Starting on the Legal Ladder
Solicitor Rebecca Davidson provides an insight into a day in the life of a trainee solicitor.
Update: Congratulations to Rebecca who qualified as a solicitor in September 2017!
Being a trainee is the next step on the ladder of becoming a qualified solicitor, having first completed some combination of law degree and Legal Practice Course. I hope to offer a little insight into a day in the life of a trainee solicitor here at Burnetts.
If you want to find out more about how to become a trainee solicitor and life as a law student, read Sara’s 'Solicitor in training' blog.
I joined Burnetts in September 2015, so I am only 7 months into my training contract (to qualify as a solicitor you will generally be a trainee for two years in total). I graduated from Northumbria University’s MLaw degree programme in July and after a swift Summer went straight into the professional world. Having studied at university for four years I was definitely ready to begin work, albeit a little unsure as to what my new role would be like.
During my two years I will experience four different legal departments, or ‘seats’ as they are known, and basically become a beginner four times over. My first seat was in family and I am seated in corporate law - these two areas of law couldn’t be much more different if they tried! Although the transition between seats is challenging, I think experiencing different areas of law is an important part of training, particularly as I am yet to decide which area I would like to practice in when I qualify.
A day in the life…
My typical day begins with checking emails and updating my continuous ‘to do’ list, this helps me plan what is urgent and needs to be completed today and what can maybe be put on the back burner until tomorrow. If it is a Monday, the team likes a 9am meeting so everyone knows what work the others have on and how to allocate new client enquiries that week.
As a trainee I have some of my own files (supervised by a Partner) and some work is delegated to me as part of bigger files. The responsibility of having your own file makes you feel more independent and helps you gain full overview of a file, I like building on the relationship with a client by being in regular contact with them myself. However, working as part of an experienced team on bigger files is an invaluable experience and helps you pick up skills you cannot pick up anywhere else.
Typical tasks I have experienced so far in corporate law are replying to disclosure requests from the buyer when selling a business, including preparing bundles of disclosure documents; legal research into matters such as licencing law; data protection law and intellectual property issues; setting up companies or charities and more recently an application to the Financial Conduct Authority.
Family law involved more court experience(which is very interesting) particularly when you get the opportunity to sit behind Counsel and see a case go to full trial. On the financial side of a separation, couples go through a disclosure process that usually involved me drafting a financial summary and making sure all assets and liabilities were neatly summarised into one document. On a few occasions I have had the opportunity to draft instructions to experts which could be property valuers; company valuers or sometimes doctors. Other more day to day tasks include drafting divorce petitions, consent orders and child arrangement orders.
Whilst a large element of my day is sitting in an office on my computer, I am not completely tied to my desk! The team are very keen for me to sit in on as many client meetings as possible which definitely helps to get a better image of what is going on and what the client wants, and this means visits to some of our other four offices. I recently helped host a seminar on academy conversion which our corporate and education teams ran with the help of local accountants and head teachers. Assisting with careers events is a new element of my role that I enjoy, so far I have given a talk at the University of Cumbria based on a career in law and attended the UCLAN careers fair, where I had the opportunity to talk to students who visited our stand.
Training at Burnetts
As a trainee solicitor in Burnetts you are encouraged to be independent, however there is always support there when you need it. Outside of your department, each trainee has an official training mentor who you meet with every four weeks. These meetings involve going through some of the work you have done recently, checking your training is still on track and setting goals you would like to achieve. However, on a more day to day basis there is always someone in the department who makes sure you have enough/not too much work to do-the right balance is often hard to find. All the people who have supported me so far have been excellent mentors, whether official or not!
Burnetts really encourages trainees to get as involved with the firm as possible and as a member of the social committee we organise the firm’s black tie Christmas party, and other events through the year. I helped the Burnetts team row to second place in a charity tiger boat race (don’t worry no prior rowing skills are required!) and very recently attended the University of Cumbria’s Law Ball that the firm sponsors.
Some other parts of a training contract that I wasn’t really aware of before I started mine are the Professional Skills Course and keeping training records. The Professional Skills Course is a 12 day course which you can either do in one block or spread across the two years. I currently study for mine at Northumbria University and there are some core modules (finance and business, client care and advocacy) and some optional modules that have either a private client focus or a commercial client focus. Training records are something that I don’t think any trainee can particularly enjoy! It involves keeping a record of the work you have done and reflecting on the skills you have drawn on to do so. I try to do mine at the end of every week, but unfortunately this can be something that is lower on my to do list than others!
So there you have a day in the life of a trainee solicitor.
If you are looking to undertake your training contract, you can find more details, including closing dates, here.
If you would like to register your interest in joining Burnetts, please send a copy of your CV to firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the author
Rebecca is a Solicitor in the Commercial Property team.