HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) employ legal trainees from all backgrounds, reflecting the diversity of the organisation and of the businesses and customers HMRC serve.
HMRC offers challenging work and attracts the very highest calibre of lawyer due to the quality and wide variety of work carried out by the Solicitor’s Office. Trainees can expect to work directly with highly skilled and technically excellent barristers and solicitors of all levels from various Government Legal Service (GLS) Departments and the private Bar and to be engaged directly in high profile, demanding, and cutting edge legal issues.
There are currently four second year trainees; one solicitor and three barristers, and four first year trainees; one pupil barrister and three solicitors.
The trainees range in age from early twenties to thirties, and have a wide range of academic backgrounds including degrees in history, psychology and diplomacy. It is reasonably common for legal trainees to have Masters degrees in Law or other subjects.
Jennifer Small, a first year trainee joined the GLS in September 2010 after completing a history degree at Oxford followed by the law conversion course and a very eventful gap year:
'I went straight from my history degree at Oxford, to a law conversion course at BPP in Manchester. I had taken part in a mock trial in sixth-form and watched mooting competitions at university, after which I was hooked. At BPP, I was struggling to find a training contract which focused on something a little wider than acquisitions and mergers and incorporated public law. A fellow student who was co-chairing the Liberty Advice clinic with me suggested the GLS. I successfully applied just before I started my LPC. I applied two years ahead so that I could have a gap year before starting work. Over my gap year I completed BPP’s LPC conversion course to a LLM, spent two weeks backpacking around Japan and a month in Northern Spain on an archaeological dig, sleeping with nine complete strangers in a village with a population of 20! I started at HMRC a month later.
I have now been working in the Criminal Finances, Customs and Excise team for four months.
I was thrown in at the deep end; receiving my first piece of advice on my first day. I also inherited the previous trainee’s case load (about 15 cases) of various levels of complexity while endeavouring to get to grips with Customs and Excise law. The team was very helpful and welcoming though and I enjoyed being given such a level of responsibility so early on.
The work of the team mainly falls into three areas: classification of goods, various different VAT and input tax reliefs and cash forfeiture. If this was not exciting enough miscellaneous cases also get assigned to us- I even have conduct of a defamation case.
Since I have been here, I have observed a permission hearing for a Judicial Review, attended a conference with a QC and observed a mediation in action. That’s besides conducting my own cases (under supervision) and representing HMRC alone at the tribunal when minor hearings have arisen.
I’ve had chance to develop a lot of my legal skills here and it has only been four months! I’ve really enjoyed the work so far and I’m looking forward to the new challenges by next seat will bring.
Kate Means qualified as a barrister in 2009 and currently works in the Personal Tax Litigation Team.
I started my pupillage with HMRC in September 2008. My first six months was spent at Devereux Chambers working on tax, employment and professional negligence cases. I spent my second sixth months within the Solicitor's Office at HMRC in the Criminal Finance, Customs and Excise Litigation Team which involved confiscating contraband from smugglers and custom classifications under European law. My third seat was spent in the Legislation and European Coordination Team which gave me an overview on the legislative process as well as an insight into how European law affects HMRC's work. I spent my final seat in the Duties and Environmental Taxes Advisory Team which gave me the opportunity to develop my advisory and statutory drafting skills.
My first substantive post is in the Personal Tax Litigation Team. It is a fantastic team which does a wide range of work from large scale tax avoidance, to responding to threats of judicial review in relation to tax credit appeals. My cases range from a £50 claim against HMRC in the County Court to a lead case in a tax avoidance scheme which is worth £200 million. I am responsible for conducting the litigation in my cases but am surrounded by experienced, knowledgeable and friendly colleagues who provide support when needed.
Whilst I have only been in the Personal Tax Litigation Team for a few months, I have already had to deal with a broad range of issues and am enjoying the strategic side of HMRC's litigation. I think the training at HMRC provides a comprehensive foundation to be a lawyer who can adapt to different situations, respond to new issues, and make appropriate judgment calls. In addition, I feel a real sense of satisfaction in conducting cases against tax avoiders and consequently contributing to making the tax system operate fairly.