Legal Outlook Trainee Talks Episode 5

Ashurst's trainee talks 5 – transcript

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Transcript



Host:

Hello, and welcome to Ashurst Legal Outlook and our ongoing series where we speak to Ashurst trainees about their journey to the legal profession and their hints and tips for future trainees. In this episode, I speak to Fraser Collingham about his journey from studying law at the University of Nottingham to the trainee programme, following a conversation he had while he was at university with two Ashurst trainees. Join me as we get the inside scoop on what it's like to work as a trainee solicitor at Ashurst. You're listening to Ashurst Legal Outlook. Hi Fraser. Thanks for joining us, throughout these episodes we've been asking everyone about their origin story and today it's your turn. So can you tell me, why did you choose to pursue a career in law?

Fraser:

So I always wanted to get into law and that was something that was always in my main dessert as a potential career. When I was at school, when I was young, I just thought that the scales kind of matched up to what I was good at. So reading and writing and working with people, I was also like interested in politics. And what we do every day is impacted quite a lot by political developments. And yeah. Then I did some work experience design as I got through school and university and realised that this is definitely something I would like.

Host:

Were there any people or influences in your life that sort of steered you in the direction of law or people that you sought counsel from?

Fraser:

Yeah. Well, my parents are both actually lawyers as well, so I kind of had an idea of what it was like in the profession, but they don't do corporate law, they do family law and property. And so they were probably the biggest influencers.

Host:

Where did you end up studying your law degree?

Fraser:

So I studied at the University of Nottingham in the Midlands.

Host:

How was the process of studying? Did you, did you enjoy it? Did anything surprise you or was it all as you expected?

Fraser:

It definitely surprised me how difficult it was. It was really hard at times. The work you got from school where you're doing really well and everything to uni where they mark a bit more harshly and people are coming out with marks and [inaudible 00:02:30] and thinking what's gone wrong, but it was, it was really enjoyable to do and very interesting.

Host:

So after your law degree, tell me, what did you do then? Did you go straight into the profession or did you sort of have a gap year?

Fraser:

Yeah, I had a year out. My kind of pathway in was I did a year abroad in Australia during my studies. So that kind of threw the timing of when you apply into kind of a bit of disruption. So it's like, oh, I don't know when to apply. So then I applied after I graduated that was in 2017 and of course we hire two years in advance, so that would be a 2019 start. And I had had the LPC study for one year, then the other year, I just had blank so I could do what I want after that. So I just worked in Scotland, saved up some money to help with the studies.

Host:

What did you do in Australia during your gap year?

Fraser:

I mostly travelled, so I was in Paris on the West Coast most of the time and yeah, I won't lie it wasn't much work, it was a lot of travelling, meeting new people seeing the amazing sites there.

Host:

Amazing weather, amazing wine. Yeah. Perth is a wonderful city. So tell me, how was the application process with Ashurst to the training programme? Can you talk through that?

Fraser:

I found the application process quite straightforward back then. I only had to write a cover letter after that, it was straight to an interview with a partner and with HR. And of course that's not the process now because there's tests and things. But for me it was great because I was the only one there on the assessment day for my interviews. So it didn't feel like I was up against 500 other people it was just me and them. And I really liked that.

Host:

So why Ashurst, why did you decide to apply with Ashurst?

Fraser:

So it all started in my second year of university. I went to this career's event, and it was a dinner, it was three course meal and you got to choose a law firm to have dinner with. So I had a list and I didn't really know anything about them, and I thought oh I'll pick this one Ashurst. So I went to the dinner and there were two Chinese there and we just got chatting and they really impressed me. They were just telling me about all their amazing work from [Dodson 00:05:04] , how the people are so nice and encouraged me to apply. So I did.

Host:

Can you describe what it's like working at Ashurst?

Fraser:

It's a very relaxed working culture. Everyone's very supportive of each other and, we encourage sharing ideas and views and, phoning up another team if you need their help. So, that's the kind of internal side. And then there's the client side, which is working here is very much but providing excellent service to clients. It surprised me when I first started just how high the work product is. So everything gets checked a million times and it needs to be as good as it can possibly be. So that's something that I've definitely learned as I've gone along. I'm in my fourth seat now. So I'm coming to the end of the training contract.

Host:

Do you have any idea of what you're wanting to do after the traineeship?

Fraser:

Yeah, so I applied to the dispute resolution department for a qualified position and thankfully I have been that accepted. So, that's great news.

Host:

Fantastic. Congratulations. You described a couple of early influences when you were speaking with the trainees at the time and the good vibes you got from them. How has that extended now that you're within the organisation, what does the culture look like now?

Fraser:

The culture now is great. I didn't really expect to be friends with any of my colleagues because they're work people, but actually everyone gets along really well. And I've got stuck into organising quite a lot of events for trainees, because we have a social committee and we organise events. So this month we've got some drinks happening on the office terrace, which is great and just gives everyone a chance to get to know each other really well.

Host:

Absolutely. So compare that sort of culture with what it would've been like during lockdown. Can you sort of describe in terms of your day to day, what that looked like and compare it to now?

Fraser:

Yeah. That was really challenging to be kind of working just in isolation by yourself. And as a trainee, you don't really know how to do anything. So every day you're getting a new task you've never done before and you really need that guidance and support, and normally in the office, you just turn to supervisor and you'd say, "what is this?" But it's a bit different in lockdown because it's really on the trainee to pick up the phone and reach out to associates and people in the team and say, "hi, I'm stuck, can you help me?" And I think that's a lot harder than being in the office and it comes naturally when you're all in the same room.

Host:

Do you think you learned anything from that lockdown experience?

Fraser:

Yeah I think, number one, it's always better to ask more questions and get the work right in the end, even if that takes longer, because you don't want to be submitting something that is wrong or it's got missing bits in it. Because that's not good for your reputation. So I've definitely learned that you should just pick up the phone and you should email and you should annoy people as much as possible, if that gets the work done better.

Host:

Have you now moved to a hybrid model of work as in, are you in the office all the time now or do you still like to work from home?

Fraser:

Yes we are in a hybrid model now. So you can kind of choose how often you comment at the moment. And then I think the firm is planning to try and get people to take a blended approach where we come in half the week and stay home half the week, but it's very much on the individual to choose how they do that.

Host:

So now that you'll be working within the dispute resolution team, what are your hopes and dreams for the future?

Fraser:

Yeah. So it's a funny time because you go through school and university and you have all these plans, I'm going to do my degree, I'm going to apply for training contracts, then I'm going to do that. And then you kind of get to the stage and you think, wow, I've managed to achieve that. So now what do I do? And you're kind of starting from scratch again and thinking about what your goals are. So, I mean, long-term, it would be great to get in the Chambers Hall of Fame for dispute resolution. But I think just now, like my goals would just be to build up a really solid career as an associate and just be as [inaudible 00:10:02] and get as much experience as I can.

Host:

What do you like to do outside of work?

Fraser:

Well, I do like to see my friends and go out a lot, but that's not been possible due to lockdown, it's been more quiet activities, going out for walks, reading, but I do normally like doing a lot of travelling, going on hikes, sitting outdoors, going to wineries, got to do that in Australia.

Host:

Knowing what you know now, what sort of advice would you give a future trainee with Ashurst?

Fraser:

For applying to the training contract, it's the actual process, go to as many events and meet as many people as you can because it's those personal connections and meeting those people that they get you that insight to the front of that you just can't get by reading the website. And it's really crucial to, to do that. And for the actual application form, I would say, make sure that none of the sentences can apply to another law firm. It needs to be really specific, really detailed. If you can replace a sentence with another firm's name, then that's not going to cut it they won't like that. It needs to be super detailed.

Host:

If there was something that you know now that you wish you did before you applied for the Ashurst traineeship, what would it be?

Fraser:

I think, I just want to know that it's not too difficult, you can do it. And the work will seem very strange and difficult at times, but actually everyone's in that position and it's just a process of working with your team and learning constantly. And you can do it. And then...

Host:

So Fraser, I'd like to know is particularly as your mum and dad worked within family law, how do you think law can benefit broader society?

Fraser:

So when I hear that, I immediately think of all the kind of pro bono work that Ashurst does and all the corporate and social responsibility work we do. I'm currently on this case, which is to help an asylum seeker to apply for lawful leave, to remain. So that's an application to the home office here, and this is someone who's gone through an extremely difficult life. And it's great to be able to do that. And the firm really supports us to do that. It's really interesting work. And at the same time we run lots of workshops. So before COVID we did one for lonely elderly people, we would invite them into the office and we would run art workshops with them like jewellery making. And yeah, these kinds of things are really great, it's great that the firm can support you and encourage you to get involved in these initiatives.

Host:

All right. It's so important, isn't it? Are there any other highlights so far during your time at Ashurst?

Fraser:

So I think the highlight was actually in my first week of the training contract, that was when I was fresh-faced new to the job first weekend. And that's when Thomas Cook collapsed and I was in the restructuring team. So the core team, and I didn't have a clue how to do anything, but it was manic. We had people in the team getting sent out to airports across the country and it was all systems go. And it was a few late nights eating sushi in the boardrooms, but it was great fun.

Host:

Fantastic. Fraser thank you very much for your time.

Fraser:

Thank you.

Host:

Thank you for listening. To hear more Ashurst podcasts, including our dedicated channel on all things ESG, please visit ashurst.com/podcasts. To ensure you don't miss future episodes, subscribe now on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or your favourite podcast platform, while you're there, please feel free to keep the conversation going and leave us a rating or review. Thanks again for listening and goodbye for now.

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