Life as a Trainee Solicitor

We asked a selection of our current Trainees and recently qualified Associates to share their experiences of training with CB:

First Year Trainee Solicitor

I applied to Collyer Bristow because it stood out from the crowd – with its unique art gallery and focus on private client work. From the moment I was offered a training contract I had a trainee ‘buddy’ assigned to meet and discuss any questions I had. This was helpful as I began my LPC studies. The firm is a friendly place to work, and as a future trainee you are invited to the summer and winter parties which gives you a good opportunity to meet people before you start your training contract.

I have just finished my first seat in Tax and Estate Planning. The work has interesting and as a trainee at Collyer Bristow you are given real responsibility and meet clients which is an invaluable way to learn as your seat progresses. The work of a Tax and Estate Planning trainee is varied with everything from drafting Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney to probate work, immigration advice and more complex tax planning matters. When you join as a trainee you are also assigned a ‘mentor’ who meets with you regularly to discuss how you are finding the training contract and provide useful advice from someone who has ‘been there and done that’ as a previous trainee which can be invaluable.

Trainees are encouraged to attend business development events and start to build skills such as networking early on that will be useful for your future professional life. The firm is a friendly and supportive place to work and offers trainees the chance to take on real responsibility, meet clients and engage with high quality work.

First Year Trainee Solicitor

I am about to conclude my first seat in Commercial disputes, which is part of the wider Dispute Resolution department. The firm has great cases and clients and the claims that we work on are usually worth millions of pounds, if not hundreds of millions. Whilst in the seat, I was able to work on and attend a case in the Court of Appeal, which I found very exciting.

I applied to Collyer Bristow because I wanted to train at a firm with a small trainee intake as I felt that this would give me the best possible training. The small intake means that the trainees are really valued and utilised by your team and you definitely get a high level of exposure at the firm. For example, I have attended court alone with Counsel, which is something that my friends at bigger firms have not had the opportunity to do.

The firm is also very friendly, and the sheer number of training events, lunches and social opportunities allow you to meet a wide range of people from across the firm. As a future trainee, you are also invited to attend the Christmas and Summer parties, which is a great opportunity to meet future colleagues and the rest of your cohort early on. Trainees are also invited and encouraged to attend business development opportunities, and the firm hosts many of these in our art gallery.

Life as a trainee can, of course, be hard work, but the support you are given and the great people who work here also make it fun.

Second Year Trainee Solicitor

I am a second-year trainee at Collyer Bristow and I am about to start my fourth seat in the Corporate & Commercial team.

So far, I have completed seats in Real estate, Commercial dispute resolution / Banking & financial disputes and Intellectual property. Whilst in these departments, I have been given the opportunity to run matters independently, attend court, advise clients on a wide range of matters and draft documents. In my experience, the firm’s focus is on providing trainees with excellent training in order to prepare them for the role of a qualified solicitor. As a result, I have had real responsibility, as well as regular client contact and exposure to the commercial aspects of working in a law firm.

Collyer Bristow is also very entrepreneurial and encourages trainees to participate in business development initiatives and build our network from an early stage. I have written articles for the firm’s website and other publications and I have also attended interesting networking events hosted by the firm. By way of example, this year the firm has hosted various exhibitions at our contemporary art gallery, a pop-up boutique event for female entrepreneurs and turned our client area into a jazz club for an event.

The firm is also dedicated to developing trainees’ technical skills and encourages career development. I have attended various training sessions throughout my training contract to improve both my technical legal skills and other professional skills. Collyer Bristow’s ‘Higher’ initiative, a project designed to support the elevation of women in the workplace, also regularly holds events that trainees are encouraged to be involved in.

Newly qualified Associate

I applied for a training contract at Collyer Bristow at the end of my final year of university in 2016, expecting to receive a start date in 2018. However, there was the option to apply for 2017 which was perfect for me as I just had time to squeeze in the accelerated LPC before starting. I was invited to the firm’s Christmas and Summer parties before I had started. This made the first day in the office considerably less daunting, as I had already met the people that I would be working with.  All trainees are assigned buddies from the point at which they receive an offer, which allowed me to ask all the silly questions I needed to – from what I needed to wear to questions about my LPC electives.

My first seat was in Banking and financial disputes, which involved very large, complex pieces of litigation. The highlight of that seat was multiple visits to clients in Italy in relation to an £80m dispute. I returned with far more confidence in my work, and in myself as a lawyer. My second seat was in Commercial disputes. This involved a mixture of large commercial cases, high-profile reputation management, and insolvency matters. I was fortunate to attend a number of hearings, including one before the Court of Appeal, and saw my research feature prominently in submissions.

After two contentious seats, I moved to Corporate and Commercial. This was my favourite seat as the workload was very diverse – from drafting corporate ancillaries and undertaking due diligence on a transaction, to drafting various types of commercial contract. I also gained experience in financial regulation and non-contentious insolvency. This was a very hands-on seat, which saw my written communication skills improve greatly, and I have since qualified into the team. My fourth seat was in Property, which was a good final seat as it saw me running a number of my own matters, including the multi-million-pound sales of 2 residential London properties, and the renegotiations of commercial leases for a landlord.

For each seat, I shared an office with one partner which meant that I was able to observe the way they dealt with matters and develop my skills. Collyer Bristow provides ongoing opportunities to improve your skills, with weekly seminars for trainees, as well as regular know-how sessions from barristers. There is also a strong emphasis on getting involved in business development from the outset of your career, whether that be drafting articles for the publications, attending networking events or preparing documents for pitches.

Newly Qualified Associate

I joined Collyer Bristow as a trainee in 2017 and qualified into the firm’s Tax and estate planning (TEP) team in September 2019.  As a trainee, I completed seats in Real estate disputes, Banking & financial disputes, TEP and Corporate & Commercial.

I initially applied to Collyer Bristow largely on the firm’s reputation as a friendly place to work and on the strength of its private client practice.  The friendly reputation proved well-deserved from the very start, from my invitation to the Christmas and Summer parties while I was still a ‘future’ trainee, to monthly departmental mingles over lunch, to the genuine approachability of partners and other associates and their willingness to offer help and advice.

One aspect of the training at Collyer Bristow that I hadn’t appreciated when applying is the high level of responsibility the firm gives you as a trainee, something I am not sure is true of many firms. As a trainee in TEP, for example, I was given several files to run by myself (with supervision) from taking instructions all the way through to billing at the end of the matter.  This level of practical experience and holistic approach to training prepares you well for life as a qualified solicitor.

The TEP team works across a variety of areas including UK and international trusts, wills, probate, immigration and general and international tax planning; as a TEP trainee I was involved in a similarly wide range of work.  Along with the usual probates and will drafting, I drafted trust deeds, prepared tax, residence and domicile advice for high net worth individuals and assisted the head of department with immigration matters.  This was all good fee-earning work that progressed the clients’ instructions and made me feel that I was making a valuable contribution to the team.  At the start of my seat I was given weekly training sessions to bring me up to speed and the department holds monthly breakfast training and lunchtime know-how sessions to keep abreast of the latest developments.

The Private Wealth department has close relationships with other professional advisers (such as accountants and wealth managers) and are always keen on business development.  Trainees and associates are strongly encouraged to attend networking events, whether these are external events or are hosted in the firm’s art gallery, so that they can start to build up their professional network.  A particular highlight was being asked to write and host a pub quiz for junior professionals in the private wealth sector that was well attended by a number of referrers, and, as an associate, I will be taking the lead in organising this event again this summer.

I feel that the excellent training and networking practice I have been given at Collyer Bristow has stood me in very good stead in the transition from trainee to qualified solicitor.

Second Year Associate

I trained at Collyer Bristow from 2016 to 2018 before qualifying into the Dispute resolution department.  This department is split into a number of teams which specialise in different kinds of disputes.  I work on banking and financial disputes, as well as some more general commercial disputes.

As a trainee, I did seats in Real estate litigation, Employment and Intellectual property, Corporate & Commercial and Commercial real estate. Collyer Bristow encourages trainees to get a broad range of experience and a high level of responsibility during their training contract. This approach stands you in very good stead for your career after you have qualified. In particular, in the Dispute Resolution department, you are free to take on work from other teams which allows you to gain experience the work done in other teams where you might not get a chance to do a seat. As you grow more experienced, you are often also given responsibility for particular matters so that you develop an understanding of what you will be ultimately be doing as an Associate.

Since qualifying, I have worked on a range of matters ranging from smaller matters where it is just me under the supervision of a partner to much larger matters which require a team of Associates/Senior Associates. The firm also encourages Associates and Trainees to get involved in business development from day one, through attending networking events, contributing to professional publications, preparing client pitches and speaking at seminars.

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