By Julia Bwoma
Legal training contracts are particularly hard to come by. To take on trainees, a firm is committing to a minimum of two years investment in time, money and providing valuable experience to candidates who want to progress within Law. For this reason, the competition is tough, trainee candidates must demonstrate a range of essential skills and pull something special out of the bag to differentiate themselves from the rest of the crowd. It helps to have a niche skill set and experience which enables the candidate to hit the ground running as soon as they embark on their training seat.
In my case, I have vast experience and particularly enjoy advocacy, so when I joined Else Solicitors’ Dispute Resolution team as a trainee in 2019, I was able to use my transferable skills gained through previously working as a legal assistant to Mark Anderson QC of No5 Chambers. Where I assisted him in his trio roles of Head of Chambers, Deputy High Court Judge and Queen’s Counsel.
My first experience working with Managing Partner, Chris Else was when I researched the legal position concerning a potential Judicial Review of Staffordshire County Council’s decision to close the St. Peters Bridge in Burton on Trent whilst restoration work was completed. This information was used by local businesses and the Burton Chamber of Commerce to lobby the County Council to good effect. As a result of the quality of work completed on this matter, Chris offered me work experience at the firm. I later applied for a training contract and used a four month paralegal seat to completely immerse myself in the firms’ systems and processes, which led seamlessly nicely into my first trainee seat.
Since joining the Dispute Resolution team I have been able to work with the team to identify opportunities where I can represent clients in the County Court in small claims disputes and possession hearing. As a trainee, this specialism and unique experience has meant that from day one I was able to add value to the already successful and highly skilled team.
In turn, I have gained first-hand experience in pre-litigation aspects of the seat, resolving disputes out of court and resolution of disputes in court. Already, during my time in litigation, I have appeared before a District Judge opposing a Strike out Application in Small Claims proceedings. I have also appeared before District Judges acting for Landlords in various possession proceedings. Whilst this may initially sound daunting, there is much to learn from being thrown in at the deep end and having to think on your feet dealing with Judge’s interjections. I have enjoyed my litigation seat. I have also enjoyed the level of responsibility accorded to me by the team.
My top tip to all who are looking to secure a training contract at a leading law firm is to swamp your CV with relevant legal experience and demonstrate how this will add value to the firm you are applying to, especially if this means you will be an asset to any department from the word GO.