Florence Shoemaker
Trainee Solicitor
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Date Published:08 Apr 2021 Last Updated:28 Jul 2021

Junior Lawyers Division: A day in the life of a Civil Litigation Trainee Solicitor

Dispute Resolution

I am now three months into my first seat with the Dispute Resolution team at Ellis Jones Solicitors LLP. Like many first year Trainees during the pandemic, I have spent the entirety of my Training Contract so far working from home, with minimal trips to the office for tasks which cannot be completed at home.

Prior to starting my Training Contract, I worked as a fee-earning Paralegal with the same team for around 18 months. As such, whilst I have completed all of my Training Contract so far from home – I have had the benefit of 15 months of ‘face to face’ training. I cannot imagine how different my experience would have been if this were, for example, my first legal job. Having said that, I work for a very supportive firm and with a team which prioritises communication.

I have chosen to take a snapshot of a random day of my week to demonstrate the type of work a Trainee undertakes in a Dispute Resolution seat.

08:30 – Log in to work from my laptop at home. The first thing I will do is read through all of my emails which have come in over night/the weekend and delete any that do not require my attention (any internal emails which are not relevant to me, for example). I will then go through and save down any client emails to our internal database and ‘flag’ them as requiring a response. Once I have done this I will add any tasks to my to-do list – to keep on top of tasks I have both a daily to-do list and a general to-do list, in addition to the to-do list created on outlook by ‘flagging’ emails.

09:00 – Reply to any emails which can be immediately responded to. For example, drafting a response to a client querying the next steps to enforce a possession order. I should however caveat this step, it is actually quite rare for me to be able to respond to a client immediately without having to first either liaise with a colleague or research the point the client has raised – something which I’m sure is not unique to me as a first-year Trainee. The next steps to enforce a possession order, for example, are constantly changing as the Government bring in legislation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  I should also note that most of my emails (especially those containing substantive advice to a client) will be reviewed by my supervising solicitors prior to sending to the client. There will therefore be a lot of back and forth with amendments and comments from my colleagues, before the final email is sent. More routine emails, such as chasing a response from the other side, or prompting a client to revert with their instructions, can be actioned immediately.

10:00 – Call with enforcement agent – as above, enforcement of orders is an area that is being greatly affected by local and national lockdowns. I therefore spoke with one of our agents on a matter regarding a residential possession order to ensure that we are on the same page in terms of updated government guidance and strategy. Following this call I drafted an email to the client to update them in terms of when we should be able to progress their matter and I diarised the date for when the stay of enforcement is due to be lifted/reviewed.

10:30 – Touch base with my colleagues over the phone. I think it is important, especially in litigation, to ensure your colleagues know what work you have on and when you are likely to get to certain pieces they are waiting on. This also ensures that nothing is missed and enables you to discuss your thoughts on certain matters and give any relevant updates.

11:00 – Call with client in respect of on an upcoming hearing and to obtain his thoughts on counsel’s fees. I further discussed whether he would like to attend the hearing and the possible outcomes and orders available to the judge at the hearing. I ensure that I record my discussion by way of an attendance note and update the fee earner with conduct of the file.

12:00 – Call with client regarding their matter. This matter relates to the set aside of a County Court Judgment. We are in the early stages of requesting evidence from the other side and liaising with our client to enable us to advise on prospects and the options available to the client. I follow our call with an email to the client to ensure the client has a full understanding of what we discussed and what I require from her in terms of documentation/evidence.

12:45 – Ensure I have recorded all of my time accurately and saved down any emails received/sent. I try to do this as I go, but it is inevitable that certain things will be missed, especially if I take an unexpected call.

13:00 – Lunch break.

14:00 – Attend initial meeting with a client and my supervising solicitor in relation to a commercial lease dispute. Following the  call, I discussed the matter with the supervising solicitor and discussed next steps. It was agreed that we would prepare an initial letter to the other side, noting their breach of lease and threatening further action should they fail to cease and desist.

15:00 – Collate and review contract documents for an ongoing court bundle ahead of a Costs and Case Management Conference (CCMC). This matter is a construction dispute relating to defective works carried out at a commercial retail unit. As is often the case in any construction dispute, there is a great deal of documents relating to the claim –JCT contract, subcontracts, architects drawings and operations and maintenance manuals, to name but a few. Whilst this matter is very reliant on expert evidence, it is important to have a good understanding of the key issues in dispute and to ensure that we have all of the relevant documents in an easily accessible format with a summary document. I will shortly be drafting updated Instructions to Counsel, which will account for any recent updates since we last instructed counsel to prepare the pleadings and review each defendant’s defence over 6 months ago. This pre-review of documents and the file in general will make writing the instructions significantly easier as I will already have a good grasp on the substance of the claim.

17:30 – Email to client to confirm that no response has been received from the other party in response to a Pre-Action Letter of Claim in respect of our client’s claim of misrepresentation and noting next steps.

17:45 – Ensure I have recorded of all my time accurately and update my to-do list by crossing off the tasks I have completed.