An Intern from the Intern: NE programme at St Chad’s College
In response to the challenges imposed on regional businesses by ‘the brain drain’, St Chad’s College at Durham University has recently launched a new internship scheme which aims to open the eyes of many of its students to the wide range of fantastic commercial opportunities on offer in the North East.
The premise is that a promising graduate who has engaged with a North East business through an internship during their studies is more likely to consider working in the region after graduation.
Through this new scheme Swinburne Maddison was fortunate to provide an internship to Hannah Fougner, who is studying for a BA in International Relations and has just completed her first year.
Here, she talks about her time with us.
What attracted you to gaining experience in a law firm?
Law seemed like the kind of job I would enjoy because it combines challenging technical knowledge with softer interpersonal skills. It constantly presents opportunities for personal improvements with goals to work towards.
Did you have any pre-conceived ideas of what working in a law firm might be like?
I did not know much really … I had this idea of big firms that seemed a little cold and faceless.
Has your time at Swinburne Maddison altered that view?
Yes, I have been pleasantly surprised. The working environment is great and there is a friendly, helpful attitude between colleagues, with the client always placed at the centre of office life. Every solicitor has a personal connection with their clients.
Which department have you most enjoyed and why?
I have been fortunate in being able to carry out a wide range of tasks in each department but the one that stands out for me is private client, which gave me the chance to join in meetings and see first hand how to develop good client relationships. It showed me the mix between the challenging technical skills you need as a lawyer and the softer, personal skills needed to connect with the client.
What did you think of the office environment at Swinburne Maddison?
The offices are great - welcoming and relaxed, even though every solicitor is working hard and doing important work. The company is clearly proud of its Durham heritage too, with each of its eight meeting rooms named after the Prince Bishops. The ‘open door’ policy and open plan office setting impressed me. I was struck by the focus on innovation and the need to maintain competitiveness. There is also a good continuous professional development programme and several solicitors are studying for additional qualifications.
Following your internship with us, do you think a legal career is for you?
I have been moved through each department to get a feel for what goes on and I may pursue the private client route. However, I also enjoyed the corporate department too, so I am hopeful that my future studies and experiences will help me reach a final decision about the right career path to pursue.
Would you encourage other students to get involved in the Intern: NE programme?
Yes, definitely. It provides a fantastic opportunity to gain experience and makes an internship affordable for students who cannot afford to go to London with accommodation provided at the college. At the same time, it demonstrates that there are great opportunities for career development in the North East.