With September came the inevitable post-summer return to routine for many of us. School and university terms started again, people returned from their holidays to work, and as October rolls by it is business as usual. This time of year also brings its fair share of change; in our last blog entries, my fellow trainees and I discussed our latest seat change into our new departments. With that change we took the opportunity to look back on our experience of the last year at Woodfines (or in the case of Sarah and Will, our first week!).
September is always a good time for reflection on the year so far, but it’s important to remember that this doesn’t solely apply to the trainees themselves, but also to the firm as a whole. This is demonstrated most clearly by this year’s Lex100 results, released in mid-October, in which we trainees were asked to give our thoughts and impressions on our time at Woodfines. The firm achieved excellent results as a winner in five of the categories assessed. These categories were Diversity; Friendliness of the firm; Work / Life Balance; Client Contact; and Job Satisfaction.
With workplace diversity a growing and topical issue which law firms are increasingly seeking to develop, Woodfines has been doing its part to ensure that it draws people in from all walks of life. The result is a vibrant and dynamic team across our four offices and feeds directly the next category; our friendliness!
Friendliness of the firm
After a year with Woodfines, I can attest to friendliness certainly being at the forefront of everything we do, and not only in terms of client-facing work.
Every team I have worked with has been a family in its own way, and the firm’s open door policy is a modern approach to the workplace and a breath of fresh air in what can sometimes be an overwhelming and regimented industry for a new lawyer starting out.
Work / Life Balance
Balance is definitely the word here, and Woodfines certainly gets it right. Over the past year that I’ve been able to get stuck in and take a genuinely active role in matters, managing my own caseload under supervision, and contributing to pivotal decisions in a way that had seemed intimidating this time last year. All the while, I have been fortunate to be able to work largely within usual office hours and my weekends – bar one or two networking or social events, which are always good fun – have so far been sacrosanct.
There’s no Blackberry tethering me to my work in the small hours of the morning, but equally there are always plenty of opportunities to help out and meet people outside of office hours. This, to me, is the right balance, and makes the job that bit more enjoyable.
I am in the process of joining St Neots Round Table, where I will be able to socialise and get involved in fundraising activities on weekends and weekday evenings. For me, the fact that I can make room for a commitment like this around my work life is testament enough to the right balance being struck at Woodfines.
Virtually from day one my fellow trainees and I were introduced to clients and given key roles to carry out. This approach helps build confidence and experience for trainees early on and has been recognised by the Lex100 ratings, which state that at Woodfines, the ‘extent to which trainees are involved in client cases is very impressive’.
Before long in my first seat I found myself the point of contact for a range of matters, meaning both increased exposure for me and lower costs to the client. Of course, all of our work is supervised and monitored, which gives us a level of reassurance whenever new situations or tricky questions arise on a matter.
On the whole, I have found that the firm entrusts its trainees with a good deal of responsibility when it comes to working with clients, be it in terms of fielding initial calls or further down the line when existing clients feel they can get in touch with a trainee just as easily as a partner. We are, after all, future solicitors and ambassadors for the firm, and the best way for us to feel comfortable with that responsibility is to get familiar with it early on and from the ground up.
In the 13 months I have been with the firm, I have worked in Crime & Regulatory Law, Litigation (or more aptly these days, Dispute Resolution) and Private Client working on Wills & Probate, Trusts & Tax law, and Residential Conveyancing.
This experience has taken me to three different offices carrying out a plethora of different roles, some expected and some unexpected! These include giving a speech about the Magna Carta to schoolchildren in Wootton, running a half marathon relay in Milton Keynes, banana boating on Wyboston Lakes, assisting overnight in a trial at Leeds Crown Court, attending conferences with Counsel in Cambridge and London, driving golf caddies in the sunshine in Sandy, and playing Goldfinger in a Christmas pantomime in Stagsden. This is just a snapshot of the many different things I have been able to get involved with, but demonstrates why Woodfines deserves to be a winner in the category of Job Satisfaction in particular.
So, as the close of summer brings with it both a return to normality and an element of change, I would say to any aspiring trainee solicitors looking for a career worth reflecting on that they should look no further than Woodfines.