What time do you start your working day?
I am usually in the office between 8am and 8.30am. I like to be in the office early to prepare for the day ahead.
I start my day by making a list of work to do and discussing the day with my supervisor/s.
This is also “quiet” time in the office where I can approach other fee earners if I have any questions or problems.
Which practice area are you currently working in?
I have just started a new seat in the Company Commercial department.
Do you have any interaction with clients? What sort of clients are they?
Yes. Woodfines believe in trainees interacting with clients and becoming familiar with the types of client they have.
The clients vary from national and regional businesses to partnerships and sole traders. There are also married clients who run their own local businesses together.
Do you work alongside other trainees and is there a “buddy” system in place?
It really depends on what seat you are in. There is a lot of overlap between company commercial and commercial property, so if there is a trainee in each of those departments you may work with other trainees.
As Woodfines are a regional firm there are fewer trainees than at a large city firm but it makes keeping in contact a lot easier. The trainees are encouraged to meet up once a month but the trainees are free to decide when and where the meeting happens.
In terms of a buddy system, all the trainees do support each other but each trainee is given a mentor who is a senior professional at the firm. This allows the trainee to benefit from guidance and support on a day-to-day basis from someone with more experience.
Is the day-to-day work challenging?
Yes. There is a great variety of work in each department and no two days are ever the same. You are expected to manage your own workload and to have a hands on approach to your own learning; effectively the more you do the more you will learn.
What sort of matters are you currently dealing with?
In my previous seat, Commercial Property, I was involved in lease work, the sale and purchase of commercial property, drafting licences for a retail shop and research regarding a local government’s position in relation to a sale of their land.
What is the office atmosphere like? Do you have much involvement with senior professionals?
All of the offices are different and reflect to some extent the communities in which they are based. Some of the offices are open plan while others have more of a traditional arrangement.
The senior professionals in the firm take an interest in the trainees and always ask about how you are getting on. Also, as suggested before, the mentors for trainees are always senior professionals in the firm.
Do you have to do the Professional Skills Course (PSC) and do the firm tell you when to do this? Do you also have the chance to attend courses and seminars to progress your knowledge?
Yes. The PSC is a mandatory course undertaken by all trainees. Woodfines pay for your course but it is arranged by you and is seen as part of managing your own workload.
Woodfines work closely with various other local businesses and together they provide seminars which are open invitations for all fee earners, including the trainees. I have been to several of these seminars recently including one on the current buy-to-let market and how this will impact the property sector.
Do you get time to socialise with colleagues outside of work time?
Yes. There are various office-based events which occur throughout the year.
There are also the firm-wide Christmas and summer parties which take place every year. These are always great fun to attend and a chance to get to know people from the other offices. This year’s summer party involved an “it’s a knockout” challenge, where members of staff were encouraged to participate and there was also a BBQ to enjoy.
What is the toughest part of your job?
The toughest part of my job is trying to fit everything in. There is so much going on and with the workload increasing, it can sometimes feel as though time management is the biggest challenge of the day.
How are your seats chosen? Is there any flexibility in what seats you undertake?
Seats are chosen by the management staff every six months.
You can provide three preferences before the end of your seat and they will do their best to accommodate your preference.
Do you have to do a seat in Litigation or can you follow the other guidelines of the SRA, such as attend a course and work in a legal aid centre?
Woodfines are great at managing your seats and as stated above, there is some flexibility in your seat options but you are encouraged to undertake both contentious and non-contentious seats as part of your training.
My first seat was in litigation and it was a very rewarding seat as you learn lots of different areas of law and you also gain knowledge on everyday matters which can help in your personal life.
One of the great advantages of being in a large regional firm means that there are various areas of contentious work you can undertake such as commercial and property litigation.
What time do you usually finish your working day? Do you always have to work past your designated working hours?
The firm hours are 9am to 5.30pm.
I normally finish around 6.30pm but this can vary on a day-to-day basis.
There is nothing to suggest you need to work longer than your working hours and, as the firm allow you to manage your own workload, it is possible for you to leave on time, if you manage your time correctly.
However, there is a need for flexibility as there may be occasions where a matter needs to be completed by a particular deadline so the fee earner may ask you to stay late or come into the office earlier in order to help.