Hello everyone and welcome to the third and final blog as a trainee in the litigation team (sad face!). If you haven’t read the first 2 instalments in my trainee diary series, you can find them here – August-October 2021 & November-December 2021. This link will give you an overview of some of the new things I’ve been up to in the litigation team, some tips that I’ve learned along the way and why I’ve enjoyed litigation.
Where did 6 months go?!
It’s hard to imagine that in August 2021 I started as a trainee solicitor at CMS and I’m now finishing my first seat. Everyone always tells you that the training contract goes fast and I’m here to vouch for that! I have loved every moment of my time in litigation but all good things must come to an end and to that end, for my next seat, I’m off to…NATWEST!
I am very excited to be joining the corporate mergers & acquisitions team at the NatWest Group in their Edinburgh office. Keep your eyes peeled for my secondment blogs!
For now, I thought this blog would be a good time to share what I’ve been up to since my last post, reflect on the favourite parts of my time so far as a trainee solicitor and share some tips for those starting training contracts or starting vacation schemes this summer.
In my last post in December I shared with you the work I’d been doing for a trial and before that a mediation in London. The past couple of months have been filled with so many exciting new projects that aren’t related to a specific client so I wanted to share with you the rounded nature of a training contract:
Law-Now is the CMS hub of legal articles and publications. Trainees are actively encouraged to get involved in writing articles. I recently wrote a Law-Now on the judicial review of the Government’s use of a VIP/High Priority Lane for the procurement of PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’d like to read about it, you can find the link HERE. In summary, the Court found that it was unlawful for the Government to operate a VIP Lane but refused to grant any declaratory relief for the Claimants because the outcome would not have been substantially different than if the VIP Lane was not in operation and the Court considered this judgment to be a sufficient mark.
Volunteering to write an article is a really great opportunity to read a judgment that you perhaps would not have normally and to learn about new areas of law (e.g. public law, judicial review procedure and procurement in this Law-Now). It is always positive to have your name on a publication too!
At CMS, there are regular team meetings, case update meetings and external speakers (usually senior counsel) are invited to present their thoughts/a refresher course on a particular topic. Trainees are also encouraged to present on the latest cases.
I recently presented on the topic of without prejudice privilege from the case of Jones v Lydon (No 2)  EWHC 2322 (Ch). This is the second judgment of the case and the substantive judgment can be found at Jones v Lydon (No 1)  EWHC 2321 (Ch). There are different types of privilege that you will come across. You may have heard or studied about legal advice privilege (confidential communications between a client and their solicitor for the dominant purpose of receiving advice) and litigation privilege (confidential communications between a client and their solicitor for the sole or dominant purpose of obtaining advice in relation to litigation or reasonably contemplated litigation). If something is privileged, it becomes protected from being used in court (though there are exceptions). I was presenting on without prejudice privilege which protects any communications made between disputing parties in a genuine attempt to settle a dispute.
This litigation related to a dispute between the members of the band ‘The Sex Pistols’ and their music rights. My presentation focused on the effect of communications which have or have not been marked as “without prejudice” and specifically whether silence from one party could be interpreted as a statement in response to prior communications.
In summary, even if a particular piece of communication is not marked as “without prejudice” but it follows on from a chain of correspondence (which was properly marked as “without prejudice”) then it can still benefit from the protection. Secondly, silence is not to be treated any differently than oral or written communication and cannot generally amount to a statement. If you’d like to read the judgments, you can find them here – Jones v Lydon (No 1) & Jones v Lydon (No 2).
It seemed like not that long ago I was applying for Vacation Schemes and attending assessment centres. Well, for the past few weeks, I have been assisting the Early Talent Acquisition team in the recruitment for the CMS Academy. You may have heard that CMS revamped their entire assessment centre and I was fortunate to have participated in the pilot of the assessment centre and completed all of the components as if I were a candidate. It was lovely to see first-hand how the new materials work and how well CMS have adapted their materials to online assessment centres.
I have been facilitating the group exercise component of the CMS assessment centre for the London, Dubai, Manchester, and Scottish offices. It’s wonderful to be able to help the firm recruit and a huge good luck to those with upcoming assessment centres!
CSR – PRIME
Everyone in the firm is encouraged to partake in pro bono or corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives or activities. One that I’ve recently been involved in is the PRIME programme. CMS is a founding member of PRIME which is a programme where various UK law firms work together to improve access into the legal profession.
As the first person in my family to go to university, I am all for increasing access to and diversity in the profession. Together with some CMS colleagues and a lawyer from one of our clients, we hosted an “Introduction to Law” webinar for a high school in Glasgow. It was a great webinar and the students got to hear about our journeys into law, what we do as a law firm and we had an interactive debate on whether Jaffa cakes are cakes or biscuits!
Tips for successful and productive working
I’ve been doing a hybrid of home working and being in the office towards the end of this seat as restrictions started to ease. I think there are so many benefits to both and I would really encourage everyone to find a pattern that works well for you. Here are some of the things I’ve learned over the last 6 months and would like to share with you:
1 – Ask questions. Not in the obvious sense as in asking questions if you don’t understand the task but rather as I’ve mentioned, 6 months has gone by so quickly so to get the most out of this seat, I’ve tried to ask questions (at appropriate times) to really understand the big picture of the work that I’m doing. When I receive work, the team are really good at giving me the background to the case and explaining how my piece of work relates to the end goal even if background information isn’t necessary for the task. If you want to learn as much as you can in a short period of time, make sure to ask questions! I’ve learned a great deal about shareholder disputes, procurement, and reinsurance litigation just by asking questions about the litigation and showing a genuine interest in finding out more about the work I’m doing.
2 – Take the plunge. It can be scary to take on a new task or workstream when you know absolutely nothing about that area of law. However, getting positive feedback for a task that you started from scratch is so rewarding. I would absolutely recommend keeping an open mind, taking the plunge and putting your hand up for new workstreams (if you’re free). It’s also a great opportunity to work with new people or new teams. P.S. Westlaw/Lexis will become your best friend.
3 – Communicate. It’s so important to communicate how busy you are, if you’re struggling, or would like to try something new. CMS has a very open and collaborative culture and I’ve found that there is always someone to talk to and point you in the right direction – you need only ask! I’ve also found that if there is a particular type of work or you hear that there is a case going on that you would like to assist in, there is no harm in communicating that to the team! Equally, if you are overwhelmed and struggling, the team are there to help you out and try and resolve any issues.
Why do I enjoy litigation?
The past 6 months have been particularly busy in the litigation team and it’s been great to work on a variety of Scottish and English disputes. Here are some of the reasons I would recommend a litigation seat to anyone and why I’ve enjoyed it so far:
1 – the variety of the work. Each dispute is so different on its facts and the application of law will vary from case to case. This keeps the work constantly interesting and engaging. Each case also has its own procedural timeline and I’ve been able to work in disputes at all stages of their lifecycle.
2 – the different skills required. Linked to my point above about the variety of work in the team, there are a range of platforms and tasks involved in a dispute so you quickly acquire a multitude of different skills. For example, using Relativity to review documents or using a PDF software to create court bundles.
3 – the team. The team at CMS are absolutely brilliant people and are always around with a helping hand when needed. I never felt isolated when working from home and the culture is such a positive one.
And just like that…
My first seat comes to an end. I would like to send a huge thank you to the litigation team for truly being a wonderful team that has supported me so much in the last 6 months. If any of my readers would like to know more about my time in litigation or CMS as a whole, please feel free to get in touch!