I cannot believe how quickly the first 18 months have passed as I begin to embark on the final six months of my training contract with Whitehead Monckton. It wouldn’t be over stating things to say that is has been a whirlwind experience to date!
I am currently working in the Tax and Estate Planning department at our new Eclipse Park premises in Maidstone. For many of the more senior fee earners, it was with a heavy heart that we said goodbye to the King Street office which had been the firm’s home for the past 180 years - although no one will miss the Arctic-like conditions experienced there in the winter! But it is exciting to be part of a new chapter in the firm’s history and the move reflects the forward-thinking nature of the company and its constant desire to grow. The new office has seen a move to an open plan layout, and I have found this to be a positive change in creating an even more friendly and supportive working environment.
After completing my first six months in the Tenterden office assisting the Commercial, Employment and Dispute Resolution departments, I moved to Maidstone last March to begin work in the Family team. Before I had even commenced my training, this was an area of law in which I was keen to gain some experience and I really enjoyed the variety of work I was able to undertake. I was actively involved in my colleagues’ caseloads from day one in the new seat and covered a variety of areas, including resolving finances on divorce, children matters and domestic violence issues.
I was fortunate enough to be able to develop many skills during the six months. I drafted a wide range of documents, including divorce petitions, Form Es and consent orders. I also liaised directly with clients and the other side in writing, over the phone and face-to-face, often being the first point if they had any queries or were looking for progress updates. I feel my communication skills have improved as a result of having to deal with individuals in circumstances where emotions are invariably running high following the breakdown of relationships and separation.
I particularly enjoyed gaining an insight into the alternative dispute resolution processes of mediation and collaboration, and had the opportunity of participating in the same. For those matters that could not be settled outside of Court, I was able to attend a variety of hearings and these have helped deepen my understanding of the litigation process.
The scorcher that was last summer soon passed and in early September I joined the Tax and Estate Planning team. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in this department to date, not least because the work has been so varied. As with my previous seat, my supervisors have been keen to expose me to the full spectrum of work and their one-to-one mentoring has been invaluable. By getting such a wide range of experience, I feel I will better equipped when it comes to qualification. What has impressed me the most is that I have been treated as a valued team member from day one and entrusted with lots of responsibility and client contact.
There is no such thing as a typical day and this has made my training experience that much more rewarding . I might spend some time drafting a Will or Lasting Power of Attorney before taking the next steps on an estate administration file. This could involve liaising with institutions regarding the date of death values of a deceased’s assets, preparing inheritance tax papers to send to HMRC, or paying legacies/transferring assets into the names of beneficiaries.
I am learning new things every day and have particularly enjoyed the more unusual elements such as making a Grant of Probate application where the deceased had died domiciled abroad or, where an order has been sought to act on behalf of an executor lacking mental capacity. Despite being mind-blowing at times, it has been great to be involved with more complex matters relating to tax planning and trust administration and it has been reassuring to note that even the most senior fee earners are learning all the time!
I have also enjoyed being involved with business development and marketing activities for the firm. I have presented at several breakfast seminars on every lawyer’s favourite set of regulations (GDPR!) taking part in a cricket match against a local firm of accountants - we definitely didn’t lose! I am an active member of the firm’s Corporate Social Responsibility team and have enjoyed taking part in some of our fundraising activities over the past year, including the Dragon Boat Race at Mote Park last July. It is also rewarding to give something back to the community and I give up some time to attend advice sessions at Maidstone Citizens Advice Bureau on a regular basis.
It is both scary and exciting in equal measure to think that I am due to qualify as a solicitor in September! I am hopeful that I will be able to continue my career path with Whitehead Monckton and specialise in Tax and Estate Planning matters.
Whatever the future has in store, the quality of the training I have received will stand me in good stead for the years ahead. But let’s get to September first!