When I tell non-lawyers that I am currently doing a training contract seat in Private Client, the typical response is something along the lines of “isn’t that just wills and dead people?”. Not quite.
The truth is that the work is more diverse than most other practice areas. Our private client team work with individuals, families and intermediaries. They provide legal advice on matters such as UK and international taxation, wealth and estate planning, reporting obligations, charities, wills and testamentary issues. We also have a dedicated Court of Protection and deputyship team who look after people who lack the mental capacity to handle their own financial affairs or make decisions regarding their own welfare.
Because the nature of the work is so diverse, no two days in this seat are the same. That being said, a typical day for me looks something like this:
Catch the train in to the office. I make a habit of checking my work phone either before leaving my house or during my commute. This helps prevent any nasty surprises when I arrive at my desk, and helps focus my mind on the day ahead.
Arrive at my desk and have a proper read of my emails over a cup of tea and a catch up with the rest of the team. Our open plan work space helps to create a friendly working atmosphere. I generally tend to make a new 'to-do' list each morning as I find this helps me to stay on top of things throughout the day.
9:00 – 9:30
Dictate an attendance note for a client meeting that took place yesterday involving a disputed will. When you are a trainee you are encouraged to dictate as much as possible. It can be a bit daunting when you first start, but it is definitely a skill worth learning. The private client team work closely with many other departments across the Firm, including the dispute resolution team in relation to contentious trusts and probate disputes.
9:30 – 11:00
Work on a statutory will application for one of our deputyship clients. Two of the partners in the team act as professional deputies for clients who lack the mental capacity to make decisions about their own finances. It is a great responsibility as you are often dealing with very vulnerable individuals.
11:00 – 12:00
Attend an initial client meeting with someone who wants us to prepare their will. In my opinion this is one of the best ways to develop as a trainee. Observing advice being given to a client, discussing the practical implications of the law for that individual, and then putting the advice in to action (in this case by drafting their will) really helps to drive home what being a solicitor is all about.
12:00 – 13:00
Lunch! We are a very social bunch and usually eat lunch together in the kitchen. It’s a good opportunity to chat about all things non-work.
13:00 – 15:30
After lunch I get my head down and spend a couple of hours drafting some estate accounts. The team make a real effort to ensure that trainees get to assist with the administration of an estate and (so far as possible) run the file from start to finish. As your supervisors get to know they can trust you, you are given more and more responsibility.
15:30 – 15:45
Take a call from a client who wants an update on the progress of their matter. The level of contact with clients is one of the best things about this seat. You are trusted to be the first point of contact on most of the matters you work on.
15:45 – 16:00
Speak to a partner about an idea I have had for a blog. Unlike some other firms, trainees are encouraged to get involved in a range of business development opportunities and always get credit for blogs and articles that they help to write.
16:00 – 17:30
Finish a research note on a person’s domicile of origin. The tax team prepare very detailed memorandums advice for clients, and the trainees are often tasked with conducting research on specific points. It is a great way to keep those legal research skills up to scratch. One of the best things about advising clients on tax and estate planning is that you have to gain a deep understanding of their personal circumstances, such as where they are from, their family set-up, their business activities and plans for the future. This is always fascinating.
17:30 – 18:00
Go through my task list and send any final emails for the day, making a mental note of anything that needs to be done first thing tomorrow.
Attend a talk organised by the criminal team on HMRC investigations. There is often a cross-over between work done by the private client team and other departments. These talks are a great way to see the bigger picture. It is also a chance to catch up with the other trainees and make some new friends over a glass of wine and mini quiche.