He concluded that he would, but that the marketplace for young lawyers today is very different from the one he entered. There's less than a month now until the application deadline for 2015 training contracts at MF, and the new first year trainees will be starting even sooner than that. Meanwhile, as we second years are faced with the daunting prospect of the post-qualification world, I couldn’t help wondering the same. If I could wind the clock back to my graduation day in 2011, standing in the quadrangle, glass of fizz in hand and gown billowing in that wonderful West of Scotland wind, would I still decide to become a lawyer? Perhaps more importantly, how are you actually meant to decide?
It might seem obvious to say that, if you liked studying law, you should become a lawyer; but I don't agree. Legal practice is very different to study. Whereas whilst studying you're trying to find the "correct" answer to legal problems, in practice your goal is to represent your client and achieve the result they want - although of course you're limited by professional rules and your duties to the profession and the court. Enjoying studying law is a fairly good sign that you'll be good at practice, but that's very much a rebuttable presumption (boom-boom!).
A much better way to make the decision is to get yourself some legal work experience. Employers are always pleased to see that on an application form, because it shows you have at least some idea what you're getting yourself into. Volunteering at a CAB or a law clinic, doing a structured summer placement, shadowing a lawyer or even just working as an office junior are all ways of finding out what goes on in a firm and what's likely to be expected of you. It might also help to shatter some illusions you might have about what the job involves.
And illusions about legal practice aren't hard to come by, TV dramas being the main offender. I've been trying to figure out though, if the MF trainee experience were a television programme, which one it would be.
Perhaps it would be working in the offices of Kavanagh WS, the heroic criminal defence barrister having moved north of the border, transferred into the Scottish solicitors' profession, and set up a hot-shot commercial firm. Kavanagh was viciously intelligent, and focused on his clients' needs, as you should be. But while there are quite a few lawyers at Morton Fraser commanding the same level of experience, skill and respect as Kavanagh, something tells me his maverick style might not suit him to the Law Society's rigorous requirements for trainees.
If not that, then how about The Bonnie Wife, starring Elish Florrick, Donalda Lockhart and Oor Wullie Gardner? Morton Fraser certainly has a healthy complement of women lawyers: in fact when you crunch the numbers there are actually slightly more women than men. We're not as grumpy as Alicia always seems to be though; there are plenty of previous blogs in this series that show what a sociable bunch we are. The attorneys at Lockhart Gardiner jump from corporate deals to murder investigations almost as if the writer didn't know anything about what being a lawyer is actually like. The trainee experience is a bit like that with the different seats, but you only actually jump four times and I can guarantee you'll not be asked to cover up any murders. Everyone else can be played by whichever character they like, but I call Cary. Non-negotiable.
So, as the application deadline creeps forward, how do you decide whether the law is for you? Talk to people you know who've gone down that road - or who've decided not to - and find out what their motivations were. Are they happy with their decision? Would they make the same one again? If you've done some work experience, did you enjoy it? If you did mooting at university, did you win? Make sure you know not just whether you want to do it, but why, because you'll be asked that too. Whatever you do…don't just base it on what you've seen on the box.