Why did you apply to DLA Piper?
I initially studied a degree in International Relations and Classical studies at St Andrews, before pursuing a graduate entry LLB and DPLP at Edinburgh to convert to law. Throughout my undergraduate degree I was broadly interested in international policy and human rights, and decided to transition to a career in law in order to make the lessons from that degree a bit more concretely applicable (and employable). As a result of that academic background I was particularly interested in international firms offering multi-jurisdictional work and strong pro bono programmes.
DLA Piper’s formidable global reach across a number of sectors offers opportunities for some really interesting work, and the firm has some strong ongoing pro bono partnerships with international NGOs. Strong rankings in practice areas and sectors that were of interest to me also influenced my decision. Between degrees I worked in medical research administration in the US, and the firm’s expertise in life sciences and IP offered me opportunities to leverage that skillset. Varied backgrounds and experiences, both personal and academic, seem to be respected and valued.
I was also particularly impressed by the firm’s presentations at Law Fairs and open days. The people I spoke with were friendly and down to earth, and seemed genuinely interested in discussing their work and developing junior talent. The firm places a lot of value on collaborative and supportive working and on being as inclusive and kind as possible, and I felt this ethos was truly reflected in practice.
Did you complete DLA Piper’s Summer Internship?
I completed the internship two years in advance of my training contract, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. For the first week we were brought to London where we had several talks from senior staff, including one of our Global co-CEOs and the UK Managing Partner, and talks with the heads of different departments to give a little taster of their work and their experience with the firm. I was impressed by the way leadership continued to stress the importance of social responsibility in the regular commercial work of the firm as well as through specific initiatives. We also benefitted from trainings on unconscious bias and a workshop with the pro bono team, among other events.
After this, we had two weeks back in the regional offices - one week per department in mini ‘seat’ rotations. A week doesn’t sound like much, but I did my first rotation in IP, and due to my experience in life sciences and understanding of data protection principles I was able to take on a considerable amount of client work and get heavily involved in the team. My second rotation was in Real Estate, which was a bit more intimidating as I had yet to study property law at the time, but the team was so friendly and welcoming and I was able to assist with some basic drafting and research tasks.
How are you finding your Training Contract?
I completed my first seat in real estate, which is one of the bigger teams in Edinburgh and which offers a really strong training programme. It was a good place to start my traineeship with a lot of support and opportunities to take on responsibility. The scale and value of the projects we get involved in means I can really see a tangible physical impact of my work as I walk around the city (and while travelling further afield).
I’m really enjoying my second seat in Projects at the moment - a lot of the work I’ve been doing with the Edinburgh team focuses on social infrastructure projects like schools and hospitals, and I have been able to assist other offices with energy, infrastructure and defence projects. It’s really interesting large-scale work, with a lot of inter-office collaboration.
Throughout both seats I have had opportunities to contribute to pro bono research projects on topics like conditions for LGBT+ asylum seekers, FGM, and violence against women. I have also stayed involved in Iris, our LGBT+ network, and was very happy to get involved in the launch of our new LGBT+ pro bono unit Iris Represents.
How have you found working in a virtual environment?
Doing the first year of my traineeship virtually was definitely not what I was expecting when I received my offer in 2018 and it’s obviously a bit of a strange way to start a new role, but the teams have been incredibly supportive and understanding – it’s been new for everyone. Remote and flexible working protocols were already well-established pre-pandemic, so we were all sent IT equipment and connected to firm systems pretty seamlessly. Regular meetings to discuss work flow and have a general catch-up have been really helpful to get to know people and feel integrated in your teams.
In some ways working virtually has its benefits, as events and seminars that might previously have been office-specific or limited to conference attendees are now open to wider audiences, and it’s easy to regularly tune in to things. In addition to being able to dial into legal trainings and sector updates, for example on developments in carbon emissions training and sustainable finance, the firm’s ‘people networks’ have also been putting on strong virtual offerings. Our Leadership Alliance for Women put on a fantastic event on combatting imposter syndrome, and we have had opportunities to hear from really impactful speakers like Katie Neeves who spoke about being a better trans ally, and Cephas Williams who offered his reflections one year on from the murder of George Floyd.
DLA Piper is a firm that is committed to always bettering itself and its people. I look forward to continuing to learn and grow with the firm through the remainder of my traineeship and hopefully beyond.