Career Insight: James, Legal Trainee, Government Legal Department – Case study – GOV.UK

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James provides an insight into his commercial law training contract within the Government Legal Department
“As the Government’s principle legal advisers, the Government Legal Department (GLD) is the largest provider of legal services across Government, working with all the main Whitehall departments. We work on parliamentary bills, provide legal advice to ministers, and defend the Government in court. In fact, GLD has the biggest litigation practice in England and Wales. We are responsible not just for interpreting the law, but also making it, reimagining it and piloting it through areas it has never been before. From roads to rivers, and health to human rights, our work touches on most aspects of public life. It is this opportunity – the opportunity to conduct career-defining, public-serving work – which attracted me most to life as a government lawyer.
The Legal Trainee Scheme is competitive and applicants must be successful in testing and an assessment centre. I was delighted when I received an offer for my first choice – a training contract within the Commercial Law Group (CLGp). Prior to joining my current team, I advised the Home Office on a range of non-contentious commercial matters, often involving large public procurement projects. Since March, I have been advising the Ministry of Justice on a range of matters – from prisons, to probation, to the court service. My current caseload involves several high-profile procurements, which is a daunting responsibility, but it makes it all the more necessary for GLD to attract the very best legal talent.
CLGp offers an appealing mix of commercial and public law, affording me to the opportunity to learn about new areas of law, such as subsidy control and judicial review. A unique feature of my training contract will be the opportunity to go on secondment to an external panel firm, which is something that I am very much looking forward to. As well as the interesting range of work, CLGp encourage me to become actively involved in a range of corporate activities – for example, I sit on the Group’s Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee and have recently been assigned 2 mentees through the GLP Summer Diversity Scheme.
However, it has not all been plain sailing, 3 months into my undergraduate degree in Politics, I was injured in a road traffic collision. After spending 2 months at the biggest major trauma ward in the North East, I began learning to walk again, then returning to university determined to finish my degree. Since then, I have been fortunate enough to receive a full-fee scholarship from BPP – the Lord Holmes Scholarship – which is aimed at students who have overcome obstacles to embark on a unique and inspiring legal career. I secured a Distinction in the LLM and went on to complete my LPC last summer, prior to joining GLD in the autumn.
Originally from a small town in the North East, being in receipt of free-school meals and growing up in social housing, I never envisaged that I would be advising the Government on any number of legal issues – ones which are complex, novel, politically sensitive and often in the public eye. As such, I have found that it is all the more important for future legal professionals to have positive role models, so they know the profession can be open to people like them – those from non-traditional legal backgrounds.
To close, I would offer this piece of reflection: your background need not be a barrier to success. In truth, it can be a strength – it can offer you a unique perspective and it will always be welcomed by GLD. I value the opportunity to bring my whole self to work, in an environment that encourages diversity at all levels. If you choose to work here, and you’re passionate about our vision – “to help the government govern well, within the rule of law” – you can be assured of unparalleled career opportunities. Few areas of legal practice offer the variety and intellectual challenge than the work of government lawyers, and whilst our work may not be well understood outside Government, it is some of the most important legal work done anywhere. If you would like to be involved in major government decisions, policies, projects, Bills or statutory instruments and public inquiries, and every legal challenge to Government, GLD offers the opportunity for that and so much more.”
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