Trainee Twitter Q&A

Questions and Answers, Q & A

Following our twitter Q&A session which took place on Monday, we have summarised the tweets below. If you still have an unanswered question, simply comment on this blog post and we will get back to you. 

1. What was the worst question asked in your interview?

What are your weaknesses?

2. What do you think makes a good trainee?

Perseverance. Determination. Personality. Sense of humour. Enthusiasm. Confidence. Common sense. Knowledge of the law – not  necessarily in that order!

3. Does the way you dress influence your chances on an assessment day?

It is important to dress the part but it’s what you do and who you are, not what you look like, that matters.

4. Do you have any advice for success in group work exercises?

Make sure your opinion is voiced but remember there is a right time and a wrong time – don’t say something for the sake of it. Think.

5. What is one thing about your training contract that you weren’t expecting?

The friends I have made.

6. How much responsibility does a trainee have over their work?

It depends on the team you are in at the time – it varies from a lot of independence and expectation, to heavy supervision.

7. How much choice do trainees have regarding the seats into which they are placed?

At Gateley, your first two seats are allocated. In your second year, you can express preferences.

8. What are your working hours like?

It varies from team to team. Corporate focussed teams work longer hours because of the nature of the work.

9. What has been the most nerve-wracking moment of your training contract so  far?

Those first few days spent as a first seat trainee before realising everyone was really nice and really helpful!

10. What is the single most important skill that a trainee should have?

A trainee should be organised and nothing less.

11. I’m terrible at presenting; is this fatal to my chances of gaining a training contract?

No – it might be that you have another quality to bring to the table.

12. What has been your favourite seat so far?

As a second year trainee your third or final seat is your  ‘choice seat’. This means you can have a go at something you are really interested in.

My role in a commercial property transaction

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I joined the Real Estate Unit in Manchester for my second seat in March 2014. The team boasts solicitors specialising in a variety of disciplines including, planning, construction, real estate litigation, commercial development, residential development and retail based commercial property work.

Four months in, I have had the chance to get involved with a wide range of property matters and have managed a commercial sale from start to finish with supervision.

In this transaction we were acting for the seller and so, initially, my role was to collate the title information to the property which, for registered land, would normally include an exercise in deducing title according to the title documentation filed at the Land Registry. However, the land in my transaction was unregistered and I had to deduce title from the epitome of title and deeds provided by the client to satisfy myself that that he owned the property and was able to sell it.

Following this, on a day to day basis I liaised heavily with the client and the buyer’s solicitor both in writing and on the telephone. Initially this was to provide a response to the buyer’s enquiries about the property and to facilitate the negotiation between the parties of the terms of the contract for sale and agreement for lease. Tailoring the contractual document to the commercial needs of our client as the transaction progressed allowed me to develop and enhance my drafting capabilities.

Once all the contractual documents were finalised, my role was more administrative in agreeing the dates for exchange and completion of the sale with the buyer’s solicitor and liaising with the bank regarding the redemption of their charge on the property. Following exchange, I ensured that we had received the deposit from the buyer and prepared a completion report to detail the remaining monies owed on the day of completion.

On completion, I arranged for the proceeds of sale to be transferred to the various interested parties including the bank to redeem the mortgage and the estate agent to pay their fees, along with sending the title information for the property to the buyer.

Overall, the experience has been invaluable to my development and has given me a real taste of what it means to be a real estate solicitor.

This post was edited by Jenna King. For more information, email blogs@gateleyuk.com.

We want to hear from you

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We would like to give our blog readers the opportunity to ask us questions on anything that is trainee-related. We will be hosting an interactive Twitter Q&A session on Monday, 14 July 2014 and we will be on hand to give advice, insight and an account of our experiences as trainees – and just to have a chat about life as a trainee solicitor!

We have already thought of some questions that you might like us to answer:

  • What are your tips for the training contract application process?
  • What is it like working at Gateley?
  • How difficult is it being a trainee?
  • What is the best thing about being a trainee?

We would also like to give you the opportunity to ask any questions relating to training contracts.

You can send your questions beforehand via email or by commenting on this blog post below.

Join us on Twitter for the live session between 10am and 4pm. on Monday, 14 July 2014. Simply mention @GateleyLLP within your tweet and we will respond with an answer to your question (don’t forget to use our hashtag #gateleytrainees).

We look forward to hearing from you!

The Gateley trainees

What is MULS?

MULS

MULS, or Manchester University Law Society to give its full name, is one of the largest student run societies at the University of Manchester (UM), which is itself the largest university in the UK by student enrolment. MULS is one of the cornerstones of Manchester’s vibrant law undergraduate scene and a key organisation for law firms looking to recruit budding graduates for training contracts and paralegal roles.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of MULS is that it is student run and student led. A Committee is elected annually which is responsible for all major sponsors and events. A fierce streak of independence runs through the organisation; the stiff and vocal opposition mounted by MULS to a proposed 33% reduction in lecture hours in 2010 was successfully opposed, causing the plans to be postponed.

If you are a student involved in law, politics or criminology at UM, the chances are that you are a member of MULS. All incoming undergraduates are encouraged to sign up to MULS on enrolment, with membership being touted as providing a discount for the variety of social events organised by MULS throughout the academic year. Take it from this UM alumnus – these events are not to be missed!

However, MULS offers much more beyond cheap nights out. A quick look at the MULS website reveals that no less than 17 law firms (including Gateley) sponsor MULS, in addition to The University of Law and BPP Law School. These links are a two way street. MULS events are sponsored by these law firms in return for increased access to legal undergraduates MULS represents.

By hosting MULS-exclusive presentations and events, the law firms not only give themselves the edge in recruiting from one of the largest law undergraduate bodies in the country, but also provide the students themselves with vital opportunities to meet and network with key representatives of the sponsor firms. Early connections made at such events can pay off handsomely when applications for training contracts and vacation scheme placements are considered.

MULS also offers more direct means of enhancing members’ CVs. Work placements, legal advice centre opportunities and mooting competitions are amongst the many extra curricular activities that MULS organises to give its members’ a boost when it comes to making applications. The best thing that can be said for MULS is that very few members finish their three or four year undergraduate degrees with a ‘plain’ CV!

This post was edited by Christopher Basford. For more information, email blogs@gateleyuk.com.

Practicing as a Scottish NQ in England

As a Scottish solicitor practicing in England, Ross King has taken a slightly different path to most of his colleagues. In this podcast, Ross discusses the differences between qualifying in England and Scotland, and how a Scottish NQ can practice in England. To listen to the podcast, simply click the play icon below.

Don’t forget that you can follow us on Twitter @GateleyLLP and tweet us using #gateleytrainees. 

For more information, email blogs@gateleyuk.com.

Changing expectations

Results and Expectations Concept

When you arrive for work on day one of your training contract, you may have had little or no legal practice experience. Exactly two years later the SRA expects you to be a competent, qualified solicitor. This miraculous transformation does not happen overnight and at times it can feel like a steep learning curve. However, by setting targets, recognising your achievements and then raising your expectations of yourself it can be a rewarding and enjoyable journey.

Day 1 – The firm hopes to recruit the best and brightest applicants so on your first day your new colleagues will be expecting an eager solicitor-in-the-making. However, everyone knows first days are nerve-wracking and with little legal practice experience you are not expected to be able to advise clients straight off the bat. You should start by learning department procedures and becoming familiar with the computer systems.

Day 7 – When you are more comfortable in the office, the key expectation of you is to do the basic jobs well. Whether it is a piece of research, drafting basic forms or writing covering letters and emails, these tasks should be spot on. There is no excuse for misspelling a company name or getting a date wrong.

Day 90 – When you are half way through your first seat, you should be earning your supervisor’s trust by carrying out everyday tasks diligently and enthusiastically. It is important not to make the same mistakes twice. It is important to be honest and sincere about any feedback you receive. In your appraisal, accept criticism and create systems to avoid making those errors in the future.

Day 185 – The first day of your new seat can feel like going back to square one as you need to become familiar with a new area of legal knowledge. However, the learning skills that you developed in your first seat should mean you get up to speed more quickly and allow you to take your legal skills to the next level.

Day 300 – A year into your training and you will be well into your second seat so should be feeling much more confident about how you handle yourself in the office and with clients. However, it is still very important to ask questions when you are not sure to continue your learning and demonstrate to your team that you are a safe pair of hands.

Day 450 – In the middle of your third seat you should be taking more initiative in your work, for example, thinking about the next steps of a matter. If your supervisor asks you to draft a key document, you should be thinking about what additional documents will be needed. It should be automatic that when you draft a document or do a piece of research that you need to draft the covering email to send it to the other side’s lawyer or your client for their approval.

Day 570 – When you have started your final seat you should be looking forward to qualification and thinking and acting like a solicitor. Of course your supervisor will continue to check your work but they will expect that you will be able to handle the matter.

Day 730 – Congratulations! You are ready to continue your learning as a qualified solicitor.

Not all expectations change. Throughout your training contract you will be expected to be dedicated to your team and the firm at all times. If you are ever unsure what the expectations of you are, there are plenty of places to find out: supervisors in appraisals, secretaries and support staff have seen it all before and newly qualified solicitors themselves. Some firms operate a buddy system which is a useful source of advice from someone who is experienced but also a friendly, confidential ear.

This post was edited by Megan Chadwick. For more information, email blogs@gateleyuk.com.

Things I look for in a training contract application

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This week’s post is a guest blog from our Training Principal in anticipation of the applications that are about to be completed as the academic year draws to a close.

I thought it might be of use to note a few points of advice that may help in the application process. Whilst these  are the key things that I look for in a training contract application to Gateley, I hope they will be transferable to any application you’re making.

As a short introduction, I’ve worked at Gateley since 2003 and have always taken a keen interest in graduate recruitment. In recent years, I have taken on further responsibility for our graduate recruitment and trainees, by taking on the role of Training Principal. It’s something I am very passionate about. Identifying the next intake of trainees, and the group that will hopefully become the future partners of the firm, is key for our business. Each year I help to review all of the applications we receive and identify strong applicants so I feel I am in a good position to offer some advice on training contract applications.

I appreciate that the task of obtaining a training contract can seem like a daunting one, with many published facts and figures citing the large number of students that are now undertaking the LPC in comparison to the smaller number of training contract places that are available. This is reflected in the applications we receive, with more students than ever before applying to us once they have already started or completed their LPC.  Gateley has no preference regarding the stage at which you apply to us – we recruit our trainees at all stages from undergraduates to applicants who have already completed their LPC.

We are keen to look at applications from people that can bring varying life experiences to the role, such as someone who may have already pursued a different career before moving into the law, or perhaps a candidate that has set up their own business alongside their university studies.

Before you put ‘pen to paper’, here are a few of the things that I look for:

Strong academics. If you have looked on our website before applying you will see that we ask for at least three B’s at A Level and a 2.1 at University. This is a good indicator of an astute and enquiring mind which is needed to work on challenging and complex cases. (Having said that, we do consider extenuating circumstances that may have affected any grades that are below our requirements.)

Beyond this, we don’t have any set criteria that we judge candidates against, but we do like to see a candidate who has interests and activities outside their academic life. We are renowned for being a friendly and sociable firm and that is something we also look for in our applicants, someone who will fit in and would be willing to pitch in and help out.  This is particularly important to us as there are numerous responsibilities that our trainees take on outside their fee earning work. For example, our trainees arrange and organise most of the offices’ CSR events and are heavily involved in all of our sports and social committees.  So, I look for an application that gives evidence of a well-rounded individual who will enjoy rolling up their sleeves and getting involved in the numerous other events and activities that we do.

Evidence of an interest in the law and being a solicitor. Beyond studying law and flicking through BBC news for any updates in world affairs, I want to know what has sparked your interest in the law – what really appeals to you about the sector and what have you done to ensure that you know what it is like to be a solicitor. Are you certain it is the career for you? Have you shadowed solicitors or barristers, attended external lectures and talks, spoken to family friends that are solicitors, signed up to all of the trainee blogs and followed the appropriate twitter feeds that you can? Any evidence to show that you understand the career you are choosing and that you will pursue it with a passion. If you have a true passion for something, that will come through in your application.

Why Gateley?  Do your research.  It sounds simple, but just spending a few moments to look over our website and research the type of work we do, the types of clients we have and any accolades we have won can strengthen your application. I appreciate that today you may apply to many different law firms for a training contract, it would be foolish to do otherwise, and naïve for us to assume that you would put all of your eggs in our basket! But taking that little extra time to tailor each application that you complete will make a difference.  I do look out for up to date examples and specific details that are unique to Gateley, I want to know why you have applied to us in particular and what appeals to you about Gateley. Are you looking for a career with us or just a training contract?

Personality.  Finally, I look for candidates that have enthusiasm and are able to bring their own individual personality to the firm and the work they do. I know this can sometimes be difficult with applications because it goes against every instinct to be a little different or individual. But it is so refreshing to read an application that portrays genuine passion, whether that be for Gateley, the law or the local tennis team that you’ve been coaching since you were in your teens, that is what I want to see.

And finally!  Please check your application for typos and errors before you submit it!

I hope this has been beneficial and helps you when the time comes to complete your training contract applications.

Good luck!