Susan Currie graduated with an LL.B from Glasgow Caledonian University in 2014, before going on to obtain her Diploma in Professional Legal Practice at the University of Glasgow in 2015.
She completed her traineeship at Cloch Solicitors and now works as a solicitor at the Govan Law Centre. She was awarded the title of “Trainee of the Year” at the Law Awards of Scotland 2017 last November. Here, she talks to the School of Law about her path into law and what she enjoys most about her work:
You studied for your LLB at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU). What are your most striking memories of your time there and what do you feel you took away from the experience of studying Law?
GCU provides the undergraduates with a very unique and supported experience of study. The class sizes were small, with small tutorial groups. The lecturers took an interest in each and every student which meant that you always had someone to turn to. Unfortunately, I had a period of illness during my third year meaning I missed a semester. The support of the staff of the school of the law meant that I could continue with the degree without having to defer for a year. This was one of the most prominent memories from my undergraduate degree, highlighting that determination and motivation helped me achieve things I never thought I would.
GCU also allowed you to take a themed pathway from several choices. Choosing the personal finance pathway benefited me on both a personal and professional capacity. The use of the themed pathways also helped show that law interlinks with so many other subjects.
Out with the classroom, GCU offers students a number of opportunities to get involved. In my final year, I was part of the Law Committee which organised the end of year Law Ball. Although there were times when it seemed that nothing was going right, the feeling at the end of the night when everything had ran smoothly was a perfect end to my time at GCU!
Following completion of the LLB, you went on obtain the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice at the University of Glasgow. What did you gain from your experience there?
Studying the Diploma at UofG seemed like a natural choice because of the wide range of electives and extracurricular activities. Projects such as the CLASP project were essential in helping me achieve the aims of the Diploma and becoming a day one ready trainee. The level of support given by all School of Law staff and the associated legal community was central to developing professional networks. Indeed, I believe that obtaining my traineeship was due to the level of support given.
Potentially one of the most important things that I gained from the Diploma was part of the criminal litigation course. Everyone is required to attend Glasgow Sheriff Court in order to do a plea in front of a real Sheriff. Before this, I was adamant that I did not want a career in litigation. The experience of doing the plea completely changed my view, and indeed the majority of my career is now litigation based.
What led to your decision to become a solicitor?
At school, I mainly focused on business subjects. Studying law at University seemed like a natural progression, not least because of the amount of law and non-law options that are available to graduates.
Within the first few years of my degree, I had participated in a number of professional classes, moots and client interviews. These practical experiences gave me an insight into the career of a solicitor, and I realised that it was a career that I wished to follow. Throughout the remainder of my time at university, work experience in both public sector and private firms cemented that I wanted to be a solicitor. Since then I haven’t looked back!
You spent a period of time volunteering for ‘Restless Development’ on a counselling programme in rural South Africa for victims of gender-based violence. Could you talk a little about your experience there?
Between my degree and Diploma I decided I wanted to do something different and worthwhile. I was selected to partake in a 10 week volunteer placement based in South Africa. The aim of the placement was to work in a grassroots charity, teaching and tutoring life skills, gender based violence and other employability skills. Throughout the 10 weeks, I lived with the local community, in the accommodation that the local families stayed in – small round huts which had no running water in the property and often lacked electricity. I taught in a number of schools and youth centres, with students up to 35 years old. The students all came from a very poor background. I also assisted with organising local events such as a gender based violence conference and a careers fair.
It was an incredible experience. To live and work in another culture, particularly one which varies so much from our daily lives taught me so much. The experience was very challenging, I learnt a lot about myself. It was also very worthwhile as the students we were teaching previously had no careers guidance.
Upon my return, I undertook several activities to raise the profile of the charity, including giving presentations and recruiting future volunteers.
What was your experience of your traineeship at Cloch solicitors?
My traineeship was based in a boutique firm in which I dealt with a wide range of commercial matters and litigation. This meant that I had a lot of responsibility from day one, and a very varied case load. I had opportunities to work on small claims matters right through to inner house court of session cases. Dealing with such a wide range of matters opened many doors for me upon qualification, ensuring that I wasn’t pigeon holed into one area of law without experiencing others.
Additionally, being a boutique firm, meant that I had a lot of internal duties central to running an office. Having these skills from such an early stage of my career will certainly be useful!
What do you enjoy most about practise of the law?
Making a difference to people’s life is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the practise of law. Having clients be appreciative of your work is one of the best feelings, particularly after you have put in a significant amount of work or when the decision has not gone in their favour.
One of the other most enjoyable things about the practise of law is the need to continually learn and keep up to date with changes. This, along with a varied case load, means that no two days are the same and that keeps it interesting.
What have your career highlights been so far (e.g. particular cases you have been involved in or professional roles you have taken on)?
I have had the opportunity to work closely with Senior and Junior counsel on a Court of Session case. Being the lead contact for the case, I worked from commencement through to the Inner house case. Given the length of time, it is a case which gave a significant grounding to my court work. Working so closely with counsel, was a remarkable experience to have at such an early stage. It is definitely a career highlight. Another career highlight is being awarded the Trainee of the Year award 2017 and the awards ceremony which I attended!
What do you find most rewarding about mentoring? What advice would you give to students who wish to become solicitors?
The most rewarding thing about mentoring is giving back to the legal community. Throughout university, I had support from mentors. Without this support, I would not have had the opportunities that I have had. Mentoring is a way in which I can give back for this support and ensure that the future legal generations have the same support that I did. After all, helping the solicitors of the future will benefit the legal profession as a whole.
For students who wish to become solicitors, I think there are two key pieces of advice I would pass on. Firstly, determination and motivation is key. There will be times when you are struggling or when it becomes stressful. Motivation and determination is needed to get through this. Secondly, I would recommend that students do not forget the importance of interpersonal skills. Clients want a solicitor that understand them and can talk to them. Client satisfaction is a big part of a solicitors role – one which cannot be underestimated.
After last year’s award, what does 2018 hold for you professionally?
Having recently qualified into the position of a NQ litigation solicitor, 2018 is going to be about enhancing my advocacy skills and gaining more advocacy experience. Ultimately, in the years to come, I would be keen to gain further rights of audience in the form of becoming a solicitor advocate, therefore the foreseeable future will be about building the foundations for this.