by Lauren Sturgess, Trainee Solicitor
I have been working as a trainee solicitor at North West Leicestershire District Council for five months now. I am really enjoying the position and what it entails and feel that I am now confidently settling into the position.
As a trainee in any job would be, I was slightly apprehensive about starting my new position as a trainee solicitor working remotely. I questioned whether I would be able to learn and develop the skills and knowledge required to qualify as a solicitor in the same way that I would working in an office alongside my colleagues. However, five months in, I feel that I have really adapted to working remotely and I am continuously learning each day. The help and support from the legal team has been great – knowing any of the team are only a Microsoft Teams call away to assist me with any queries or questions I have.
I also feel that working from home has enabled me to become more of an independent learner. I am having to use more of my own initiative to complete tasks independently, to then receive feedback from my supervising colleagues. I personally feel this is a good way of learning for me as it really enables me to develop new skills, which can be used again in the future. It has also enabled me to ensure I am proactive with asking questions, to ensure I am obtaining the most out of my training in each area.
Thinking practically, working remotely has also enabled me to be able to work well and adapt to working in many different environments. I really believe this is a good skill to have given that many employers are starting to reflect the Council’s modern way of working, incorporating remote working into many roles. One example of this is as part of a professional skills course (an educational course which I am required to complete to become a qualified solicitor) I had to undertake an advocacy module online. Although I felt I may have benefited from the training face to face, it was really beneficial to develop the skills online when I considered that currently many Court hearings are remote. Someone who may have undertook the training in person, may feel they are limited to that face to face environment and may be apprehensive about conducting any advocacy online.
In addition to this, as a trainee there are so many online training courses and webinars available to me. This is particularly beneficial as I can fit the training around my day and complete the courses from my own home, as apposed to the logistics of having to arrange travel and a full day of absence.
One thing I would say I have found challenging is the reduced social contact having never worked from home before. I feel I am quite a sociable person and have really become used to this in my previous working life, having worked in retail for a number of years alongside my university studies. However, as I am adapting to remote working I am becoming more and more comfortable with working from home and developing a good daily working routine. Having a scheduled daily meeting with the whole of legal also provides a good way of communicating with my colleagues. I also have a number of meetings each week with my supervising solicitors and clients which helps too.
Another challenge I found when starting my position at the Council in a remote environment was not being able to meet with Members of the Council and my colleagues. It was quite overwhelming at first to be communicating via email with a number of different names and positions within the Council but not being familiar with the officers and their roles.
However, this challenge was overcome through arranging meet and greets over Microsoft Teams with a number of officers and Heads of Service within the Council. This enabled me to introduce myself and my background to a number of officers I would be working with regularly throughout my training contract. It also enabled me to obtain a better understanding of each department’s work responsibilities and the kind of work they require from legal.
Along with the majority of officers within the Council, as a trainee it has been great to enjoy the benefits of being able to work from home and working flexibly. I feel the remote position has enabled me to develop a good work life balance- especially being able to log off from work and already be at home, saving myself an hour of travel each day!
Working remotely has also not limited the range and depth of legal work that I have found myself involved in over the past four months. Working within contracts, property, litigation and planning law has meant that every day working as a trainee solicitor for the Council feels unique. It has enabled me to develop new skills and interests, and face new challenges each day.
So far I have really enjoyed the work I have undertaken in civil litigation. Working with our Senior Solicitor, Kerryn Woollett on disrepair claims has been really insightful to understand the process and stages that must be followed in response to a claim. It has also been really interesting working on Court forms and documents, such as Acknowledgment of Service and Defences that are require a lot of attention to detail.
I have also worked on civil injunction applications. As part of this, it was good to meet with the environmental protection officers. During this I had to seek instructions from internal clients and advice from our appointed barrister as well as respond to the defendant’s solicitor, all on the day of the hearing, as my supervising solicitor was away. This felt quite high pressure at the time but I was glad that it all went well!
Within planning I have been drafting a number unilateral undertakings for planning applications, mainly for River Mease contributions. This has been really insightful, particularly due to my lack of planning knowledge before this role. It has been good to see the kind of agreements entered into when planning applications are granted and the information that must be included in a formal document to give effect to these agreements.
When working in property I have been working alongside our Legal Officer, Helen Lisney on sales of Council owned houses to existing tenants under the Right to Buy Scheme. I have really enjoyed this so far seeing how the sale progresses from start, to eventually completion. The more I am working on these sales I am feeling more confident to complete the stages independently and correspond with the buyer’s solicitors.
Finally, within contracts I have really enjoyed drafting a Contract for Services and seeing the stages that follow on to completion of an agreement after the contract is drafted. It has also been a really good way for me to understand what’s happening within the local area to see what contracts the Council are involved in.