I started my training contract in February 2014 with a specialist family law firm in Milton Keynes dealing predominately with contentious matters such as private and public children law. Every trainee solicitor undertaking their training contract must complete seats in both contentious and non-contentious law and because my training firm do not offer non-contentious services, I have had to gain this experience and knowledge with another law firm.
Luckily, Woodfines agreed for me to undertake a 3 months secondment in their commercial property department, working with Neil Gibbs and Tamara Worboys, and I have been with the firm since September 2014.
I am enjoying my time at Woodfines and am learning new and varied skills that I will be able to take back to my training firm with me. I have become more commercially aware and business minded due to the clients and transactions that I have been dealing with. My work predominantly consists of drafting and scrutinising leases and undertaking research on a number of commercial issues. Leases require a high level of attention to detail as each one is individually tailored to the transaction at hand. As a result, my job is to primarily check each clause with a fine tooth comb to ensure that each one is necessary and appropriately worded.
The transition from family law clients to commercial clients has been very interesting and, in part I think this is down to the differences in contentious and non-contentious law.
With commercial clients you are usually dealing with businesses and professionals who are familiar with the legal process. Even if they are not, because the transactions aren’t adversarial, the clients are able to keep sight of their overall objectives whilst also focusing on the task at hand. Family law clients, however, come to see me at the most emotional and stressful times of their lives and it is therefore understandable when part of their focus lies elsewhere.
As a trainee, whilst you have been taught the fundamental knowledge at university or law school, you are still nowhere near prepared for the reality and challenges that each new seat brings. Once you have spent time in a seat, however, it is amazing how fast you pick up the ropes. I definitely feel that this is the case from my time in commercial property.
Undertaking a secondment in a new firm for three months is definitely quite daunting to start with but I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity of training at two different firms. It has broadened my knowledge of both law and legal practice and I have gained an insight into both a specialised practice and a larger regional firm. I will be sad to leave Woodfines but the professional contacts and friendships that I have made will undoubtedly continue throughout my career.