Matthew Ross, Brabners

Name: Matthew Ross 

Firm: Brabners  

Position: Trainee Solicitor 

Degree: History  

University: University of Liverpool

Hobbies: Football, golf, gym, history and literature  

Current department: Employment 

Number of TC applications made and interviews attended: 15/4

Matthew Ross, Brabners

Why did you decide to train as a solicitor?

I was quite sure that I wanted to pursue a career in law prior to university. I chose to take the conversion route because I wanted to study history at a higher level, and it furnished me with many skills which have helped within law.

In my degree I was encouraged to think independently and creatively, to use lateral thinking when considering an issue, and to challenge conventional ideas but to stay within practical and logical boundaries.

Through work experience and starting the GDL it became apparent that my interests were in commercial law. I possess a keen interest in business and I soon realised that commercial lawyers must understand their client’s market and industry and be able to predict or recognise any developments. Taking a business, and not just legal approach is something I have really enjoyed.  

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

Self-funding the GDL and LPC through a private bank loan increased the pressure to secure a training contract with a reputable firm. I graduated in 2010 and the market was still struggling post-recession. This situation was confounded by the sheer number of applicants per training contract and the odds still remain against perspective candidates. 

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

Tell us about a time when you took a risk and it paid off

This was a question at my Brabners interview and took me off guard as a solicitor is supposed to carefully advise clients on risks and many are notoriously risk adverse. I therefore didn’t want to give an example that could be perceived as a ‘lucky gamble’ as opposed to a considered assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of a decision.

I paused, then said that holding down a part-time job, volunteering, engaging in pro-bono and playing sport during the GDL and LPC could have been detrimental to my grades and therefore a risk. I said that my achievement on these courses show that it paid off, as I was able to maintain the appropriate work life balance. I also emphasised the work ethic required to ‘juggle’ all of the, at times, competing interests.     

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

The department act for a wide range of employers including regional, national and international employers, FTSE 350 clients, household brands, registered social landlords, charities, medium and smaller enterprises. We cover all aspects of both contentious and non-contentious employment law.

In addition to the work with employers, employee clients include a large number senior executives. The Department have acted in a significant number of high profile, high value and complex claims including breach of contract, whistle blowing, discrimination and bonus related claims.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?

I enjoy getting out of the office and meeting our clients. The early business relationship between us and the ‘getting to grips’ with their instructions can often make or break a case or transaction. I particularly enjoy the analysis of a client’s problem and trying to find the most appropriate business solution. 

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

I didn’t expect to work as closely as I do with the firm’s partners. I thought that the work would filter down through other fee earners before finding its way onto my desk. At Brabners I have sat with my supervising partner for one of my seats and worked closely with him on a number of his files. This has given me great experience of his methods and his constructive feedback has greatly improved my work.   

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

It’s an email from an associate in my team with our client copied in. He’s asking me to review our client’s suggested amendments and make changes to a letter I have previously drafted if I think they are necessary.

The letter is very much a ‘first shot across the bows’ in quite a complex employment dispute where our client has several causes of action. It’s a case that I’m really keen to stay involved in and interested to see how it plays out. 

Tell us two truths and one lie about yourself

  • I once teed off and nearly hit Lee Westwood
  • I volunteered for a homelessness charity during the LPC
  • I wrote that Gary Neville was my preferred dinner guest on my Brabners application

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

I’d have liked to start my own business but think I’d still be within professional services, as either a financial consultant or as an accountant. 

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

The most important thing is to know the firm and where it sits within the marketplace. Research is vital, and the majority of the relevant information is available online. It’s then important to tailor your applications to the firm specifically.

The applications are pretty arduous and seem quite repetitive. It’s obviously tempting to copy and paste generic answers but this shows. I think that it is really essential to get a feel for the firm and get across your knowledge of them in your application.