Rachel Gwilliam

Trainee Regional Partner
Construction
Cardiff

I contracted glandular fever when I was sitting my final A-level exams and I didn't get the grades I needed. I was offered an unconditional place at University for the following year based on the grades I had achieved, so during the intervening year I decided to take two additional AS Levels whilst working part-time at a local law firm to increase my work experience in the legal sector.

I moved to Cardiff in 1995 to undertake a law degree at Cardiff University and loved the city so much that I never left. In my second year at University I applied for training contracts in various law firms, in various locations and was invited to 3 interviews. I was given offers for training contract by two of them; one in my home town of Leicester and one in Cardiff.

I started my training contract with Morgan Cole (now Blake Morgan) in the Health team with Eve Piffaretti doing Clinical Negligence and PI work. I then moved to the Commercial Property team for 6 months. My third seat was meant to be on a corporate secondment but I swapped with another trainee and did my seat in Construction. I got involved in some really meaty cases and loved it. For my final seat I worked with the Commercial Litigation team as I had decided that I wanted to be a litigator.

I didn't know much about Construction when I started my training contract, but I was offered an NQ position in the Construction team and having loved the seat I decided to accept it. I've had many happy years in the team!

In 2002 I was promoted to Associate, in 2006 I became a Senior Associate and in 2015 I was the only person to be made a Partner of the firm. This year, I was thrilled to accept the offer of becoming the Trainee Regional Partner for the Cardiff office which involves me overseeing the supervision of our Trainees.

The firm has really encouraged my development and funded a Postgraduate Diploma in Construction Adjudication at Kings College, London, which has been extremely beneficial in my career.

My tips for aspiring lawyers looking for a training contract would be that's it's essential to show experience in a legal environment when applying, whether that's from vacation schemes or volunteering for legal schemes. Paralegal experience will evidence your commitment to a career in law. It's also a good idea to show a sense of reality and commerciality when applying for a firm. It isn't like it appears on TV!

When you bag a training contract and start as a trainee it's important to be keen, have a go at different things and to use your initiative, but don't overstep when you're unsure. Never be afraid to ask a question: there is no such thing as a silly question! Take the opportunity to soak up as much information as you can and try areas you are interested in, and even areas you haven't previously considered. My final tip is to not be alarmed when on day one of each new seat you feel like the newbie all over again because every trainee feels the same way! The people you are working with have had to go through the same process themselves so they understand what it's like.

My fun fact: I volunteered as a Games Maker at the 2012 London Olympics and met a few celebrities, including John Terry and Ashley Cole.