Crisp & Co is a proud supporter of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the annual campaign to raise awareness about the impact of Breast Cancer.
A Day in the Life of a Trainee Solicitor at Crisp & Co.
I am Charlotte Creighton, a Trainee Solicitor at Crisp & Co. I hope this brief blog will give some insight into the process of becoming a qualified Solicitor and the life of a Trainee Solicitor in a Family Law Firm.
I began my legal journey at Edinburgh University studying Law and Business (with an International year completed at the University of Queensland in Brisbane). After completing my degree, I moved to London and completed a reduced version of the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) to convert my Scottish Law Degree to an English Law Degree so that I would be able to practice in England and Wales, as Scotland has an entirely separate legal jurisdiction to England and Wales. I then completed the Legal Practice Course (LPC) at BPP University in London, achieving a Distinction. Throughout this time, I worked as a Paralegal, this provided me a real insight into the life of a Solicitor. As a Paralegal I worked alongside various Solicitors and Barristers undertaking a wide variety of administrative and legal work. Primarily my role as a Paralegal was to support the Solicitors in their work and be an additional point of contact for clients.
With my desire to be a Solicitor cemented, I turned my focus to securing a Training Contact to become a ‘Trainee Solicitor’, which is the final step required before you can qualify as a Solicitor. A Training Contract is a two-year, on the job training period. As a Trainee you undertake administrative tasks, as well as legal work, not dissimilar to the role of a Paralegal but of course having completed the GDL & LPC qualifications, the focus is on putting into practice legal theory and assuming greater responsibility to the client retainer. As a Trainee Solicitor I assist and support the Solicitor with conduct of a case, in advising their clients and progressing their case in achieving the client’s aims and objectives. The role of Trainee Solicitor often requires you to correspond with the client and instruct Counsel (a Barrister), as well as attending Court. During this time, I learnt to apply the skills and knowledge I acquired at University, the GDL and the LPC in real life situations and I realised that a good portion of common sense and focus is also needed, although that was never taught during the academic stages of training! I found the two-year training period allowed me to experience first-hand how a real-life law firm operates, the lived experiences of clients and what is required to understand their needs and how the law is applied in practice. Observing the way in which other experienced and qualified Solicitors practice provided me with an insight as to how I want to operate and serve my own clients on qualification. I am lucky enough to have completed the last year of my training with a specialised boutique Family Law Firm, Crisp & Co, whose ethos is to provide a civilised approach to all areas of Family Law, assisting clients in circumstances that are often emotionally challenging.
The reason I choose to specialise in Family Law is because I wanted to help people with family issues achieve the best possible outcome for both them and their family. I learnt through my training that the other ‘non-contentious’ areas of law such as commercial contracts and conveyancing did not appeal to me and other ‘contentious’ litigation did not, it seems to me, have the potential to significantly improve a client’s life going forward. Practicing in Family Law on the other hand, I have found to be an extremely rewarding experience. We often step into the most challenging situations, standing as a voice of reason and supporting clients as they make difficult decisions regarding theirs and their family’s future.
As Crisp & Co are a specialist Family Law Firm, I have during my Training Contract had the benefit of dealing with Divorce, Matrimonial Finances, Children Act, Unmarried families (including Trust of Land And Trustee Act issues), Surrogacy and Assisted Reproduction matters.
During my time as a Trainee Solicitor at Crisp & Co I have gained an extraordinary amount of knowledge from the best, learning how to cope with extremely challenging situations and helping clients during some of their most difficult times.
As part of the Training Contract, I am required to complete my Professional Skills Course (PSC), comprised of 12 days of Solicitor training spread over various legal topics. The PSC functions to fine tune our skills as Solicitors, including advocacy and client care. Moreover, they provide the opportunity to experience different areas of the law and gain an understanding of alternative methods of resolution, such as mediation. This is very important in Family Law as Crisp & Co practice with an emphasis on resolving matters amicably and constructively wherever and whenever possible. I personally found it extremely beneficial to complete the mediation course and better understand the mediation process. I now want to complete my mediation exams and additionally qualify as a mediator, utilising those skills learnt during the mediation PSC.
During my time at Crisp & Co I have worked closely with various partners and Solicitors across the firm. I now work closely with Henry Crisp, Senior Partner, Solicitor and Collaborative Lawyer. Here is a snapshot of my typical day as a Trainee Solicitor.
Start of the Day
8.45am – My day typically starts with a cup of coffee! And checking my emails, reading those which have come in overnight. I then review my ‘To Do List’ created the day before and make a note of my tasks for the day.
First task of the day
9.00am – I begin my first task of the day. Today that is writing a letter of advice to the client explaining the terms of their Consent Order which details the financial settlement agreed between my client and their spouse. I begin by reviewing the Consent Order and understanding the terms included. I then explain to the client clearly and concisely the meaning and effect of each individual term. It is extremely important that the client understands the Order and has the opportunity to raise any concerns or questions before signing and implementing the Order. The draft letter is then sent to my supervisor for review and approval.
Meeting with my Supervising Solicitor
10.00am – Meeting with my direct supervisor, Henry Crisp, who is part of the senior management team at the Firm. During this meeting we discuss each case, the outstanding tasks that need attention this week and timeline and prioritise if required. I also have the opportunity to discuss with Henry the letter of advice to our client drafted earlier this morning. Henry reviews my work and explains any amendments that are needed. I then have the opportunity to ask Henry any questions to improve my knowledge and understanding of the Consent Order and letter of advice so that I can better advise clients in the future.
Firm-wide Fee Earner Meeting
11.00am – Attending our weekly firm fee earner meeting. We discuss individual workloads, case issues and supervision matters. This is a great opportunity for me to discuss any problems I have incurred within individual cases and receive advice and support from more experienced fee earners.
12.00pm – I receive a call from a client who needs to have loan documents translated from Dutch to English. I begin by making a general enquiry with the Crisp & Co fee earner team to identify suitable translation companies previously used by those fee earners and contained on the firm’s approved register of experts. Once I had identified a number of companies, I send out enquiry emails to ascertain the approximate time scale and associated costs for engaging the translation company’s services. I update the client accordingly before instructing the translation company to translate the loan documents as requested.
1.00pm – Lunch. I use this time to have something to eat and take a walk away from my desk. I feel it is important to get some fresh air before beginning the second half of my day.
2.00pm – After lunch, I have a specific research task to complete. I need to find a suitable US Lawyer who can advise a client on the possibility of mirroring an English Order in the USA. I begin by identifying suitable Solicitors via the International Academy of Family Lawyers. I then send each lawyer an enquiry email to determine their suitability, hourly rate, and availability to complete an initial consultation with our client.
Perusal of Client Documents Before Providing Advice
4.00pm – Upon completing my research task, I turn my attention to reviewing a client’s Form E, this is the document that sets out the client’s financial details for the Court. The Form E is a means of providing full and frank disclosure and is an essential part of the process for parties reaching a financial settlement. I examine the client’s disclosure alongside their supporting documentation to include their bank statements and make a list of outstanding information and documentation required. I then organise a call with my Supervising Solicitor to explain and discuss my findings. I then draft a letter to the client outlining any outstanding disclosure required, explaining why this disclosure is necessary and reiterating the client’s ongoing duty of full and frank disclosure. I then send this letter to my supervisor for review and approval.
Preparing for the end of the day
5.00pm – As the end of the working day approaches, I ensure my time recording is up to date. This involves reviewing my work completed and the time spent on each task. We charge 1 unit for every 6 minutes spent on a task. I keep a written record of my work completed and the time taken daily, and then upload this to our online portal at the end of each day. Time recording is extremely important and allows our Accounts team to accurately invoice clients according to the work carried out on their matter.
End of the working day
5.30pm – The end of the working day. To finish with a clear head and prepare for the following day I prepare a ‘To Do List’ outlining what tasks need to be completed the next day, listing them in order of priority.