-pound corporate transactions all in one training programme provides a unique diversity of high-quality work. This, I knew, would not only help me develop a broader range of skills throughout my training contract but also help me make a better-informed choice as to where I would like to qualify.
The final thing, and something I appreciate most as a trainee, is the attitude Macfarlanes has towards its trainees. At Macfarlanes, trainees are viewed as the future of the firm, and the firm therefore truly invests in their development. The training, attention and responsibility given to trainees are second to none. From the very first day, you feel like you’re a part of the firm and are valued for every contribution you make.
What is a ‘normal day’ like in your role?
I like to start my day between 8:30 – 8:45am. Typically, I have a rough idea of what I need to get done as I prepare my to-do lists the day before but will first flick through my emails to see if anything has come in overnight.
As I’m currently towards the start of my seat, I have a training session during the day; in my current practice area , these tend to be around lunchtime.
I will also usually have a catch up with one of my supervisors; Macfarlanes now operates a dual-supervisor scheme where each trainee has two supervisors in each seat. This is a great initiative that gives trainees greater exposure to the type of work done in the practice area. In my case, I catch-up with my supervisors on alternate days.
Can you give some examples of the variety of work you’ve been involved in so far?
The variety of work I’ve engaged with has been vast. This is primarily because everybody at the firm is extremely receptive to shaping your seat around the types of matters you’re most interested in and the skills you want to develop.
During my real estate seat, I got involved in matters on both ends of the scale, from portfolio sales and large development projects to more bespoke drafting of leases and licences.
This variety continued in my corporate and M&A seat, where I worked on various public and private deals, as well as more intra-group restructurings.
My private client seat involved a range of pre-arrival planning advice for people coming into the UK, pre-departure planning advice for people leaving the UK, more general estate and succession planning, cross-border analysis of tax treaties and other cross-border tax questions.
What training did Macfarlanes provide during the training programme?
The primary goal for Macfarlanes at the outset of the training programme is to ensure that, by the end of the two years, Macfarlanes trainees operate at a level equivalent to a one- or two-year PQE elsewhere. For this reason, Macfarlanes puts a considerable amount of emphasis on training and development, and this is evident throughout the programme’s duration.
In terms of formal training, at the start of each seat rotation, the specific practice areas run a series of development sessions, aimed at introducing the key areas of work done in the group. Each practice area as well as the firm itself hold education updates on key developments or niche areas of law, which provide further exposure to key issues. On top of this, the firm provides us with a host of training focused on building “soft skills”, including presenting, time management, writing and proofreading, amongst many others.
However, as vital as I find the formal training to be, to me, the truly impressive side of the education provided to trainees at Macfarlanes is the informal training. At Macfarlanes, trainees are expected to hit the ground running from day one. We are given an incredible amount of responsibility. Whilst this can seem daunting at first, it’s the level of exposure you’re given which really helps you to challenge yourself and grow.
Additionally, the firm ensures you feel fully supported throughout; whenever I’ve had a question, there has always been someone happy to help.
How would you describe the culture at Macfarlanes?
Hardworking, inclusive and centred around kindness.
What piece of advice would you give to someone who is thinking of applying to Macfarlanes?
Research the firm. Whilst every firm has its own quirks, Macfarlanes is notably very different in its operation compared to many of its competitors. This means a lack of research often shows easily and can be interpreted as a key indicator of a lack of genuine interest in the firm.
Be enthusiastic, show that you are willing to learn and be kind. Ultimately, Macfarlanes wants hard-working people who are up for a challenge but also people they would like to work with.
Like what you hear? Discover more about Macfarlanes on their profile here.