I secured my training contract with Whitehead Monckton in April 2016. My start date of September 2017 seemed a long way away at the time but my LPC year flew by and my first day soon arrived. I remember feeling a mixture of emotions – lots of excitement but some apprehension at the same time! The first few days involved some training sessions and tours of the offices at Maidstone, Canterbury and Tenterden. These induction activities were extremely beneficial as it was vital, for example, to become familiar with the firm’s case management system and how to time record early on. The tours were also enjoyable as they gave me the opportunity to meet and get to know everyone. What struck me the most was how friendly everybody was and this instantly made me feel more comfortable and aided the settling in process. Of course, although not a strict requirement for the role, being able to bake cakes will also endear you to your colleagues from an early stage too!
I am spending my first six months in the Tenterden office, where I am assisting the Commercial, Employment and Dispute Resolution departments. Having primarily studied electives in private client areas and having a preference to undertake seats in these departments, I was a little unsure as to how this first seat would go (with the fear being I would know nothing and be of little use!) but even after only 10 weeks I can say that it has been a very enjoyable experience so far. For any new trainee I would say it is important to be open-minded and embrace every challenge as you will invariably be given work by fee earners which you will have never undertaken before. This is of course all part of the training process and although it may be daunting at first, your confidence will grow day by day. You should also not feel embarrassed to ask questions as it is the best way to learn. I have found all my colleagues to be very approachable and supportive. There really isn’t such a thing as a stupid question! Remember that your supervisors were in your shoes once upon a time!
In my first 10 weeks I have already carried out a good variety of work. My very first task was rather daunting and involved drafting a Deed of Retirement from a partnership. This involved finding and amending a precedent to accord with the client’s instructions and the contents of the existing partnership agreement. The client carried out work in the health sector and so I also devoted time to researching specific requirements for a partnership operating in this industry so as to provide the client with the most comprehensive document that would best protect its interests. Although it was a challenging and time consuming first task, I was pleased to be given a lot of responsibility early on. You will find that this is the case with Whitehead Monckton and this is a positive thing as it allows you to identify your strengths and weaknesses from the outset.
So far no two days have been the same but I typically begin my day by reviewing my emails and my list of tasks to complete. It is vital to be organised and flexible with your time as you could be asked to do some work for a fee earner at any moment and this may change the order in which you had originally planned to carry out your ‘to do’ list. Different tasks will have varying timescales and levels of priority so the importance of planning what you are going to do and when cannot be ignored.
You will find that you obtain a lot of client contact from the beginning of your training contract and I will often attend client meetings with my Employment supervisor. I will usually take detailed notes of what is discussed before drafting a letter or email of advice to the client. Sometimes there will be documents that need drafting and I will make a start on those. In other cases there may be particular areas of law that need researching and I will use the legal databases to put together a note of the legal framework and how this applies to the client’s position.
I have also been taking new telephone enquiries for the Dispute Resolution department. This is a great opportunity to develop your communication skills as you need to use appropriate questioning techniques to obtain an overview of the nature of the enquiry. I will then provide these details to one of the fee earners and in many cases I will be asked to call back and arrange a meeting. I feel my confidence has already grown from dealing with these enquiries and I feel I will now be better equipped to interview my own clients in meetings in due course.
Other tasks I have carried out so far include incorporating a company, filling out the appropriate documentation for company transactions, undertaking due diligence exercises, liaising with ACAS in early conciliation employment matters and drafting a settlement agreement. I have also attended court on several occasions for family hearings involving child arrangements and financial remedies.
There are also opportunities to get involved with other activities outside of the office. I have already attended an Employment breakfast seminar with HR professionals during which I presented on Equality Act requirements. I have also volunteered at the Maidstone Citizens Advice Bureau and I found this experience to be extremely rewarding. I am looking forward to taking part in a number of social activities, such as the staff quiz night, and fundraising events for the firm’s chosen charities in due course.
As I approach the half way point of my first seat I feel I am settling in well to my role as a trainee. I have had encouraging positive feedback from my supervisors so far and I have gained a wide range of experience and knowledge in a short space of time. I am now looking forward to what the next few months have in store!