Author: Charles Laporte-Bisquit (Qualified Solicitor via Accutrainee)
As you embark on what could be a two-year journey of gainful employment in a law firm or company, my main advice to those reading this blog entry is to obtain as wide a range of experience as possible. For each secondment you undertake, you will be exposed to different working styles, personalities and environments which can only help you make a better-informed decision of the type of lawyer you want to become.
For my part, like Obelix from the Gallic comic book series Asterix (and the 2002 feature film with Gérard Depardieu), I fell into the cauldron of litigation in 2013 when I took on an internship with a boutique litigation firm (Hausfeld & Co LLP) after a dry spell applying for training contracts in the City. The fee earners there have an entrepreneurial and exciting approach to litigation and often work on a ‘no win no fee’ basis – nothing like the working environments in any other law firm I had interned with before in London or Paris. My supervisors were interested in making me a trainee but, because they only covered contentious matters, they referred me to Accutrainee, which was an ideal solution.
Accutrainee allowed me to train at Hausfeld & Co and also arranged a non-contentious seat for me with another tier one firm (Sullivan & Worcester UK LLP) that specialises in international trade and export finance. Their London office advises financial institutions on their financing activities in emerging markets in relation to a range of commodities including, oil, gas, metals and cocoa. My work principally involved drafting the underlying contracts between exporters, importers and the various financiers involved. Drafting aside, one particular highlight – which only further confirmed my aspiration to become a litigator – was being asked to help with a major piece of litigation work for the firm just after a new litigation partner joined, in relation to a client’s dispute under letters of credit.
I’ve been fortunate to experience a lot of responsibility from day one in each secondment, which has really accelerated the learning process. It’s also a great confidence booster to know that some of the top lawyers in the City trust you to get the job done.
Now on to the inevitable hurdles between day one and qualification. There are the Professional Skills Course (PSC) modules you will need to complete during your training contract. Together this totals 12 days (72 hours) of training. Some culminate in a written or oral examination after three consecutive days of class workshops. Needless to say, you should be looking to complete these core modules as soon as feasible to help you cope with that ever-growing to-do-list as you progress through your first couple of seats. For your own health, I would advise against sitting 12 days’ worth of modules in one go or even sporadically during busy work terms. For my part, I completed large chunks of my modules in the summertime, when lawyers and clients alike can sometimes enjoy some respite from their usual workload.
Also why leave the biannual appraisals and monthly training journals until the last minute? It is an unnecessary cause of stress and by winging it, you prove yourself unprepared and unable to cope with deadlines – one of the many practice skill standards you will be required to meet as a trainee solicitor. If like me blank paper forms put you off, it helps to keep detailed timekeeping records. If done correctly on a daily basis, these records (which you have to keep anyway for billing purposes) will materially reduce the pain of work-related introspection, improve accuracy and increase efficiency (meaning billable hours). It really is a win-win strategy!