31st May 2018

An insight into life as a Trainee Solicitor – Rachael Watts

An insight into life as a Trainee Solicitor – Rachael Watts

Tell us about more about your role…

I joined Ellisons as a Paralegal in the Commercial Property department in November 2015. I then commenced my Training Contract in November 2016 and remained in Commercial Property for my first seat assisting Philip Roberts.

I then moved to Private Client to assist Linda Osborne with Wills, Lasting Powers of Attorney and Probate for 9 months.

My third seat is in Dispute Resolution which is where I have experienced the most change in my role. I work with seven fee earners across the department including Commercial Litigation & Contentious Probate, Insolvency & Debt Recovery, Construction & Regulatory and Property Litigation fee earners. My work load is considerably more varied due to the vast expertise of the department which means every day is very different.

I am due to qualify in November 2018.

Describe a typical day in your role…

I usually arrive in the office between 8am and 8.15am so that I have time to go through my emails and prioritise my work for the day while having a cup of tea! The rest of the day very much depends on what department I am in.

When the post arrives I check to see if there is anything urgent or anything which I need for the files I have prioritised for the day. I put my post, and emails as they arrive, on to the relevant files so that I have everything ready when I pick the file up to work on.

During my time in the Private Client department a lot of the day was often spent in client meetings to take instructions for Wills and LPAs or to discuss and take instructions for a new Probate. After the meeting I would draft the Wills and LPAs so that these could be checked by my supervisor and sent to the client later that day or the following day.

Other departments do not involve as many client meetings, and therefore my day would generally be spent drafting documents and letters, making telephone calls and carrying out research.

What skills do you need to become a trainee solicitor?

  • Prioritising – whether you are working for multiple fee earners, or one fee earner with an extensive case load, there will always be plenty of work to do and being able to prioritise that work is extremely important. For me, the proof of this came when I moved to Dispute Resolution. I was no longer working for one fee earner and became available for the whole department, with each fee earner having urgent work and impending deadlines. You also need to know when to speak up and let the fee earners know if you have too much on – they won’t bite!
  • Communication – You will spend most of your day writing letters/emails or on the phone so it is important that you are able to communicate with clients, colleagues and other professionals. It is also important to remember that clients differ and the way you communicate with commercial clients about a new development will be very different to how you need to communicate with private clients who are making their Will.
  • Be personable – most new work is received from existing clients either directly, or from their intermediaries. Our relationship with the client is crucial. Remember that every call, letter and email will leave an impression (good or bad)!

Top tips/Advice for someone applying to be a trainee solicitor?

  • Focus on something that makes you stand out – all candidates will have a degree but what have you got that the other candidates won’t? The extra-curricular activities and voluntary work on your CV say a lot about who you are as a person. Every firm looks for candidates who will fit in with their existing employees and contribute to the firm on a personal level as well as on a fee-earning level. I always found that my hobbies and interests were discussed in interviews far more than my degree results.
  • Ask questions – never leave an interview without asking at least one question. The interviewer won’t have answered everything and you want to show you are still interested in securing a position at that firm.
  • Stay calm but focused – I was once told I was too nervous in an interview. It is probably the best feedback I could have had as it completely changed my attitude ahead of my interview at Ellisons, and here I am!

What’s your favourite thing about working in Ellisons and training to become a solicitor?

Ellisons is a great place to work and I was thrilled to have been given the opportunity to train here. To begin with, the thought of moving to a new department every six months is daunting, but it is actually one of the great benefits of a Training Contract. It allows you to meet so many people across the firm and I’ve always felt so welcome when I’ve moved to a new seat.

To learn more about our training contract, click here.