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Meet The Trainee Solicitors (& blog)

Ellie Tait

Where did you study?

I studied the LLB Law with Criminology degree at Nottingham Trent University in 2013 and graduated in 2016. I took a break from education while gaining some legal experience and then went back to Nottingham Trent University in 2019 to commence my LPC with Masters at Nottingham Law School. I am currently still studying my LPC and I am due to graduate in 2021. I am currently writing my masters dissertation which focuses on adverse possession applications over registered land.

 Why did you choose law?

I had never studied law before going to university but it was always something that was at the back of my mind that I thought I would love to do. University open days and my own research in to the subject made it click for me. From that point I decided that it was the career path I wanted to go down and welcomed the challenge of the years of training and studying I had ahead of me.

 What is the best part of being a trainee?

The opportunity to move around the firm and experience working in different teams and different areas of law. There is so much knowledge and experience to gain from working alongside different people and developing new skills and understanding. It is also a great opportunity to explore what area of law you want to qualify in to in the future.

 What is the most challenging part of being a trainee?

Learning to adapt to new teams and new ways of working. It is great to see how other teams work but it can be challenging at times to integrate in to them and be flexible in the way you work. Each time you join a new team there are new skills to learn which can be both challenging and rewarding.

 If you could give your 18 year old self a piece of advice, what would it be?

Don’t worry – everything will work out exactly as it is meant to be. Sometimes it’s easy to put too much pressure on yourself but it’s important to remember that your timescales are not the same as everyone else’s and that’s okay. You’ll get there eventually!

 Tell us something people might not expect from you.

My favourite hobby is skiing – if I had not chose to go down the legal career path I would most likely have opted to be a ski instructor

George Iles

Where did you study?

I studied the LLB Law Degree at The University of Sheffield between 2014 and 2017. After 6 months working for Sussex Police and 6 months backpacking I returned to The University of Sheffield to complete my LPC between 2018 and 2019.

Why did you choose law?

A tough question to answer in a few lines! To highlight one reason, I love the problem solving aspects of the job, there is an immensely satisfying feeling that comes with cracking a tough legal question and getting the advice right for the client.

What is the best part of being a trainee?

Being encouraged to get involved in any interesting and difficult work that is going on in my team whether that is by sitting in on a meeting, chatting with a senior staff member or by getting stuck in to a part of the work – no matter how little prior knowledge we have a point of law – we are welcomed to get involved.

What is the most challenging part of being a trainee?

Organising your diary! I’ve taken to spending a good 20 minutes at the start and end of each week to make sure I am on top of everything going on. It can be hard balancing work for different members of staff and making a call on how best to prioritise your workload.

If you could give your 18 year old self a piece of advice, what would it be?

It is OK to get things wrong. Whether that is in an application, an exam question or a judgment in the office. It’s a cliché but we do learn so much from our mistakes and every negative experience can improve our character if we reflect properly on our decisions.

Tell us something people might not expect from you.

In my younger days I starred as an extra in the hit 2009 film St Trinian’s 2

Where did you study?

University of Teesside for undergrad and De Montfort for LPC

Jessica Rayns

Why did you choose law?

I was previously in the hotel industry and being treated very badly by my employers. I began researching employment law and found I enjoyed it. Also the release of Legally Blonde made me realise that I was more intelligent than I gave myself credit for and I could follow a law path if I wanted to.

What is the best part of being a trainee?

Learning a new area of law that you haven’t necessarily studied before. Or, conversely learning how what you learned in theory is applied practically.

What is the most challenging part of being a trainee?

Learning new things constantly and knowing when to ask for help. That fine line between trusting your own judgment and knowing when to run it past a more senior colleague.

If you could give your 18 year old self a piece of advice, what would it be?

Do not party so hard and study/apply yourself more!

Tell us something people might not expect from you.

My dream alternative job would be to work with animals, mainly wild cats in Africa and conservation.

Olivia Banks

Where did you study?

I studied my undergraduate degree at a combination of the University of Sheffield and the University of Sussex before finishing it at BPP, where I completed my LPC.

Why did you choose law?

I enjoy the complexities that law can offer and the prospect of problem solving in a practical setting appealed to me. It was something I had not thought about in too much detail but was an option I explored with my careers advisor when deciding what to study at university. My favourite subjects were politics and history, so law seemed a good fit.

What is the best part of being a trainee?

A pretty common and somewhat unimaginative answer but it truly is the variety of work you are passed over the 24 or so months of your training. One day you can be drafting pleadings for issuing and the next you can be taking part in a mediation- no two days are the same and it can be incredibly fast paced. Moving around different departments not only allows you to gain an insight into the different disciplines within the law but also provides you with an opportunity to work for and with a number of your colleagues. Everyone has a different system of working and different levels of experience- the tips and knowledge you pick up along the way are invaluable.

What is the most challenging part of being a trainee?

Definitely the fear of feeling “out of your depth” for me. It can be daunting, especially given you are only in any seat for some 6 months, to be handed a difficult piece of work to try and combat. I myself am guilty for putting a lot of pressure to get things right first time, but would do well to remember the purpose of a training contract is to learn.

If you could give your 18 year old self a piece of advice, what would it be?

Listen to your parents- they are usually right!

Tell us something people might not expect from you.

I have just completed my first property renovation and I am onto planning my next. Property development is something I really enjoy and if I was not to practice law, it is definitely something I would look into doing full time. Either that or working in real estate.  I spend a lot of time watching what Knight Frank and Phillips Harrod are getting up to!

Rachel Leatherland

Where did you study?

I studied Law (LLB) at the University of Warwick between 2015 and 2018, then after graduating I began studying the LLM Legal Practice Course part-time at Nottingham Trent University. I completed the LLM LPC whilst working full-time as a paralegal within civil litigation and RTA liability.

Why did you choose law?

I chose to study law at A-Level, as something new and different – plus the only other option was science and I was terrible at that! Reading about the different case law was interesting and it quickly became my favourite subject, so it just made sense to continue at university. Law is challenging and I really enjoy the problem-solving aspect, but it is also rewarding to know you have had an impact in sometimes the toughest part of a person’s life.

What is the best part of being a trainee?

The best part is the opportunity to delve into areas of law you may not have experienced yet, whether at university or through work experience. It is difficult to know for certain what area of law you would like to specialise in, so experiencing everything that you can is the most important thing. Being able to learn from highly experienced individuals with many interesting stories to tell and the variety of work that comes each day, is equally as positive.

What is the most challenging part of being a trainee?

For me, it was adapting from managing my own caseload in an area of law I was very comfortable with, to a becoming trainee solicitor in a completely different area of law and feeling unhelpful. Learning new laws, procedures and just a team’s way of working is challenging but all part of the learning curve. Every person that I have encountered has been welcoming and encouraging, which has helped greatly.

If you could give your 18 year old self a piece of advice, what would it be?

It is absolutely ok to not have things perfect the first time. You will arrive where you are supposed to be, there is no rush or real pressure!

Tell us something people might not expect from you.

Recently I created a home decor brand, with plans to open an online store in the future.

Trainee Blog

Reasons to choose Wilson Browne

George Iles - July 2021

Wilson Browne stick to the tried and tested four seat rotation when it comes to structuring their training contracts. This is common in law firms for a reason; it means trainees have the opportunity to get stuck into four different practice areas, experience four new sets of challenges and improve on many different skill sets.

As I dive into my final seat with our Corporate team, I have had a chance to reflect on the journey so far – and all the benefits my four seat rotation has given me.

Seat 1 – Private Client

Starting my training with the Private Client team in Northampton was a fantastic way to kick things off. Here I mainly handled the administration of estates – this involves carrying out all the legal work that comes with dealing with somebody’s affairs after they have died. In addition to this, I drafted Trust documents, Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney.

The best thing about this seat for me was the level of Client and 3rd party contact required on the job. Nearly every day brought with it a face to face Client meeting, each with unique challenges to navigate. Due to the nature of the work, it is common to broach sensitive subjects with your Clients, and learning to do so with the correct balance of professionalism and approachability is an important thing to grasp.

When there were no meetings with Clients to attend, a typical day could see me liaising with HMRC, banks, insurance companies, estate agents and more. There is no shying away from the tasks at hand and that kind of exposure was key to improving my confidence and self-reliance early on.

Seat 2 – Litigation

My next seat saw me gain further invaluable experience working on a mixture of contentious trust, probate and housing matters. Not only is it a Law Society requirement to spend time working on contentious matters, I also highly recommend it for the different skills you can develop and the unique challenges you will face.

Written communication, pragmatism, negotiation and mediation all spring to mind when I think about this seat –not easy skills to master. Righting a watertight letter defending your Client is tough when every word you write will be scrutinised, reaching an out of Court settlement between two parties refusing to back down can seem impossible and convincing a Judge to see the facts the way you do can be daunting to say the least.

The improvements as a young lawyer you make from these challenges make for a tough but rewarding seat.

Seat 3 – Commercial Property

Having known I had a personal preference for commercial law since my University days, I was very excited to move over to the Commercial Property team in Kettering at the start of the year. Here I acted for: national companies, small businesses, pension funds, banks, charities and social landlords on a wide range of property related matters.

Commercial Clients have different needs and demands. It is more important than ever to remain commercially aware – which to me means thinking about the practical effects on your Clients business that your legal advice will have. To take one simple example I worked on, the letter of the law allowed our Client to terminate their tenant’s lease, but without a new tenant lined up to come in, I was careful to make sure that the Client was aware of all their other options that might make more business sense going forward.

Every team at every law firm has slightly different ways of working, here I was fortunate enough to be given matters to take sole responsibility for. With nobody setting deadlines for you, you must display strong transaction-management skills and manage your Client’s expectations on your own. It is not quite ‘sink or swim’ with a brilliant team on hand to supervise and assist – but there is definitely an element of that that really benefited my development.

Final Seat – Corporate

I now work in the firm’s Corby office on all manner of Company Law issues. With a new office, new teammates, new Clients and a new workflow – I am excited to take on the challenges and keep on learning and improving before I qualify as a solicitor in November 2021.

Ellie Tait - May 2021

I have recently just finished the first seat of my training contract and I think that it is important to reflect back on the past 6 months when it comes to these milestones as you can really see the progress you have made over this time and how far you have come since the start of the seat.

Clinical Negligence

I was both excited and nervous to begin the first seat of my training contract. Clinical negligence was a whole new area of law for me and so I was excited to get started. Although I had been working within a litigation team already as a paralegal, it was interesting to work on cases from a different litigation aspect. This was both in the case of moving from working with commercial clients to individuals and also taking the step from paralegal to trainee.

It was fairly daunting to start in a new team and new office but everyone around me made the transition so positive and comfortable for me. I was lucky enough to have a week’s handover with the trainee already in the team which was really helpful. I have found the other trainees’ advice extremely invaluable since starting my training contract and I think it’s great to be able to learn from each other’s experiences. It’s also a great motivation to be able to watch as other trainee’s qualify into teams within the firm!

Being a trainee in the clinical negligence team meant that I was responsible for the new enquiries that came in to the team. I really enjoyed this aspect of my time in the team as it meant I was the first point of contact for the clients and it was great to be able to advise clients that we were able to take on their case for them and provide them with that hope that we felt there were sufficient prospects of success.

Commercial Property

My second seat brings with it change again with moving back to working on commercial matters and this time in a non-contentious area. I am looking forward to seeing what the next 6 months brings.

Adam Wilson - March 2020

I am currently approaching the end of my third seat of the training contract at Wilson Browne and with the finish line in sight; it’s a good opportunity to sit and reflect on my experiences of the training contract so far, and to consider how I got to where I am today.

Personal Background

I graduated from Bournemouth University with an upper-second class degree in 2016 and, with no training contract lined up, took the gamble on doing the LPC at De Montfort University (DMU), taking into account their excellent employability record.

Through DMU I was able to acquire my first official legal role working as a legal assistant in a small high-street firm in Leicester. Before that, I had only worked for a year at Citizens Advice (as a triage assessor, among other tasks), along with several sales/stockroom assistant and bartender jobs throughout college and university.

After having so many direct training contract applications batted back with no luck during the LPC, I decided to refocus my attention and to look for a vacancy where I could work my way up to the training contract. In October 2017 I joined Wilson Browne as a paralegal in the Commercial Property team, on the understanding that there was no guarantee of a training contract but Wilson Browne had a strong track-record of developing and promoting staff who work hard. Fast forward 2 ½ years and I have added my name to that ever-growing list and am less than 9 months away from qualifying as a Solicitor.

Summary of the Training Contract

I continued in the Commercial Property team for my first seat, after spending around a year there as a paralegal. I then moved on to the Family team for 6 months and then Clinical Negligence, which is where I am currently.

Compared to working as a paralegal, being a trainee has been a strange but positive experience. You are treated as a fee earner – and thus have the responsibilities that come with that – but each team is realistic as to your skills, given that you will usually only ever have less than 6 months experience in a certain area.

Trainee or not, all of the staff at Wilson Browne at every level have always been approachable, friendly and helpful; but I have found that as a trainee, solicitors and partners are even more so because they have all been in the same position and remember what it is like to be a trainee. Ultimately, you are given the freedom to demonstrate your abilities in certain tasks, but you always have support and guidance there from senior practitioners if you struggle or get something wrong.

The most important thing I have realised is that the other trainees are a fantastic support network; whilst other members of staff can remember what it was like to be a trainee, the other trainees are living it with you and the shared experience really helps to be able to sympathise with each other. You will find that as trainees, you share tips and advice which prove invaluable, for example a trainee in a team you are about to move to may sit down with you and discuss their experience of that seat and give you tips on anything you need to be aware of.

My personal highlights of the training contract so far have been the opportunities to go to court for a variety of different types of cases, being able to meet and get to know people from the different offices of Wilson Browne that I would normally not have had the chance to speak to, and in general the personal development I have seen in myself as there are a lot of aspects to the training contract that put you outside of your comfort zone.

On the flip side, I would say that the major challenges any trainee faces are dealing with seat changes, as you will only just start to feel like you can be an asset to the team at around the 4 month mark and then shortly after you are leaving to start afresh in a different team. In tangent with this is the fact that you have a reduced responsibility as a trainee compared to other fee earners (because of the lack of experience) and so if you have previous experience of running your own caseload, the transition to instead assisting fee earners with their caseload can be difficult. Finally, the training record is hard to do as self-reflection is a tricky skill to master, but it proves to be a very useful resource when looking back during your appraisals, and is a vital part of the training contract process (so remember to do it after each week!).

Advice for any future trainees?

My main piece of advice would be that there is no right answer on how to qualify as a solicitor, and each route to qualification is personal. Prospective trainees are under a lot of pressure to qualify as soon as possible, and many feel obliged to take the first opportunity that arises. However, it can be useful to weigh up the pros and cons and to consider multiple factors such as the standard of training/experience you will get, whether the firm is the right fit for you, and how likely you would be to find another, potentially better, opportunity.

Ultimately, everyone in life is working to different timescales; whether it be qualification as a solicitor, buying a house, getting married or finishing off your bucket list – it does not matter when you get there as long as you are happy and achieve what you want to achieve.