Trainees’ New Year resolutions

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It is that time of year again when we all vow to give up or take up something in the name of New Year. Our trainees have put together some resolutions for you to follow in order to build on your success at work or law school…

  1. Be more organised – It may be obvious, but we can all improve our organisational skills. Whether this involves simply getting into the habit of diarising reminders and events or making a daily ‘to-do list’, there is always something you can do, however small, to be more organised.
  2. Network more effectively – Networking can sometimes be daunting, especially for those at a junior level. Step outside your comfort zone by attending more networking events to expand your professional network. By signing up to events which actually appeal to you, you will be more likely to enjoy yourself and to meet like-minded professionals. Similarly, be more proactive on LinkedIn by taking the time to update your profile regularly and connect with newly-made contacts and colleagues.
  3. Improve your communication skills – Communication is an essential part of work and your personal communication skills play a huge part in self-development. Whether you are communicating by email, phone or even social media, it is important to be clear and accurate. You need to know your audience and tailor your message accordingly.
  4. Adopt a healthier lifestyle – The most popular New Year’s resolutions revolve around health and well-being. Whilst some health-related resolutions fall by the wayside come 2 January , we will be trying hard to stick to ours! If you find it difficult to fit in exercise around work, why not take the opportunity to go to the gym before work or in your lunch break. Even a short work-out promotes a healthy lifestyle and will make you feel full of energy and ready for the day.

And above all,

  1. Have a positive attitude – We all know that things can go wrong in your working day, or at least they may not turn out as you expect. Learn to deal with unexpected situations by ensuring that you remain calm and positive.

This post was edited by Amy Jones. For more information, email blogs@gateleyuk.com.

Away from our desks

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One important consideration when making training contract applications is what a firm’s work-life balance is like. As trainees we are heavily involved in fundraising, social and networking activities. Alongside being lots of fun, the benefits of these activities are:

  • To provide an opportunity to learn different skills
  • To build relationships with people in the local business community
  • To build communication skills by getting to know colleagues in a non-work environment.

Here are some examples of what we have been involved in over the past year. 

Fundraising

Each office has a local charity and fundraising events are arranged by the nominated trainee within that office. Some examples of the events we organise are bake offs, lunches, raffles, sweepstakes and even a murder mystery evening. Some trainees also volunteer for local charities such as Radio Lollipop at the Children’s Hospital in Birmingham and Toys on the Table wrapping for Leicestershire Cares. We also have some fundraising initiatives that run throughout the national offices including dress down days, the giving trees initiative for Kids Out where the firm donated over 100 presents to refuge children and a candy cane delivery service.

Socials

We have a social committee  and in each office there is a trainee representative involved in organising the social events for that office (normally three per year). At first it may seem a daunting task to organise an office social. However, after the first event the process becomes clear and it is actually a great deal of fun. It also provides the opportunity to learn skills such as how to manage a budget and how to negotiate a price. Recent social events have included a bingo night and a Summer BBQ.

Networking

At first attending a networking event can be intimidating but the more events you attend the more confident you become at speaking to new people. You also begin to build relationships within the local business community meaning rather than talking to people for the first time you will be ‘catching up’ with developments in their sector/business since you last met. Often networking events comprise dinners or drinks receptions, however, some of the more unusual events which trainees have recently attended are trips to the theatre, a quiz, a corporate bake off, modelling in a charity fashion event, wine tasting and cocktail making.

Junior Lawyers Society

A number of us hold positions on our local junior lawyers committees. Those who are not involved in the committee attend their events. This is a great way to build relationships with other trainees/junior solicitors within the locality, especially in the smaller offices where there are fewer trainees. Some examples of recent events include the annual ball, a quiz, a Christmas jumper drinks reception and a chocolate tasting evening. In Nottingham there is also an opportunity to get involved in the junior lawyers 5 a -side football.

Sports

Trainees in the Birmingham and Manchester offices play netball in different leagues and even manage to fit in training sessions. In addition to being involved in the firm netball team’s, trainees also get involved in one off matches against clients. The Midlands offices also have an inter-office rounders tournament each Summer. As you can imagine this can become quite competitive as different offices or departments battle it out for the glory of becoming Midlands rounders champions.

This is merely a snapshot of the activities we are involved in. Sometimes fitting in extra activities outside of work is a challenge but the firm encourages us to get involved and enjoy a work-life balance.

This post was edited by Fiona Grocock .For more information, email blogs@gateleyuk.com.

Christmas at Gateley

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With clients eager for their matters to complete before the turn of the year, Christmas is a busy time in the legal sector. So between working and attending Christmas parties and networking events, you would think that trainees would have little time for spreading Christmas cheer. However, we have managed to squeeze in a number of exciting initiatives this festive period:

Family Day

Organised by trainees from the Midlands offices, our main Christmas event, Family Day, is where employees bring their families along to our head office in Birmingham for Christmas-themed festivities. This year, 115 children enjoyed face painting, arts and crafts, carol singing, games, Christmas photographs and, of course, Santa’s Grotto. Our Father Christmas (who masquerades as a partner from the Pensions team for the rest of the year) was assisted by his two trainee elves and his trainee registrar. Santa had even moved to a paperless office this year, using an iPad app to see who had been naughty or nice.

A lot of work at trainee level goes into the event. We are tasked with decorating the office, booking the entertainers, arranging for food and drink to be delivered, sourcing prizes for the charity raffle, which this year raised funds for Macmillan Cancer Support, and making sure everything runs smoothly on the day. Feedback received about the event has been fantastic, now we’ve just got to top it next year!

Kids Out ‘Giving Tree’ initiative

We have also taken part in this year’s Giving Tree initiative for the charity, Kids Out, which aims to supply refuge children with Christmas presents. Kids Out provides cards that the trainees fill out and hang on the Christmas tree in reception, each  of which has the name of a refuge child and a present they would like. It is up to the trainees to collect the presents that employees have bought after picking a card, and arrange for them to be distributed to Kids Out. The presents go directly to children seeking shelter from abuse in Crisis Centres across the UK. The opportunity to put a smile on a child’s face, this Christmas, has clearly proven popular, as the presents  just keep piling up.

Candy cane delivery service

Lastly, the trainees have implemented an inter-office candy cane delivery service where employees can send Christmassy candy canes bearing a personalised message to co-workers in return for a donation to the office’s local charity. The idea is to thank someone you have worked with throughout the year or someone from a different office or department that you often work with but rarely see in person. As trainees, not only do we collect the order forms and donations, we deliver the candy canes to the desks of the lucky recipients.

Whilst the hard work doesn’t stop for Christmas, there are plenty of opportunities for trainees to enjoy themselves, support the local community and spread cheer amongst colleagues. The final celebration will be when all staff raise a glass over video link to wish each other a Merry Christmas.

A future trainee’s guide to Corporate Recovery

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1) What is Corporate Recovery?

The Corporate Recovery team deals with companies in financial difficulties. When this occurs, the management, shareholders or creditors of the company will look to take  it down one of several insolvency processes. The most common processes are liquidation, administration and receivership, but there are many others and each have their own objectives and specific rules. For example, the administration process aims to rescue the company by returning it to financial health, whilst a company voluntary arrangement allows the company to strike a deal with its creditors to ensure they are at least partially paid back.

In the Corporate Recovery team, it is often the case that we are not acting for the ‘company’ in financial difficulty, but are instructed by insolvency practitioners (IP’s) who manage the company’s insolvency process. For example, when a company is going into liquidation, a liquidator is appointed who will instruct on all matters that require specialist legal advice.

2) The Corporate Recovery team are split into two: contentious and non-contentious

Contentious work, very simply put, is when parties are in dispute and, in order to resolve the dispute, they can negotiate, arbitrate, mediate or litigate.  Insolvency law provides many scenarios where it is necessary for the liquidator to bring an action against the failing company. As a trainee, you might be involved in actions against directors which will involve assisting in compiling the evidence and liaising with the IP. Trainees often get experience of emergency injunctions, where we seek to make a company comply with the Insolvency Act. I have already helped prepare for and attended such a hearing, which for me is the ultimate example of ‘law in action’.

You’ll not only be applying insolvency law, but will also be ensuring that your work complies with the civil procedure rules. This is great experience for a trainee, allowing them to gain exposure to both litigation and insolvency law.

3) Non-contentious work is ‘transactional’

The non-contentious team is focused on appointments and sale transactions. Trainees can expect to see the full spectrum of both processes. When a company shows signs of financial distress, a bank may ask us to complete a security review. This involves carefully analysing facility, security and property documents to look for any deficiencies in the bank’s ability to enforce its security (attention to detail is key), drafting court forms and supporting statements to appoint administrators or petition the court to wind up the company. This is often at short notice, so the ability to work under pressure is crucial – and be prepared to make the dash to court to file!

Finally, if when working with the IP, you will help draft and negotiate sale agreements and ancillary documents to sell the business as a going concern, or its assets, for the benefit of the creditors. A trainee will need to familiarise themselves with what is acceptable in a sale by an IP, which contrasts with that which is typical in a transaction completed by the Corporate team.

4) We often act for the same clients

Working in the Corporate Recovery team often involves working with the same IP’s. This allows for the development of close client relationships. Working closely with the same clients is considered an advantage and much is done to invest in client relations. The world of insolvency, in general, recognises the importance of knowing individuals both professionally and personally. In fact, there is a Midlands restructuring society which organises a large variety of social events, and the emphasis on client relationships is definitely something I have enjoyed as part of my seat. From netball matches to quiz nights and networking evenings, life as an insolvency solicitor allows for the opportunity to be sociable and to get involved in the wider business community.

5) As a trainee, there is a great level of responsibility

As a trainee, the work I have been given is varied and interesting and there is an emphasis on research – in order to comply with the Insolvency Rules, we need to know how the law interacts with each particular set of circumstances. Before coming to the seat, I understood in theory what corporate recovery involved, but as insolvency was only a small element of the course on the LPC, I can now see that it has many different angles. The team is supportive, acknowledging that insolvency law is not always clear cut, and there is always someone around to answer my questions.

This post was edited by Fionnuala Reihill. For more information, email blogs@gateleyuk.com.

Trainee transitions: how to make the most of your supervisor

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As a prospective trainee, the moment you discover which department you are joining for the first seat of your training contract, you begin to anticipate who your first supervisor will be for the start of your legal career. This is the person who greets you on that first nerve-racking day and who will provide you with the support and guidance for those initial six months as a trainee solicitor. You will undertake four six-month seats which means having four different supervisors; the importance of developing such relationships cannot be emphasised enough.

You will find that every supervisor works differently. Some take a very hands-on approach, observing and managing your day to day workload; this is always beneficial in your first seat whilst you are finding your legal feet. Others are more relaxed, giving you space and a greater responsibility to manage your own day (while still checking in to make sure you’re on the right lines). In the same way that you adapt your work to the needs of a client, you will find that you adapt your work to the needs and style of your supervisor or any of the other members of the team. You must learn how they work and tailor the work you do according to their expectations.

Go ahead… take advantage! 

It is also vital to utilise your supervisor; make the most of them! They are your first port of call when it comes to any important questions you may have and are an invaluable source of knowledge. Your training contract is largely about absorbing as much information as you can about the different practice areas, the legal arena and the various clientele that your firm engages with.

Feedback is a two-way street 

As well as overseeing your work, part of your supervisor’s role is to guide and support you. They will provide you with feedback as you progress through your seat and most will conduct unofficial reviews in addition to the formal mid and end of seat appraisals. These present a great chance, as a trainee, to explain how you feel you are progressing in relation to the work you are involved in and to provide feedback to your supervisor on your overall time in the department.

Keep in touch 

When you come to the end of a seat, it is always a good idea to stay in contact with your supervisor. During your rotations you’ll be amazed at how much overlap there is between departments and you’ll find yourself picking up the phone to a previous supervisor to work through a query as part of a matter in your new team. In this way, before you even realise it, your previous supervisors will be helping you develop inter-departmental relationships and networks that will greatly assist you in your future legal career.

For more information, email blogs@gateleyuk.com.

In-house vs. private practice: on secondment

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One of the attractions for me when applying to the firm was the potential for secondment during my training contract, and I have been lucky enough to be the first ever six month secondee in the legal team at Everton Football Club.

When on secondment in an area of business you have a passion for (in this case, luckily for me, football) you can take a real interest in the application of the law to the daily goings on of the business. You can also begin the secondment with some basic knowledge of the legal challenges you think that business faces.

However, nothing prepared me for the breadth of potential legal issues facing a football club due to the unique nature of the football industry, both on and off the pitch. For example, whilst most businesses regard their employees as central and vital, there cannot be many types of business reliant on the success of 11 employees for 90 minutes and where those employees can be bought and sold!

One of the benefits of secondment is that no two days are the same and the type of work you are exposed to varies widely. So far, I have been involved with commercial matters such as brand enforcement, drafting sponsorship/partnership agreements and commercial image rights agreements. I have also been involved in regulatory issues, such as FIFA and Premier League regulations, player compensation and Youth Academy matters. You need to gain the confidence to transition between these extremely different areas of commercial law and regulation and it is a steep learning curve.

Being directly within the business whilst on secondment also allows you to see how the input of the legal team contributes to the success of the wider club. You can see how having intimate knowledge of the area of business you work in, along with legal expertise, can contribute to how commercial contracts are formed, and in turn contribute to money to buy and train future players for (hopefully) success on the field. For example, in regards to corporate hospitality, football clubs have a unique function in only having a small window on match day before and after kick off to serve customers. Commercial contracts regarding food, entertainment, cleaning and serving staff all have to reflect this and normal ‘hospitality’ type contracts would not be fit for purpose.

When on secondment you also see the interaction of different departments and differing laws and regulations first hand. You can see how a fairly straightforward sponsorship agreement with an alcohol company may encounter difficulties when playing in certain EU countries where the advertisement of alcohol is not allowed. This affects what players and staff can wear and how the club promotes the alcohol brand. Therefore, contracts must be tailored towards this and it is up to the legal department to ensure all the bases are covered.

Secondment is also a balancing act of differing interests but this contributes to me becoming a more ‘well-rounded’ lawyer. For example, perhaps a player will want to wear a certain brand of clothing for a photo shoot which is not the same as the club’s sponsor/manufacturer. You need to research Premier League rules, player’s contracts, image contracts, sponsorship contracts and how they all interact. You must learn to balance both these legal and regulatory issues along with commercial interests, commercial ‘awareness’ and plain old common sense.

Secondment, in any area of business, allows you to experience law from the client’s end of things. If you become experienced in how a client receives advice and wants answers to be presented, this can only assist you as a solicitor on returning to private practice.

There are, of course, elements of private practice and being ‘back at HQ’ that you miss. For one, I now value more than ever the contribution of legal secretaries and paralegals to creating documents and assisting with projects as legal secretaries do not exist in-house. Also, simple things, like paginating documents or having access to certain law specific systems, are available at the firm but not at a football club.

There is added pressure in-house as you are (literally) the face of the firm within that business and, while wanting to show off your own ability, that will also reflect on the firm. Individuals in-house may also see ‘solicitor’ in your job title or email and are unaware that you are training and how a training contract works. You may, therefore, have work land on your desk that is beyond your level, but it is a skill in itself knowing your limits and when to seek assistance.

There is also the legal training support structure and experience of a 2 year training contract within the firm that a football club or most businesses do not have or require. However, everyone at Everton has been extremely helpful in assisting with my transition into the club and the commercial team back at the firm have always been on hand to help with any questions.

A bit like Romelu Lukaku, I feel I have experienced and contributed a great deal during my ‘loan’ period at Everton and exceeded my expectations on joining the club. I have much more to experience during the secondment but I hope to apply the club’s motto ‘Nil Satis Nisi Optimum’ on my return to the firm and in any future employment in the area of sports/football law.

This post was edited by Conor Hannon. For more information, email blogs@gateleyuk.com.