Having anticipated the start of my training contract for some time, actually commencing it was a big day. I knew from previous academic and paralegal work that I was interested in shipping litigation, but I was open minded to other areas of practice.
My first seat was in the Employment team. My first task was to undertake a review of a Captain’s contract for a private yacht based off the Channel Islands. Generally, Employment is a popular seat as it has a good mix of contentious and non-contentious work. An employment contract is something that is important to everyone, making this seat extremely people-orientated. For me, the highlight of this seat was negotiating a payout for a cohort of employees whilst maintaining their working relationship with their employer going forward.
My second seat was in the Commercial team, training with a partner specialising in Media and Entertainment. I learned the value of business development and commercial awareness thoroughly in the run up to the Cannes Film Festival.
My third seat was a split seat between the Banking & Finance and Corporate teams. As my first purely transactional seat I found the pattern of work a completely different experience. As a trainee in these teams you are less at the forefront of client interaction and have a more pivotal role behind the scenes, organising documentation and governing conditions precedent checklists (all the matters that need to be in place before a bank is comfortable lending to a borrower). Similarly, post completion work was very much within my scope of duties. Having said all this I did get a useful insight into how a whole transaction comes together, and how different members of the teams are expected to cover all of the client’s requirements; everyone has a role to play. This seat also allowed me to work cross-discipline, usually with the Property team, as well as cross-office, which meant my internal communication skills were fully utilised.
Finally, my last seat was with the Shipping team and here I was back in a litigation seat running my own case load (fully supervised). Types of work I have been engaged with include defending a personal injury claim sustained on board a vessel, and acting for claimants who suffered damage to their vessel during a winterisation process. Insurance issues are very pertinent in this seat and reporting to several sets of insurers and the insured is an additional element to incorporate.
Overall, my time as a trainee has had its challenges, dependent on how I have found the type of work in any given department. That itself is the whole point of a training contract, to experience a spectrum of work across a range of specialisms, and to see which of them you are both good at and enjoy. A big part of this process is deciding if you like the contentious or transactional side of law. I knew fairly early on that I really do like the litigation side of the law and working through my training contract cemented my inclination.
As a trainee moving around departments every six months, you gain experience not just by being exposed to four areas of law, but socially you build up lasting internal relationships across the firm, which has not only been invaluable but very enjoyable!