As a trainee, the norm is to spend time in four departments over two years (six months in each ‘seat’). Some trainees will repeat a seat depending on the firm’s requirements or the trainee’s desire to qualify into a particular department. Trainees at Woodfines typically undertake work in the following seats: Litigation, Private Client, Commercial Property, Company & Commercial, Crime & Regulatory, Employment, and Family.
Trainees are allocated a supervisor for each seat. Whilst in the Litigation department I have been fortunate enough to share an office with my supervisor, who is responsible for assigning work to me and assists with any questions that I have.
The SRA requires trainees to undertake a variety of work in contentious and non-contentious seats. This gives trainees a breadth of experience and helps to ascertain the area of law they want to qualify into upon finishing their training contract. It is advisable to go into every seat open-minded and without any preconceptions. After all, how can you be sure that a particular area of law is not for you until you have tried it?
I am now at the end of my first seat in the Litigation department, and it is fair to say that, as a litigator, there are never two days alike. Litigators undertake an extensive variety of work. This can be slightly daunting as you seem to review a different area of law each day but it is undoubtedly one of the best seats to do for the experience it affords.
The progression of each case often follows a similar path and the majority of work undertaken in the Litigation department consists of:
- Client meetings, including fact finding and advising
- Legal research
- Corresponding with the other side and third parties (the court, experts, witnesses)
- Drafting (claim forms, particulars of claim, defences, witness statements, enforcement forms, etc)
- Instructing counsel and experts
- Attending conferences with counsel
- Preparing bundles for trial and schedules of loss
- Attending hearings and engaging in alternate dispute resolution.
On top of that, trainees at Woodfines are required to engage in filtration. Filtration is the task of recording new enquiries, over the telephone or face-to-face, and ascertaining the area(s) of law involved, and then passing the enquiry on to the relevant department. Filtration is a great way of gaining early client contact, enhancing your legal knowledge and attaining an appreciation for the type of work undertaken by the firm.
All in all, I have really enjoyed my seat in the litigation department and have learnt a considerable amount. As forewarned, the time has gone by so quickly, and I can’t believe that this time next week, I will be starting my second seat in the Commercial Property department over in the Sandy office.