Two years as a trainee

2013 New Year clock

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!

This post was edited by Eleanor Scudder. For more information, email

Trainee to partner – my journey


I joined Gateley as a trainee in 1996. At that time there were 11 partners and the firm had one office situated in Birmingham. I qualified in 1998 specialising in contentious and non-contentious employment.

Since I have joined the firm, it has grown at a rapid rate.  We are now a top 50 national law firm with 740 employees including 151 partners with nine offices across the UK and an office in Dubai supporting businesses in the Middle East.

Why am I still here? 

Gateley has always been a dynamic firm and as it has grown I have had the opportunity to progress my career. It has also had a culture which I have always really enjoyed; we work hard but we do have lots of fun along the way!

I’m still based in our Birmingham office 18 years on and I am now head of the West Midlands employment practice. I am one of the 11 partners in the 40 strong National employment team.  I also sit on the National Operations Board for the firm.

I juggle my role within the firm with having three children (nine, seven and five years). The firm has always been supportive of my desire to continue to progress in my career whilst having a family.  In fact, I was promoted to Partner whilst on maternity leave with my first child in 2004. When I returned to work I came back working four days a week.

I still thoroughly enjoy working at Gateley. The work is interesting and there is a really good social side to the firm.  I cannot believe I have been at the firm for almost half of my lifetime (now I am giving my age away!)  I look forward to what the next 18 years have to bring – I am sure there will be plenty of further developments as we aren’t a firm that stands still for long!

This post was contributed by Victoria Garrad. For more information, email

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


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

We want to hear from you


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, 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

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