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A day in the life of a trainee solicitor: August-October 2021

Hello, lovely readers! Welcome to the very first instalment of my Trainee Diary series! As you may have seen already on my LinkedIn, I started my Training Contract with CMS in August 2021. It started with 3 weeks of training with the entire trainee intake. After this, I went off to my first seat in Litigation and Arbitration. The purposes of this new series on See Through Law is to give you all an insight into the life of a trainee at an international commercial law firm. I’ll be going through what typical trainee tasks are, how it fits in with the overall work of the team and any of my tips along the way. I’ll be posting every couple of months or so keep your eyes peeled for new posts! As always, happy to answer any questions!

The trainee onboarding process

August 2021 trainee intake. With us still being in a pandemic, this was conducted over Microsoft teams. The onboarding went well and consisted of some really interesting sessions on mindfulness, productivity and raising your internal profile. There were also lots of socials – my favourite being the online pizza making class:

As fun as the onboarding was, there were also mandatory training sessions such as on advocacy and finance & business skills. All of the tutors were lovely and incredibly helpful. The Early Talent Development team also organised sessions for us to speak to current trainees in the firm and ask them questions about the seats we were going into. Overall, the onboarding process was an enjoyable 3 weeks to ease us into our training contracts.

Seat training

On 23rd August 2021, the trainee cohort is sent to start their first seat rotation. However, if you know nothing about your new seat, fear not! Each team, where applicable, organises their own training for its trainees. For my seat in litigation and arbitration, I had various different training sessions on the different types of court procedures, the court process, alternative dispute resolution, how expenses work etc. These sessions were delivered by different members in the litigation team. It really gave me a good starting point, the opportunity to ask questions and meet members of the team!

Typical trainee tasks

So far, I’ve found my seat in litigation to be varied. Here are some of the tasks I get up to in this seat:

1 – Document review. It is common in litigation (or other contentious practice areas) that the client will give you a large quantity of data. This could be emails, documents or other files. It is then the team’s job to go through and see what is relevant for a potential court action or other resolution to the dispute. At CMS, we use some legal tech tools such as Brainspace and Relativity to help us narrow down relevant items. I’ve been tasked with going through files and picking out the ones that seem relevant to the dispute, creating a chronology of events/of the documents and reporting my document review findings to the team.

2 – Bundling documents. You may know already know about “bundles” but in essence, it is one big file that contains all of the documents referred to in, for example, court pleadings. It has to be bookmarked and hyperlinked. Compiling documents into a bundle is a typical trainee task. It may seem a bit tedious but it is so important because counsel (advocates in Scotland and barristers in England) and judges rely on these bundles for references in a court case!

3 – Attending calls and taking notes. Attending calls and taking notes of the call is a typical trainee task, whether in a contentious seat or not. It’s important that there are good files notes of calls/meetings that can be referred back to later.

4 – Drafting. I’ve been involved in drafting a variety of different things, such as letters, emails and documents. Particularly in litigation, there are usually witness statements, precognitions or affidavits to be drafted in a court action. This is something I’ve been involved in a lot recently!  

5 – Research. Trainees tend to be asked to do specific bits of research (either for client matters or general business development matters). It’s a good opportunity to improve your research and reporting skills, as well as possibly learning about a new area of law.

Highlight so far

As I’ve mentioned, I have been involved in many different cases in litigation. However, my highlight so far has actually been attending an in-person mediation. A mediation is essentially a formal and guided negotiation between disputing parties. The mediator is an independent person who both parties to the dispute have to agree on appointing as their mediator. I have been incredibly fortunate as I was recently working on a dispute and the parties decided to try mediation. With COVID restrictions easing, the partner and I were able to travel down to the London office and host the mediation. This involved me organising different rooms for the parties, arranging catering and lunch, as well as ensuring logistical tasks ran smoothly on the day of the mediation. We had to answer any legal questions which our client had for us and liaise with the mediator. It was a really great opportunity to see a mediation take place and achieve a successful result at the end of the day!

Top tips

Here are my top tips so far for settling into a new firm/new seat/new position:

  1. Turn your camera on. In the current pandemic, a lot of our meetings are taking place online via Microsoft Teams. I’ve found that having your camera on so that the team can put a face to a name to be incredibly helpful. It helps the team know that you’re new to the team and that you are keen for new work!
  2. To-do lists and flagging. At CMS, we use Outlook which is integrated with our document management system. I have a tasks tab at the side of my screen so I can see emails and my to-do list at the same time. I like to flag emails (which give me instructions for tasks) and then you can click and drag the flagged items to prioritise them in order of importance.
  3. Attend training/optional meetings. At CMS, the firm hosts many “lunch and learn” sessions where we have external speakers come in (virtually) to speak to us about a new/important topics. Although some may be optional, I highly recommend attending whenever you can (workload depending). These are on a broad range of topics and it’s good to attend so that you are aware of any changes or developments in the law or practice.

I hope these little tips help!

Next steps

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little blog giving you an insight into some of the things I get up to in my seat. I’m always happy to answer any questions about trainee life, the firm or about my legal journey so far so please get in touch! If you have any suggestions of topics that you would like covered in the next Trainee Diary series, please do let me know! For those applying for the Vacation Scheme at CMS, GOOD LUCK!


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