I thoroughly enjoyed my original degree but always felt there was a limit to the amount of practical use to which I could put what I had learned. Because I studied in Scotland I was able to take law classes in my final year.
Name: Mary Gilmore-Maurer
Firm: CMS Cameron McKenna
Position: Trainee solicitor
Degree: Social Anthropology with Development
University: Edinburgh University
Where did you study the GDL and/or the LPC? University of Sussex (GDL)/Inns of Court School of Law (LPC)
Hobbies: Running, cycling, hiking, reading and drawing
Why did you decide to train as a solicitor?
I thoroughly enjoyed my original degree but always felt there was a limit to the amount of practical use to which I could put what I had learned. Because I studied in Scotland I was able to take law classes in my final year. I finally found a subject that is not only academic but can also be put to practical use no matter which area of the law you are interested in.
Why did you choose commercial law?
I have good friends who work in other areas of law and I realised early on that my personality is more suited to commercial law. At university I worked at an investment bank, which set me off down the commercial route. I enjoy the process of a commercial transaction and find commercial litigation extremely exciting.
What has been the highlight of your training contract so far?
I would say that being on client secondment was a truly amazing experience. I was very pleased with the amount of improvement in technical skill and self-confidence I had experienced by the end of it. Although there will always be lots more to learn, it is a great feeling to suddenly realise that you can do certain types of legal work independently.
What does your typical day involve?
I do not tend to have the same day twice. Two weeks ago I helped with a transaction that involved the purchase of a large gas field in the North Sea. Last week I drafted a guide on renewable energy in the UK. One thing that does occur more regularly is that the trainees update the rest of the team daily on current events in the energy sector. Each week the trainees are also encouraged to meet up and chat about their work. This is a good way to find out how everyone is getting on.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?
I enjoy the variety of my work. Everyday a new problem or issue arises. Camerons also encourages pro bono work. It is a great way of learning about an entirely different area of law. Currently I am researching the legal aid systems of various jurisdictions.
What are the worst aspects of your job?
As I am just about to start my final seat, the feeling that I am coming closer to qualifying and will be expected to know what I am doing is quite daunting. There is always that small sense of comfort in the knowledge that you are a trainee. On a practical level it is also a very difficult and competitive time to qualify.
What’s the biggest misconception of the legal profession?
That lawyers are all the same type of people. I have worked with people who have interests ranging from archaeology and ancient civilisations to cricket and train spotting. People’s interests strongly influence how they approach their work.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in law?
Make sure you do your homework on the area of law you want to work in. Can you get excited about a certain area of law, enough to get through the difficult times when you are unsure of what you are doing or do not have enough hours in the day to get all your work done. Can you still be a good team player late at night or would you rather be in your bed?
What are the biggest pitfalls students should try to avoid when pursuing a legal career?
Applications should be catered to each firm you apply to. Firms and interviewers can usually tell if you are regurgitating the same line every time. If you do a vacation placement, be as keen as you possibly can be, even when you think no one is paying attention.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to secure a training contract?
The current market for training contracts is very different to the one in which I applied. However, one challenge that remains is getting enough practical experience beforehand to help your application but also give you hands-on experience and commercial awareness.
What are the common attributes of successful candidates?
Be yourself and find something to talk about in the interview that you are genuinely interested in. My interview was more of a conversation about legal and other topics than just a question-and-answer session. You can only get to that point with thorough preparation. Know the firm, know the market, know yourself and whatever you do, keep persisting.