Life after law with a premium drinks company

We’re delighted to feature a guest blog post from University of Edinburgh, Law alumnus, Laura Torrance. Laura is an HMRC Analyst with Diageo, a global leader in the premium drinks industry. Whilst a job in the drinks industry may not seem a likely place for a law graduate, Laura provides a great insight on her career change.

My journey to a law career

From 2001 – 2005, I studied the LLB Bachelor of Law (Scots Law) at the University of Dundee and graduated with a 2:1 Hons Degree. Thereafter, I attended the University of Edinburgh for one year and successfully completed the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice.

Upon completion of the Diploma, I gained work experience for a few months with a law firm in Edinburgh which specialised in criminal law. I decided that criminal law wasn’t for me and didn’t want to pursue a legal traineeship with the firm. At this point in time, my boyfriend was offered a graduate job in Elgin so I decided to relocate and was fortunate to secure a traineeship with a really good firm in Elgin.

My two-year traineeship began in March 2008 and I trained in conveyancing, wills and executries and various areas of civil law. Once I became a fully qualified solicitor, I specialised in personal injury law and successfully settled claims out of court. I also acted on behalf of Grampian Housing Association in housing disputes and pursued tenants for payment of rent arrears and for damage to property. I regularly appeared at Elgin Sheriff Court as a solicitor in civil litigation.

After I’d practised for around a year, I relocated back home to the central belt in the spring of 2011 due to a family bereavement. During this time, many law firms had been badly hit by the financial recession and there weren’t as many opportunities for solicitors so I decided to broaden my horizons and look for jobs out with the legal sector.

How did I transition to the drinks industry?

I came across a job advertisement from Diageo who were looking to recruit a Revenue & Customs Analyst within the UK Duty Team, based in Glasgow, on a fixed term contract (for maternity cover). At first glance, the job description was really appealing to me as they were looking for someone who had a law degree and experience of reading and understanding legislation and compliance.

I was really excited about the opportunity, applied for the role and was successful in being offered the job. Almost nine years later, I am still with the UK Duty Team and I’m still really enjoying my job.

What’s a typical working day as an HMRC Analyst?

I’m currently working remotely as part of a team of eight. A typical day involves ensuring that imports to Diageo sites (Diageo has more than 50 sites across the UK from distilleries, to packaging plants, warehousing sites and corporate offices) are carried out compliantly in terms of HMRC regulations and legislation. I also deal with queries from different Diageo sites on any issues they may be experiencing regarding imports. In addition, I resolve queries from HMRC.  My role on occasion also covers payment of tax on VAT and excise duty and ensuring that the duty we have on our system matches the figures from our third party logistics plants who move and store the goods for us (i.e. duty reconciliations).  I have also supported working practices and training material on import processes in preparation for the United Kingdom leaving the EU. Diageo is the biggest exporter of consumer goods from Scotland, mainly because of Scotch whisky, and that means we regularly have to manage complex trading and customs arrangements. Of course, the UK leaving the EU will mean changes to how exports and imports, and the relevant customs arrangements are managed and I have been involved in our contingency planning and ensuring the appropriate systems and processes are set up to manage the change. As part of this, I work closely with our Procurement department and advise them on any changes to duty and customs arrangements that may have an effect on how they do business.

Diageo as a company encourages flexible working and actively promotes inclusion and diversity in its workforce, and since becoming a mum the company has been very supportive of me working part-time. There’s also a very generous pension, bonus and share scheme and this isn’t always available in law firms. The salary I’m on now pro-rata would definitely be a match for the salary as a qualified solicitor.

Parting advice

  • People often ask me if I regret not sticking with being a solicitor but my answer is, ‘No’. I’ve been able to transfer and utilise the skills and experience from my legal education, training and career and I use these everyday in my role as an HMRC Analyst.
  • Having a law degree is a great qualification to obtaining employment as the options it gives you are endless… you’re not restricted to becoming a solicitor. There are lots of different avenues you can go down if you have a law degree.
  • The main piece of advice I would give is to gain lots of legal work experience and this will help you to decide what’s right for you.
  • Look for job adverts which stipulate that they’re looking for a candidate with a law degree and see if the role appeals to you.

Thanks, Laura.

Laura highlighted the importance of gaining legal work experience. Interested in finding out more? Our Solicitor-Scotland occupational webpage is a good starting point.

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