In terms of education/career background, I am from Northern Ireland and I came to England for University. I graduated with a 2:1 in Law (Jurisprudence) from the University of Oxford (LMH) in 2016 and then worked at Knights as an Office Assistant for six months before joining Blake Morgan in March 2017 as a Paralegal in the New Home Sales Team in Oxford.
I started my LPC at the University of Law in September 2016 on a two year part-time online course, and while I was studying and working as a Paralegal I was able to secure a Training Contract to start in September 2018 at Blake Morgan. I completed my training contract in September 2020 and qualified into the Commercial Property team in Oxford.
When I was looking for paralegal work I was looking for anything to do with property as I have always been interested in all things property related, from Land Law to Homes Under the Hammer, but I knew I was a bit naïve coming out of university and needed some actual office experience. I think that having 18 months’ experience as a Paralegal in the New Home Sales team acting primarily for one major developer really helped me develop my confidence in many ways, but in particular in dealing with clients and solicitors on the other side of matters, it also cemented my end goal of qualifying into a Property team. I am very grateful for the opportunity to work in the New Homes Team and am glad I still get to work next to the team in Oxford. My time as an Office Assistant also helped me appreciate how hard facilities teams work, and that it is definitely not fair to drop post on them five minutes before the postman is due to arrive!
My period of recognised training (PRT) was comprised of four six month seats, I started in Succession & Tax in the Oxford office, followed by Commercial Property in Oxford, Property Litigation in Oxford and then Commercial Property again, but in the Reading office (for all of two weeks until Boris sent us home!).
During my first six months as a Trainee in Succession & Tax, I worked mainly with the Wills and Lasting Power of Attorney team, attending initial client meetings to gain instructions on their wishes through to drafting the documents. This provided me with great client exposure and drafting experience, and I gained an appreciation for how carefully lawyers who are involved in drafting such sensitive and important documents have to conduct client meetings to ensure they understand family trees, record all key assets and make sure that nothing is missed.
While I was in the Property Litigation team I gained experience of the fast paced and contentious side of Property work, I was involved in reviewing all the relevant information for claims and drafting letters before claim and various other court forms, assisting clients with ongoing eviction proceedings including preparing bundles and attending court, and conducting research into the most recent case law to ensure up to date advice was given among a myriad of other litigious tasks. We were also involved in reviewing leases for transactional colleagues, and I gained good exposure to problems that can arise if property documents are badly drafted, and what to look out for.
And during my time in both Commercial Property teams I gained experience working for a wide range of commercial clients including landlords, tenants, buyers and sellers. The properties involved were wide-ranging and included offices, churches, industrial warehouses, police boxes, schools, charity shops and pubs among others. I enjoyed the fact that the work is extremely varied yet contained in the predictable transactional process, and I am still very much enjoying it.
I think it is impossible to predict what a period of recognised will look like. PRTs are structured in so far as there are three or four, six month seats, but beyond that there is no ‘curriculum’ for each department, and you quickly realise six months is not long enough to be exposed to every possible case/transaction a team might come across, but you obtain a great taste for what each team does, and can decide for yourself whether or not you enjoy it and if you would consider qualifying into the team.
You also gain an appreciation that trainee supervisors are not trained teachers whose day resolves around your learning, you have to become more vocal about what you need guidance on and prepare to speak to supervisors and other colleagues having first thought through the problem/matter, and come armed with solutions and suggestions.
Overall, I think a PRT still provides a great opportunity for junior solicitors to gain insight into what each team actually does, to get to know their colleagues, and to work out for themselves if they have experienced an area of law that they would be prepared to commit to and qualify into.