Name: Anthony Coultas
Firm: Muckle, Newcastle upon Tyne
Position: Second-year (final seat) trainee solicitor
Degree: Law LLB (Hons) Exempting
University: Northumbria University
Hobbies: Fitness and exercise
Current department: Commercial
Number of TC applications made and interviews attended: Dozens and dozens, and 8-10 interviews
Why did you decide to train as a solicitor?
While studying for my GCSEs at secondary school, I began to think about my options upon leaving school. I knew that I was going to go into higher education and, even at that age, my intention was to go to university – I just had to choose a subject area!
I was considering studying law but had no real experience of legal studies at that stage. My next door neighbour, at the time, had a daughter studying a law degree so I spoke with her and was convinced to give law a try at college. I chose law as one of my A level subjects, which I thoroughly enjoyed and (luckily!) did well at academically (six As in six exams, if you’re asking).
I then decided to gain some real-world experience via a Durham criminal law firm between my first and second years at college. This proved to be invaluable and further impelled me towards a legal career.
I quickly knew that law was what I wanted to do at university and began applying for law degree courses before settling on the unique four year exempting degree at Northumbria University.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to secure a training contract?
While I understand that it has never been particularly easy to obtain a training contract, I was rather unfortunate in that, at the exact time I was beginning to apply for training contracts, the world economy decided to implode and the “credit crunch” recession hit.
Whilst this did mean that every interview that I attended had a question about “the impact of the economic recession on the legal profession as a whole”, the negative impact was that, quite simply, there were less training contracts than ever before going around.
This added another layer of competition to the already highly competitive process of applying for training contracts and I think that, during that time, even getting to an interview stage was a struggle.
What was the toughest training contract interview question you were asked (at any firm) and how did you answer?
This might sound like a bit of a cop-out (hopefully not) but I genuinely did not have any particularly tough questions in the sense that I always made sure that I had adequately prepared in advance of each interview I was invited to attend.
Whilst, with hindsight, you can always come up with a better answer than the one you actually gave to the interviewer, I do not, personally, remember any surprises as far as questions were concerned.
That said, I always found the question ”tell us what your weaknesses are” a bit awkward to answer. Not because I am faultless – far from it – but because you don’t really want to expose your weaknesses when you are trying to impress a firm.
Tell us a bit about the type of work handled by the department you’re in at the moment…
I am currently seeing out my training contract in the commercial team, which is the team I will be qualifying into.
My daily workload is varied but consists of reviewing, amending and negotiating the terms of all forms of commercial contracts (e.g. assignments of intellectual property rights, asset purchase agreements, general terms and conditions, merchandising agreements, licences), providing legal advice to client via email, in letter form or verbally, carrying out legal research on specific points of law (including charity law, sports law and company law), attending client meetings and generally assisting the team as much as possible.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?
The role of a trainee solicitor in a thriving commercial law firm is a busy, challenging and engaging one. Every day is different (genuinely) and I often have to work with colleagues in other departments, which helps develop a wider knowledge of the law as a whole.
I thoroughly enjoy meeting clients and being able to assist them with their legal problems, whatever they may be. Receiving positive feedback from a client is always a pleasure.
Being able to go out to schools, colleges and universities to speak with students about my role and the legal profession in general is also something that I enjoy.
What about your job didn’t you expect before you started?
I am not sure that there was anything in particular that I didn’t expect as I was pretty aware of the reality of life in a law firm having had numerous work placements and by speaking to people already working in the profession. However, that said, I think the biggest “culture shock” was getting used to working, at times, long hours. That isn’t necessarily a negative thing as it keeps the job interesting and is, admittedly, a rare occurrence but it did take some getting used to.
Who’s the most recent email in your inbox from, and what’s it about?
My most recent email is an internal one from an associate solicitor in the commercial team instructing me in relation to a piece of client work. I have been given the background to the matter and he has explained what he needs me to do. The work involves reviewing and amending, as appropriate, a supply (of coal) agreement.
I’d best get cracking…
Where’s the best place to go to get your office’s gossip?
The local watering hole – always!
Describe your training partner in three words.
Knowledgeable, supportive and patient.
Tell us two truths and one lie about yourself (in any order).
- I have been in an earthquake (in Greece while on holiday).
- I love Greek food.
- I have never been to Greece.
If you had not decided to become a lawyer, what career would you have chosen?
Truthfully, I have been on the legal career path since the age of about 16 years old so I am not sure what alternative career I would have chosen but I am fascinated by and interested in business so I imagine I would have done a business degree of some type and focused in on that area (quite a vague answer, I know).
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in law?
If you want to pursue it, go do it! In trying to get there, make sure you get as much varied work experience as possible within the legal profession – criminal law, commercial law, shadow a judge, do a mini pupilage with a barrister’s set, volunteer at the local Citizen’s Advice Bureau – it will all count!