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Meet The Trainees

We have trainee solicitors, apprentices, trainee legal executives, trainee licensed conveyancers and trainee probate practitioners, and very soon, we will soon welcome SQE trainees (Solicitors Qualifying Examination).

 

May 2022: Mental Health Awareness Week:

May every year,  led by the Mental Health Foundation. #IveBeenThere – A Junior Lawyer’s Perspective, by Chloe Lake.Chloe Lake

(https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week)

This year, the theme is loneliness – something which, if not tackled, has been proven to lead to the onset of various mental health conditions. The Mental Health Foundation has asked people to share their stories using the hashtag ‘#IveBeenThere’ to demonstrate that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

As a junior lawyer, I have been and am proud to be, vocal about encouraging the next generation of lawyers in our counties, and even nationally. I would like to take this opportunity to share some thoughts on this topic; to demonstrate that #IveBeenThere, and to show that everything really can be OK if you use the tools, resources, and coping mechanisms available to you.

Last year, I suffered a prolonged period of poor mental health. I won’t go into too much detail, but this led to me being out of the office for several weeks. I can also count on one hand how many times I left my house during this time. Loneliness is a feeling I know all too well – and during this period, I felt it acutely.

Fast forward several months, and I am not just surviving, I am thriving, having learned some hugely important lessons along the way.

So, how did I go from the lowest low, to where I am currently? 

It all started with me asking for help… I admitted to myself that I could not do it all – I was spinning plates, and through spinning so many I had neglected my mental and physical wellbeing. I approached my Team Leader, and my Head of Team and expressed that I needed help with managing my workload. In the moments leading up to these conversations, I felt like I had failed myself, and what I thought I had to be in order to succeed (i.e. superwoman(!)). Those frank, honest and helpful conversations turned out to be exactly what I needed. Plans were put in place that in turn helped me to adjust, I felt supported, reassured… and instantly, a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders.

If you’ve ever felt like you need some guidance #IveBeenThere. My tip: Don’t be scared to ask for help. It will be available to you. 

I study the LPC alongside my work; it’s no mean feat, and there are some days that are harder than others. One of the best things about working at Wilson Browne Solicitors is the accessibility of your colleagues – at all levels. I have found the Trainee Solicitors to be an amazing support network, after all – they have walked the path that I will soon be walking, they get it.

If you’re feeling a little lost, #IveBeenThere. My tip: Look around. Make meaningful connections with your peers; a simple ‘You Got This!’ or the offer of some notes to look over can be incredibly reassuring! 

One of the biggest and most important lessons I’ve learned over the last 6-8 months is that you can say no to things. From speaking with many aspiring solicitors, I have often felt like there’s a misconception that you need to say yes to absolutely everything. I learned the hard way that this is just simply not the case; if you overload yourself, you’ll end up burnt out.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, #IveBeenThere. My tip: It’s okay to say no! A busy schedule of extracurricular/employment-based activities is great but taking time to look after yourself is VITAL. 

Pursuing a career in the legal sector can be challenging, and tough at times. Looking after your mental health is important. I hope that some of the tips above offer some inspiration for other future lawyers who may experience similar and are looking for ways to overcome such challenges. I consider myself indescribably lucky to work at a firm where our ethos of being #AllTheHelpYouNeed is not only applicable to the service that we deliver to our clients, but it is accurate in the way that we treat each other – the path to mental wellness has been less lonely with the support of my immediate colleagues, our wider team and the firm as a whole.

Olivia Banks

Where did you study?

I studied my undergraduate degree at a combination of the University of Sheffield and the University of Sussex Olivia Banksbefore 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

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.

Ellie TaitIt 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.