Hello! I hope everyone is keeping well during this festive season. I’m back with a new blog in my Trainee Diary series. If you haven’t read the first post in this series, you can find it here. I have already talked about the trainee onboarding, typical trainee tasks in litigation and some of my tips so do check it out.
Since my last post, a lot of new things have happened and I’m really excited to share them with you here. As always, if you have any questions about working at CMS, generally being a trainee or would like to have a chat about my journey in law, please drop me a message!
In this blog, I discuss some of the cases that I’ve worked on since the last post (generically, of course), new trainee tasks as well as some litigation team-related activities!
The lifecycle of disputes and reaching a proof/trial
In Scotland, the hearing at which evidence is heard is called a proof. It is the English equivalent of a trial. It is essentially the end stage of the lifecycle of a dispute after which a judgment is produced (we will use the term “trial” from now on to keep things simple). Contrary to what some people may think, not that many cases reach the stage of a trial. A lot of cases settle in advance of the trial and settlement can take place at different stages of the dispute.
As you can probably imagine, there are a lot of stages and hoops to jump through before a case gets assigned to a trial. There may be various hearings at the court, consultations with the client and meetings with counsel (advocates in Scotland and barristers in England). Throughout this process, all parties are considering the merits of their case, considering costs/expenditure as well as appetite to proceed.
As I’ve already mentioned, trials are not that common but I have been fortunate enough to be involved in the preparation of 2 trials. However, one settled on the morning of the assigned trial – as close as settlement can come!
The second trial, which I attended in-person, ran for 4 days. An additional 4 days are assigned to a diet in April. You might find it strange that the trial is taking place in 2 diets over 4 months apart. However, this is down to counsel, sheriff (the judge) and courtroom availability. Generally, the Pursuer/Claimant’s witnesses are called first. The witness goes through examination-in-chief, followed by cross-examination and sometimes re-examination if so required. Given the significance of this dispute, we had instructed junior and senior counsel (as had the other side). Interestingly, both junior and senior counsel of the other side conducted parts of cross-examination at the trial. This meant that I had the rare opportunity to see 3 different styles of advocacy: 2 from the other side and our own counsel.
Some of my tasks during the lifecycle of a dispute were:
- Drafting witness statements and sworn affidavits
- Bundling of documents
- Liaising with counsel, the other side’s agents, witnesses, and the client
- Citing witnesses to appear at the trial
- At the trial: keeping witnesses updated as to when they are required to give evidence, taking notes, reporting to the client
At the trial, it was fascinating to understand the different concepts being argued, tied together with the law, in different advocacy styles. I am incredibly fortunate to have attended this trial in person as it was still the norm to have hybrid trials and the week after this diet ended, all trials in Scotland were moving back to being virtual due to the surge in Omicron covid cases. Talk about good timing!
New trainee responsibilities
In my last post, I discussed some of the typical trainee tasks such as research, drafting and attending meetings/calls. I’ve found that as I grow in this seat, my responsibilities and tasks are increasing in complexity. For example, I’ve been using a software called Kira. Kira is a comparison software that picks up text from documents and provides essentially a Microsoft Word track changes-style of document. We’ve been getting some really large documents which we suspected are duplicates or at the very least similar. I had a task of running these documents through Kira to determine and analyse what changes had been made from one document to another.
I’ve also been responsible for some niche pieces of research from which I then drafted an advice note to a client regarding a potential dispute. This was the first time I had drafted something providing legal advice so it was an excellent opportunity to ensure my drafting is clear, concise, and accurate!
CMS has an incredibly friendly culture and I’ve found that it is easy to fit into the team that you’re working with. In that spirit, I wanted to share with you one of the things we get up to in our litigation team.
The litigation team has monthly parkour sessions. Yes, parkour!
CMS instructs a qualified parkour coach and we have a great time parkouring around Edinburgh. I must say try parkouring – I am trying but some of my colleagues are definitely much more successful at parkouring! However, all in all, it’s a great way to get to know your colleagues in an informal outdoor session and have some fun. I really enjoy these sessions because it allows us to meet (safely) outdoors for an activity and gets us away from our desks for a few hours.
CMS has many teams and clubs that you can join and I’d highly encourage you to join the firm-wide teams even if your own practice group/team does not have their own activity. There is definitely something for everyone!
Thanks for reading
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little blog post on some new things that I’ve been working on as a trainee. As always, I am happy to answer any questions about applying to CMS, CMS culture, life as a trainee etc. Please feel free to drop me a message through my website or through LinkedIn!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my readers! I hope you have a lovely festive season!