Law in the city

iStock_000027125269_Small

I always knew I wanted to work in London after finishing university. The bright lights and big smoke are a draw for many, and London seems to have more than its fair share of graduates embarking upon their chosen careers.

This is particularly prevalent in the city, where our office is located. Many London law firms are based nearby, which is handy if you are required to rush out and have some documents signed or attend a completion. It also means that you can meet for lunch with fellow trainees from other firms to compare notes on your training contract experiences.

The Square Mile is the epicentre of legal and economic development in the UK, and it is exciting to work at the very heart of it. Our office is situated right next to St Paul’s Cathedral. In fact, from my desk I have a stunning view of its pillars that I never tire from looking at, I will be sad to give it up when it is time to change seats. The office also has a beautiful roof terrace which looks directly on to the dome of the Cathedral, a great place to host client events and is always a talking point. I am looking forward to some summer events on the terrace this year, such as last year’s al fresco screening of the Wimbledon semi-final.

Whilst I always knew that I wanted to work in London, I was less keen on the idea of working in a huge firm like some of my friends, I was more attracted to a firm with a smaller trainee intake. The London office suits me perfectly as it is relatively small compared to the firm’s other offices, yet has the backing of the firm’s strong national brand and the high quality work which goes with it.

Something that is really exciting about the London office is that it is growing. It’s inspiring to be somewhere that is expanding and, naturally, as a trainee you want to work in a place where you can see yourself qualifying and building a career. I certainly feel that here.

A perk of being a London trainee in a national firm with a regional focus is that lots of clients (even from other offices) come to London for business, so we have the opportunity to meet many of them. I have even been fortunate enough to be taken for sushi in Mayfair and to The Shard for cocktails with clients of the Manchester office.

Something that I definitely envy of the other trainees, however, is the shorter commute that they enjoy in other cities. As London is so vast and the cost of living is so high, many people live outside of town and travel in by train. Even those of us who live in London face an hour of travel before arriving at our desks.

The firm has undertaken a new initiative for this year’s trainees, where my cohort have had the chance to visit each of the firm’s offices. I felt very lucky to call this area my ‘home turf’ when the other trainees came to London, after taking them on a short tour of some of the local key landmarks.

Something that always strikes me with London is how busy everywhere is, on any day of the week. Nowhere is this more true than in the city, where there is a definite ‘work hard, play hard’ culture. There is a lot of socialising after work due to our proximity to some lovely bars and restaurants, including a karaoke bar, but the less said about that, the better!

This post was edited by Rachael Waugh. For more information, email blogs@gateleyuk.com.

Hot topic – Seat selections!

iStock_000008372187XSmall

Seat choices and options is always a hot topic amongst trainees. Overall, the general firm policy is for each trainee to complete four six-month training seats: one Real Estate seat, one litigation seat, one Corporate seat and a seat of our preference.

The rationale behind this is to encourage trainees to develop into well rounded solicitors who are prepared for qualification. No matter which seat you have experience in, you will find that the skills, contacts and knowledge you have picked up through your training will be invaluable, not only in your subsequent seats, but also on qualification.

For instance, I am currently nearing the end of my third seat which is in Corporate. Prior to this I have worked in Commercial and Employment. A large part of Corporate work involves liaising with other departments and relying on their specialist expertise, particularly when completing a due diligence or disclosure exercise. My previous experience means that I have a helpful understanding of the various specialist areas of law and a familiarity with other departments that the Corporate team work with on a day to day basis. One of the most daunting tasks for a trainee in Corporate has to be following up with partners in other departments for work. Not always an easy task, this is certainly made a lot easier when you have worked with them previously.

The firm’s approach to seats also gives you a much broader network of contacts on qualification. As junior solicitors, we are encouraged to develop networking skills externally, but trainees and newly qualified solicitors alike shouldn’t underestimate the benefit of making a name for themselves within the office (in a good way that is)! Referrals are a large part of our daily work and having a varied training contract is a great way to meet as many people as possible. Earning the trust of others will place you right at the top of their list of people to refer work to.

Amongst this structured approach, you are asked for your seat preferences at the end of your first year. This ensures that where possible, you should get your first choice at some point during your training contract and gain a broader experience to help you make informed choices when qualification comes around.

There are a team of people who look after your development at the firm. This includes a dedicated HR officer, a national training principal with local office representatives, supervisors in each seat, a mentor who you are paired with throughout your training contract and a buddy scheme which begins before starting your training contract. This support network offers advice and assistance in relation to your seat choices. Having such a good support network means there is always someone there to listen to you. Because of this you are able to express your seat preferences at an early stage and discuss your options as you progress through your training contract. It is important to listen to the advice of those around you, as their experience and understanding is invaluable.

Your preferences will, most certainly, change as you progress through your training contract. Starting out with a narrow view will only restrict you in the long run. The best advice I can give to anyone thinking about seat choices is to throw yourself into every opportunity, always say yes and embrace whichever department you find yourself in. You will always be listened to and every effort will be made to give you your preference, but you never know which seat may surprise you. We have to leave a little bit up to chance after all!

This post was edited by Katie Porter. For more information, email blogs@gateleyuk.com.

Variety is the spice of life: the CTM department

Maturing ideas - Business collection

They say that variety is the spice of life, and this has certainly been the case during my time as a trainee in the Commerce, Technology and Media (CTM) department. The CTM team act for businesses in a wide range of sectors and industries, from football clubs to waste management. The work carried out by the team includes advising on regulatory and competition issues, supply chain agreements, intellectual property issues, joint venture and outsourcing agreements and much more.

On my first day in the team, I was advised that for the next 6 months I needed to, firstly, think from a commercial perspective and then, secondly, consider the legal position. Commercial awareness is an important skill for any lawyer working at a full service law firm, and I have found it particularly important in the CTM team to understand a client’s business and what their commercial objectives are. As a trainee, you very quickly develop the skill of thinking around a piece of work (rather than diving straight in) and considering how best to achieve the client’s desired commercial outcome.

There is not a “typical” type of client or piece of work, which can be quite daunting initially. This is one of the more difficult aspects of the seat as, due to the breadth of the subject, it is unlikely that you will do the same piece of work twice. Having limited repetition of work means it is imperative to gain as much from each piece of work as possible and to perform to the best of your ability. To illustrate the variety of work that I have been involved in, today I have:

  • Drafted an agency agreement
  • Attended a meeting to discuss a subcontract for the sale of IT and software products
  • Spoken with a new client about terms and conditions for a new garden and landscaping business
  • Advised on the regulations governing the importation of wrist watches.

So what key skills are important in order to be a successful trainee in the CTM team? The documents can be very technical and complex and so attention to detail and good drafting skills are essential. Due to the nature of the work, precedents are of limited use and so I have had plenty of opportunity to build on my bespoke drafting skills. It is also important to be adaptable as I often find that I quickly have to gain an understanding of a new area of law and industry in order to advise a client. A sound understanding of contract law and of course, commercial awareness, are also key skills.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in the CTM team. I have had a good level of responsibility and plenty of client contact. I have developed commercial and legal skills that will serve me well not just for the rest of my training, but also for my future career upon qualification.

This post was edited by Clare Swinnerton .For more information, email blogs@gateleyuk.com.

You can always teach a trainee new tricks!

iStock_000016667851_Small

If you think that getting to the end of university and law school signals the end of the learning process, think again. Admittedly, it is the end of your formal education within an academic setting (although you are still required to complete your Professional Skills Course during your training contract), but as a trainee solicitor (and beyond!) the learning process is never ending.

Trainees are, of course, learning on the job all the time. By definition, every new task that we undertake involves a learning curve. For routine tasks, this might be a pretty simple learning process. You complete the task once, and then you know how to do it. For others, you learn something new each time. For example, in my current seat, corporate recovery, each time that I undertake a security review (where I consider a lender’s ability to enforce the terms of facility and security documents entered into with customers), something novel inevitably arises which is unique to the particular documents or circumstances of that case.

As trainees we also have regular training sessions, which are structured more like the learning you might be used to at university or law school. From a quick scan through our trainee diaries over the next few months, these include:

  • Presentation skills training
  • Legal updates provided by external chambers
  • Press relations training
  • Departmental update sessions
  • Full day sessions as part of the Professional Skills Course.

As you can see, we are given the opportunity to develop our skills and knowledge in a wide variety of areas, both legal and commercial, which are necessary for developing into a well-rounded qualified solicitor. Of course, the learning journey doesn’t end there. If you chose to embark on a legal career, you are entering into a world that never stands still for long. The next reform or important court decision is always just around the corner, and as you become more experienced, business skills become ever more important to your success and career development.

This post was edited by Matthew Lappin. For more information, email blogs@gateleyuk.com.

Banking: the trainee experience

'Experience' highlighted in green

Overview of the practice area

In general terms, the work carried out by a banking and finance solicitor involves progressing transactions involving the borrowing of money through loans to fund a company’s activities. Typical activities may include financing a new business venture, expanding a current business venture, acquiring a new company or financing a construction project.

The day-to-day work of a banking solicitor is transactional in nature, rather than pure legal advisory work .In practice, this involves agreeing the contractual conditions of a  loan, advising your client on the terms and consequences of the deal and perhaps most importantly, ensuring that what has been agreed between the parties is accurately reflected in all documentation prior to signing and completion.

Who are the clients?

Our clients are either a lender (such as a bank or credit fund) or a borrower (such as private equity investment funds or companies).

The firm acts for many of the leading banks, financial institutions and corporate borrowers. The majority of transactions I have assisted with during my 6 month seat in the Banking & Finance team have involved instructions from a lender. However, I have also been fortunate enough to work on matters that have involved acting for a borrower. This balanced experience has enabled me to appreciate the different commercial considerations and approach taken when negotiating documents depending on whether you are acting for lender or borrower.

What skills are required?

Technical ability and knowledge of the law is important, but naturally, these are skills that develop and evolve throughout the course of your seat as you gain more exposure and take on more responsibility. However, teamwork and good organisation skills are essential from the outset as you will normally be working on deals as part of a team and assisting with more than one transaction at a time. Consequently, interpersonal skills when dealing with your colleagues, clients, and solicitors acting for the other party are integral to the progression and completion of a successful transaction.

Sound knowledge of a client’s industry and the general market in which they operate enables a banking solicitor to strike the right balance between identifying solutions in a commercial context and getting the deal done within a tight deadline.

What do trainees do?

As a trainee in the Banking & Finance team, you are given numerous opportunities to develop the skills required of a banking solicitor and often play an instrumental role in transactions. A trainee’s responsibilities include:

  • Managing the checklist of conditions that have to be satisfied before a transaction can complete
  • Drafting security, ancillary documentation, and legal opinions
  • Registering security at Companies House
  • Research tasks to stay up to date with laws, regulations and external factors affecting the industry
  • Research on the company borrowing money and a company or individual acting as guarantor
  • Liaising with and updating the client through regular emails and conference calls
  • Negotiating documents with the other side
  • Dealing with the mechanics of getting documents signed
  • Dealing with post completion requirements to perfect security
  • Preparing transaction ‘bibles’ following completion.

And finally….

Even if finance law is not something you have previously considered, one of the benefits of completing a banking seat as part of a training contract is the opportunity to work closely with other departments and gain insight into the work they carry out. During my banking seat I have worked on transactions involving the Corporate, Real Estate, Tax and Construction teams. This can make transitioning from one seat to the next a little easier and provides a good foundation if you do go on to do a seat in one of these departments.

This post was edited by Laura Devlin. For more information, email blogs@gateleyuk.com.

Trainees’ New Year resolutions

iStock_000053470104_Small

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

Untitled

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.