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A Day in the Life of a Trainee Solicitor at Ridley & Hall

by Ridley&Hall in Yasmin Walker posted March 28, 2022.

My name is Yasmin Walker and I am a trainee solicitor at Ridley & Hall.  I completed my Law Degree in 2019 and then subsequently my Legal Practice Course and Masters in 2021. Now that I have undertaken all the required formal professional legal exams, before I am able to qualify as a solicitor, I must undertake a two-year period as a ‘trainee Solicitor’ where I acquire and develop practical legal skills first hand by working in various departments within the business.

The first seat of my training contract began in July 2021 and was within the Residential Property Team at the South Elmsall office. I had started my time at Ridley & Hall as a conveyancing assistant within this department of the firm whilst I was still completing my university studies. This meant that by the time my training contract began I already had an understanding of the practices and procedures of conveyancing, and the transition to trainee solicitor was gradual in a setting that felt familiar to me.

In January 2022, I then moved seats to work in the Child Care department of our Care and Public Team based out of our Leeds office.  I work alongside Partner, Clare Linden, and her assistant Laura Hamilton. The work I do in this department is vastly different from the day-to-day duties I had within the residential property team, which is what makes the training contract such an exciting experience. I am developing previous skills, whilst learning new ones, all while getting to work alongside and build connections with many people across the business.

In this brief blog I will share a snapshot of my typical day as a trainee solicitor in the care team.

8:15

I arrive in Leeds train station and meet up with other colleagues who have travelled to the office by train. The office is only a 5-minute walk from the train station and it is great to have a catch up with one another as we make our way into the office. When we arrive, we make ourselves a hot drink and log on to our IT systems.

8:30

Clare, Laura, and I discuss the plan of action for the day, any new instructions that we have received and any urgent matters to attend to. I take a note of the actions identified, check my emails and update my diary for the day with the plan that we have agreed.

9:00

Prior to a court hearing taking place, the solicitors and barristers instructed to represent the parties in the proceedings meet in ‘pre-hearing discussions’ to discuss any outstanding issues and have a general discussion about the case. Over the last few weeks, I have been sitting in on these meetings to gain an understanding of the nature and content of the discussions that take place and to also take a note for the file. Currently, most of these discussions have been taking place virtually, due to the impact Covid-19 had on the ability for parties to meet face to face. However, the courts are now starting to hold hearings in person back in the court building and hopefully I will get the opportunity to attend at court in person at some point during my seat.

I dial in to the virtual pre-hearing discussions. This morning the discussions are in relation to a case management hearing that is due to take place at 10am today for a new care proceedings case. Clare is instructed to represent the interests of the children through their children’s guardian on this case.

It is important that the advocates all meet before the hearing so that the parties are clear what issues are agreed and/or in dispute between them, and what timetable can be put in place to progress the case moving forwards. The priority of all the advocates is to minimise delay in the case. I type up a detailed note of the discussions that have taken place.

10:00

I attend the remote court hearing via Microsoft teams. The purpose of this hearing was to set out the case management requirements in this case and to agree what evidence is needed to enable the case to be ready for a hearing where final decisions will be made. At this hearing the court sets out a timetable moving forwards and makes directions for evidence to be filed. The Court heard from each party as to their respective positions on the local authority’s case.

I type a note of the key points from the hearing and directions made at the hearing to keep a clear record on the file of what happened at the hearing and to ensure any other colleagues looking at the file can see exactly what happened.

10:50

Clare has received a new instruction from a children’s guardian at Cafcass (the Children and Family Court Advisory Service), to represent four children in a new set of care proceedings. Cafcass independently advises the family court about what they believe is safe for children and what is in their best interests. Cafcass appoints a solicitor to represent the child/children’s interests in court proceedings and their role is to advance a case which is in the best interests of the child/children.

Following on from receiving the instruction I assist in opening the file on our system and proceed to draft the legal aid applications required for public funding. Once the applications have been submitted and reviewed, the Legal Aid Agency will issue a legal aid certificate. Free legal advice and representation is available to parents and anyone who has parental responsibility for a child who is the subject of care proceedings. The children who are the subjects of care proceedings are also legally represented.

I then generate the initial letters that needs to be sent out on the file and process the preliminary paperwork.

12:00

At 12:00 I take my lunch break and have a stroll through Leeds City Centre. I have the opportunity to run a few errands and also get my step count up for the day before heading back to the office to have a bite to eat.

13:00

After lunch I have been tasked with undertaking some legal research. The research relates to identifying the age limit at which an older child can be made the subject of a public law order. The research was connected to one of the live issues in an ongoing case.

I use legal databases such as Westlaw and Lexis, to review case summaries, judgements and journals to create a clear and succinct overview of the research I have undertaken to provide to the solicitor case managing the file.

14:30

Weekly, I allocate an hour of my time to complete my training contract record. This is used to assist trainee solicitors with logging the tasks we have undertaken during the week and to review progress. It is a requirement of Solicitors Regulation Authority (who are the regulator of solicitors and law firms in England and Wales) that trainee solicitors maintain a record of training. It is therefore highly important that I do set the time aside to log how I have acquired, applied, and developed my skills throughout the week. Although it is a requirement to maintain a record of my training it is also a very useful tool to reflect on my learning journey as a trainee solicitor.

15:30

I now have a telephone appointment with a client that we are representing in the Public Law Outline (PLO) process. The PLO process is instigated when a Local Authority is so concerned about the wellbeing of a child that unless positive steps are made to improve on any of the concerns raised, the Local Authority may consider making applications to the court for public law orders. PLO is therefore seen as the last chance for parents to address any concerns that CSWS (Children’s Social Work Service) may have before care proceedings may be issued.

I speak with the client about an upcoming PLO review meeting that is due to take place and take instructions on anything they wish to raise at the meeting and any questions/queries they have. I take a record of our conversation and ensure this is typed up and recorded for the file.

16:30

I take some time to review some key documents we have received in the bundle for one of Clare’s new cases. The aim of this is so that I become familiar with the key issues and parties in readiness for any hearings / meetings I may be asked to attend or work I may be asked to do on the matter.

17:00

The end of the working day arrives, and as I will be working remotely tomorrow, I prepare a short list of tasks that need to be done tomorrow to take home with me.

I walk back to the train station with some colleagues, and we depart on our journey back home for the evening.

Being a trainee solicitor often feels like a whirlwind and the increase in level of responsibility can sometimes be stressful. However, it is also extremely fulfilling, and I am afforded the opportunity to develop my skills in a varied way, whilst working with a fantastic team and being supervised by a highly experienced care solicitor.

Yasmin Walker

Yasmin Walker – Trainee Solicitor

 

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