I can’t believe that it has already been a year since my last trainee blog! I have since sadly left the Dispute Resolution department to move into Commercial Property and am now a month into work in Tax & Estate Planning. I really enjoyed my time in DR and consider it a very useful foundation for my subsequent seats- like I said in my last blog, you see the contentious elements of every area and in a way, it has been incredibly beneficial to see ‘what can go wrong’ before learning how to avoid it. This is particularly true for the departments I have worked in since.
In Commercial Property, I undertook CQS accreditation and built up to managing some of my own transactions. Admittedly, at university and on the LPC, I never clicked with property law and as a consequence it took a while for me to feel comfortable in the area. But the team were excellent to learn from and the experience has been invaluable. Property is one of those areas which is relatively ubiquitous, regardless of what area of law you work in. Having a good base knowledge of different property transactions, ownership issues, administrative requirements and drafting has already proved essential and I would recommend a seat in property to every trainee. My biggest take-aways would probably be: 1) take as much feedback as you can get and learn from it; 2) take the time to research- everyone has to do it, not just trainees; 3) Observe the differences between fee-earners, their drafting styles, methods of communication and client interaction, and pick up on which elements of each feel natural for you; and 4) 6 months is not long. You can’t expect to be completely au fait with absolutely everything by the end, but don’t forget to reflect on how transformative such a short time can be for your knowledge, skills and confidence.
Changing seats is inevitably a difficult manoeuvre with recurring feelings of unfamiliarity, but I have found that more often than not my colleagues and fellow trainees have wrestled with many of the same things that I have. The firm has been excellent at creating spaces for us to have comfortable and candid conversations and everyone is generous in sharing their experiences and encouragement. I feel exceptionally grateful to be surrounded by a spirit of support rather than competition. I have found this to be true not just between the trainee solicitors, but also with the trainee legal executives in the Tax & Estate department, Rob, Emily and Emma. Emma in particular very kindly sent me an email when I joined the team, introducing me to all of the softwares, systems and routines that they have in place so that I would recognise things when I came across them. Now that I have settled in, we all often find mutual benefit in mulling over legal issues together and sharing our thoughts and understanding.
The fee earners in tax & estate planning have also been exceptionally generous with their time and feedback, making sure that I settled in easily and understand the concepts that I encounter. I have thoroughly enjoyed the first month and find the application of Private Client law fascinating, particularly given that I enjoyed contentious probate matters in DR- another example of learning about what can go wrong before learning how to avoid it. The work is broader than I had imagined, encompassing Wills, Lasting Powers of Attorney, estate administration, deputyship applications and management, attorney management and trust administration. It has been a good balance of theoretical exercise and practical work. There is almost-daily interaction with clients which I have very much enjoyed and although the subject matter is often fairly morbid, meetings are productive and clients are happier knowing that their affairs are in order.
Overall, I am very much looking forward to seeing what the next 11 months will bring and I’m keeping an open mind as regards qualification.