Nationwide Building Society in-house trainee Christian Fleischmann says that those wishing to pursue a career in-house should consider joining an organisation in a non- or quasi-legal role.
Name: Christian Fleischmann
Firm: Nationwide Building Society
Position: Trainee solicitor
Degree: LLB (Hons) (by distance learning)
Universities: Nottingham Trent University
GDL or LPC: LPC (part-time)
Hobbies: Walking, climbing, motorcycling and skiing
Department/field: Group Legal & Compliance Advice
Why did you decide to train as a solicitor? I was working in the compliance department of a credit card issuer and wanted to study a university degree. I enrolled on an LLB and got the bug.
Why did you choose to train in-house? I’d worked in financial services for 10 years before my training contract. Training in-house has enabled me to capitalise on my experience and qualify as a solicitor.
What has been the highlight of your training contract so far? There have been so many, but watching two leading QCs battle it out at the Court of Appeal tops the list.
What does your typical day involve? My current seat is with our treasury legal team. The work is technical and document heavy, which means plenty of reading and drafting – and the occasional headache.
Tell us a bit about the type of work handled by the legal department at Nationwide? It’s a big department. We advise on niche areas like consumer credit and building society law through to more common practice areas including commercial, property and employment law.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job? I have a personal interest in financial services regulation, so helping Nationwide deal with the many challenges presented by sweeping financial sector reforms has been really interesting.
What are the worst aspects of your job? Admin, admin, admin… Unlike a law firm, administrative support is not an “on tap” resource. Organisational skills are crucial.
What do you believe is the biggest misconception of training in-house? That it’s a soft option. We are essentially a free resource, so our clients do not hesitate to use us – often by visiting our desks without notice!.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in-house? Consider joining an organisation in a non- or quasi-legal role. Work hard and seek opportunities to show your potential. Be prepared to study the LPC and work full-time.
What are the biggest pitfalls students should try to avoid when pursuing a legal career? Spending thousands of pounds on the LPC without having secured a training contract. It’s a brave move in today’s world.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to secure a training contract? Convincing the General Counsel to offer me a training contract. Although I was working in the legal department at the time, the original plan was to recruit only two trainees. Two became three.
What are the common attributes of successful candidates? Intellectual capacity, resilience and versatility. Attitude is also important: it’s not just what you do it’s also how you do it. Remember to balance self-confidence with humility.