Opt­ing to go to the coun­try was the best de­ci­sion of my ca­reer to date

Oban lawyer Bil­lie Kirkham urges other trainee solic­i­tors to fol­low her ex­am­ple and con­sider their fu­tures in ru­ral ar­eas such as Ar­gyll

The Oban Times - - Business -

I’M NOW about one year into my trainee­ship with MacPhee and Part­ners and have spent the ma­jor­ity of my time work­ing in our pri­vate client depart­ment.

In June last year, I made an im­por­tant and dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion to move home to Oban af­ter com­plet­ing the Diploma in Pro­fes­sional Le­gal Prac­tice at the Univer­sity of Ed­in­burgh.

I had been work­ing with a firm in Ed­in­burgh through the diploma and had in­tended on stay­ing with them to com­plete my trainee­ship but some­thing didn’t quite fit. I’m from Oban and I didn’t re­ally set­tle in Ed­in­burgh, hav­ing al­ways been a home bird and yet, un­til I was con­tacted by MacPhee, I had not once con­sid­ered mov­ing home so soon.

Why? This is some­thing I’ve spent time think­ing about.

De­spite feel­ing as though a com­mer­cial trainee­ship based in the city was not some­thing I would nec­es­sar­ily en­joy, I did what every­one else in my class was do­ing in third year and ap­plied to work for the names which I had seen dot­ted around cam­pus and men­tioned by lec­tur­ers.

For ob­vi­ous rea­sons, uni­ver­si­ties en­cour­age stu­dents to ap­ply for these trainee­ships but what do you do if that life­style just isn’t for you?

I was for­tu­nate enough to have a num­ber of won­der­ful pro­fes­sors to turn to who of­fered some ex­cel­lent ad­vice.

Be­fore that, when I was read­ing trainee blogs and univer­sity grad­u­ate publi­ca­tions with a view to dis­cov­er­ing where I might fit into the le­gal world, there was a gap in the me­dia. I’m hop­ing to fill that gap, even just marginally, and ex­plain why, if you don’t see your­self in one of those firms, you should con­sider think­ing out­side the box.

I’ve sum­marised the three main rea­sons why I think grad­u­ates should con­sider mov­ing to ru­ral ar­eas.


It’s im­por­tant to es­tab­lish a bal­anced life­style and I don’t see any rea­son for not start­ing this in your ju­nior years. To main­tain a healthy and pos­i­tive at­ti­tude at work, it’s es­sen­tial you take time to de­velop out­side in­ter­ests.

I love be­ing out­doors and I have two dogs. Ob­vi­ously, city life made things dif­fi­cult for me in this re­spect. I would fin­ish work and have to sit on the mo­tor­way for an hour or so be­fore I could reach ter­rain which wasn’t paved. Now I jump over my gar­den fence. On my lunch hour I will ei­ther go home to take the dogs for a walk or, de­pend­ing on the day’s cof­fee in­take, go for a run to the beach.

When I first started my trainee­ship, I was tempted to work through lunch but this was soon ad­dressed by my su­per­vi­sors.

Now that I have a bet­ter han­dle on my time man­age­ment, I’m grate­ful this was men­tioned be­fore it be­came a habit. I’ve been meet­ing clients, un­su­per­vised, for four or five months now and have been manag­ing my own caseload for more than eight. I am re­spon­si­ble for over­see­ing my fees and for manag­ing my work­load to meet fee tar­get each month.


This means de­cid­ing whether or not I might need to come in early or leave later to com­plete what­ever I’m work­ing on and I am given flex­i­bil­ity. Per­son­ally, I work bet­ter in the morn­ings so if I need to put in some ex­tra hours, I’ll come in early.

Work­ing in a firm of this size re­quires all hands on deck and while this was slightly daunt­ing at first, be­ing given the op­por­tu­nity to demon­strate my abil­ity has given me con­fi­dence which I think is lack­ing in most of us when we’re fresh out of the class­room.

Of course, my work is su­per­vised. I am man­aged by one of the part­ners, who I work along­side each day.

Hav­ing grown up in Oban, I know most of the faces I pass in the street. Lots of my clients know or have known mem­bers of my fam­ily and I find they make that con­nec­tion at the out­set. Im­me­di­ately, we have some­thing in com­mon.

I have al­ways en­vis­aged work­ing in a client-based pro­fes­sion. For me, this means meet­ing and talk­ing to peo­ple reg­u­larly, build­ing rap­port.


An­other im­por­tant re­la­tion­ship is with solic­i­tors out­side of your firm and, in ar­eas like Oban, you be­gin to recog­nise the voices at the other end of the phone very quickly. These are the same peo­ple you will meet in court and at pro­fes­sional events in town.

They are a close net­work of peo­ple and get­ting to know them af­fords you the op­por­tu­nity to learn from them too.

I have spent most of my trainee­ship deal­ing with wills, pow­ers of at­tor­ney and ex­ecutries.

I’m now split­ting my time and work­ing in our fam­ily depart­ment deal­ing with con­tact dis­putes, divorce, sep­a­ra­tion and guardian­ship or­ders.

Look­ing back to when I was de­lib­er­at­ing over the pros and cons of mov­ing out­side the city, some­thing which con­cerned me slightly was whether or not the work com­ing through the door would be enough to hold my at­ten­tion. How much can re­ally be go­ing on in one lit­tle town, right? Wrong.

Since join­ing the firm I have ad­min­is­tered ex­ecutries in­volv­ing as­sets all over the world (a chance to brush up on my French) and have re­alised that my pri­vate client tu­tor was not jok­ing when she said I’d be ar­rang­ing funer­als.

The va­ri­ety of work which I have un­der­taken in the past year has left me sat­is­fied I will never be bored.

I was ap­pre­hen­sive about los­ing my so­cial life.

How­ever, I de­cided that, for me, the var­i­ous ben­e­fits of ru­ral life out­weighed be­ing 10 min­utes from the near­est club and I have found I see my friends al­most as much as I would have if I was liv­ing in the same city.

On Fri­days I reg­u­larly pack up and head to Glas­gow to get my fix of the nightlife and friends en­joy vis­it­ing me here to es­cape the city.


It is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that, while we have all come from univer­sity, hav­ing stud­ied the same sub­jects and grad­u­ated with the same qual­i­fi­ca­tions, we are in­di­vid­ual and have dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties.

Take the time to think about what type of trainee­ship is best suited to you and try to view the two years of train­ing as the foun­da­tions of your ca­reer, rather than an­other box which needs to be ticked en route to qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

Bil­lie Kirkham: try­ing to ar­rest de­pop­u­la­tion.

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