Alex Crabbe President, Bournemouth & District JLD NQ, Landlord and Tenant / Leasehold Property
Rawlins Davy Solicitors LLP
Working and qualifying during a global pandemic has been anything but a normal experience and it is of course therefore difficult to know exactly how my daily routine would have turned out and will turn out as and when we move past Covid-19.
With a mix of office working and working from home, there is a lot of variety between my days on top of the sheer variety in work which I carry out. So, instead of trying to describe an average day I am merely describing one random working day – the day on which I initially drafted this article and on which day I also happened to be in self isolation (hence not leaving my home!)
08:30 – Check social media – particularly Twitter and Linkedin via which I learn about a lot of breaking legal news. Following the right sources is an excellent way to stay well informed no matter the area of law you practise in.
09:00 – Log into work network via my laptop at home. Make a to-do list for the day with 5 tasks to be accomplished, check emails and respond to those which can be dealt with quickly/without requiring in depth consideration.
09:30 – Deal with first 2 tasks on to-do list, including preparing an application for a possession order for a property on behalf of our landlord client who has a tenant with significant rent arrears.
10:00 – Zoom meeting with colleague and boss regarding marketing/PR.
11:30 – Making telephone calls/returning calls, mostly to clients. I tend to group phone calls into a small part of the day and will do my best to confine them into that timeframe.
12:15 – Deal with tasks 3-4 on to-do list, including working on a letter of advice for many of our clients on a recent government announcement of an impending change to law around leasehold property.
12:45 – Check emails. Again respond to those which can be dealt with quickly, particularly from clients.
13:00 – Lunch. I tend to take a bit of time away from the big/medium/small screen and read over lunch to clear my mind.
14:00 – Deal with emails requiring more concentration/time and effort. Check diary for impending deadlines/reminders
15:00 – Filing late notice court application for summary judgment
15:45 – Deal with task 5 on to-do list – drafting a lease extension document
16:15 – Checking in with solicitor-apprentice colleague whom I am working with and helping to train; covering relatively high priority inbound post which has arrived in the office and responding where possible
16:45 – Responding to low-priority emails/post
17:15 – Coffee break
17:30 – Review time recording done for day (during a working day billable time is recorded in 6 minute ‘units’ which is then stored against the particular client’s matter – to allow accurate time-based billing
17:45 – Legal research – lease extension related, using Lexis/Practical Law/leading practitioner textbook
18:15 – Dinner, phone family
19:15 – JLD admin; writing this blog.
Vice President, Bournemouth & District JLD Trainee Solicitor, Civil Litigation
Ellis Jones Solicitors LLP
I am now three months into my first seat with the Dispute Resolution team at Ellis Jones Solicitors LLP. Like many first year Trainees during the pandemic, I have spent the entirety of my Training Contract so far working from home, with minimal trips to the office for tasks which cannot be completed at home.
Prior to starting my Training Contract, I worked as a fee-earning Paralegal with the same team for around 18 months. As such, whilst I have completed all of my Training Contract so far from home – I have had the benefit of 15 months of ‘face to face’ training. I cannot imagine how different my experience would have been if this were, for example, my first legal job. Having said that, I work for a very supportive firm and with a team which prioritises communication.
Much like Alex, I have chosen to take a snapshot of a random day of my week to demonstrate the type of work a Trainee undertakes in a Dispute Resolution seat.
08:30 – Log in to work from my laptop at home. The first thing I will do is read through all of my emails which have come in over night/the weekend and delete any that do not require my attention (any internal emails which are not relevant to me, for example). I will then go through and save down any client emails to our internal database and ‘flag’ them as requiring a response. Once I have done this I will add any tasks to my to-do list - to keep on top of tasks I have both a daily to-do list and a general to-do list, in addition to the to-do list created on outlook by ‘flagging’ emails.
09:00 – Reply to any emails which can be immediately responded to. For example, drafting a response to a client querying the next steps to enforce a possession order. I should however caveat this step, it is actually quite rare for me to be able to respond to a client immediately without having to first either liaise with a colleague or research the point the client has raised – something which I’m sure is not unique to me as a first-year Trainee. The next steps to enforce a possession order for example are constantly changing as the Government bring in legislation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I should also note that most of my emails (especially those containing substantive advice to a client) will be reviewed by my supervising solicitors prior to sending to the client. There will therefore be a lot of back and forth with amendments and comments from my colleagues, before the final email is sent. More routine emails, such as chasing a response from the other side, or prompting a client to revert with their instructions, can be actioned immediately.
10:00 – Call with enforcement agent – as above, enforcement of orders is an area that is being greatly affected by local and national lockdowns. I therefore spoke with one of our agents on a matter regarding a residential possession order to ensure that we are on the same page in terms of updated government guidance and strategy. Following this call I drafted an email to the client to update them in terms of when we should be able to progress their matter and I diarised the date for when the stay of enforcement is due to be lifted/reviewed.
10:30 – Touch base with my colleagues over the phone. I think it is important, especially in litigation, to ensure your colleagues know what work you have on and when you are likely to get to certain pieces they are waiting on. This also ensures that nothing is missed and enables you to discuss your thoughts on certain matters and give any relevant updates.
11:00 – Call with client in respect of on an up-coming hearing and to obtain his thoughts on counsel’s fees. I further discussed whether he would like to attend the hearing and the possible outcomes and orders available to the judge at the hearing. I ensure that I record my discussion by way of an attendance note and update the fee earner with conduct of the file.
12:00 – Call with client regarding their matter. This matter relates to the set aside of a County Court Judgment. We are in the early stages of requesting evidence from the other side and liasiing with our client to enable us to advise on prospects and the options available to the client. I follow our call with an email to the client to ensure the client has a full understanding of what we discussed and what I require from her in terms of documentation/evidence.
12:45 – Ensure I have recorded all of my time accurately and saved down any emails receieved/sent. I try to do this as I go, but it is inevitable that certain things will be missed, especially if I take an unexpected call.
13:00 – Lunch break.
14:00 – Attend initial meeting with a client and my supervising solicitor in relation to a commercial lease dispute. Following the call, I discussed the matter with the supervising solicitor and discussed next steps. It was agreed that we would prepare an initial letter to the other side, noting their breach of lease and threatening further action should they fail to cease and dessist.
15:00 – Collate and review contract documents for an ongoing court bundle ahead of a Costs and Case Management Conference (CCMC). This matter is a construction dispute relating to defective works carried out at a commercial retail unit. As is often the case in any construction dispute, there is a great deal of documents relating to the claim –JCT contract, subcontracts, architechts drawings and operations and maintenance manuals, to name but a few. Whilst this matter is very reliant on expert evidence, it is important to have a good understanding of the key issues in dispute and to ensure that we have all of the relevant documents in an easily accessible format with a summary document. I will shortly be drafting updated Instructions to Counsel, which will account for any recent updates since we last instructed counsel to prepare the pleadings and review each defendant’s defence over 6 months ago. This pre-review of documents and the file in general will make writing the instructions significantly easier as I will already have a good grasp on the substance of the claim.
17:30 – Email to client to confirm that no response has been received from the other party in response to a Pre-Action Letter of Claim in respect of our client’s claim of misrepresentation and noting next steps.
17:45 – Ensure I have recorded of all my time accurately and update my to-do list by crossing off the tasks I have completed.
Treasurer, Bournemouth & District JLD
Trainee Solicitor, Criminal
Ellis Jones Solicitors LLP
I am now half-way through my final seat as a Trainee Solicitor, within the Criminal Department at Ellis Jones Solicitors LLP. Having previously completed seats in Banking Litigation, Dispute Resolution, and Commercial Property, I have returned to Crime (an area I practiced in as a fee-earning paralegal for two years prior to coming to Ellis Jones), for my last seat prior to qualification.
Unlike Flo, my seat with Crime has been a mixture of working from home, the office, and elsewhere, with regular attendances at Courts and Police Stations across Dorset and Hampshire. Like Alex and Flo, I have taken a snapshot of a random day to demonstrate the work of a Criminal Trainee.
08.30 – I log in from my laptop at home. The first thing I do is check my calendar for the day or any appointments that may require preparation or travel (either into the office, to Court, or to the Police Station). I then usually check my emails, responding to any ‘quick’ emails and flagging those which require more than a few minutes’ time to be spent to deal with throughout the day.
09.00 – I make a quick coffee for the road, I jump into the car and head to Poole Magistrates’ Court for a sending hearing listed at 10am in respect of a domestic violence allegation which the client intends to defend. Given the current COVID restrictions, many hearings are being dealt with via the MOJ’s ‘Cloud Video Platform’ (CVP), and in this instance my supervising solicitor is attending Court remotely to conduct the advocacy. My role is to meet the client before the hearing, liaise with the Usher to book the client in and ensure that he surrenders to bail, advise the client in respect of the procedure in the hearing, and answer any questions the client may have. Unfortunately our case is listed behind a number of matters where the defendant is in custody, and as such there is some unavoidable waiting around at Court as we wait to be called on.
11.15 – After waiting for the custody matters to be dealt with as a priority, our client’s matter is called on. My supervising solicitor is already on-screen in Court, and introduces me to the Legal Advisor, and clarifies my role in these strange circumstances! I take a note of proceedings as accurately as possible, making sure to record exactly what the Magistrates order in respect of bail conditions, to enable me to accurately advise the client after the hearing.
11.20 – Once the brief sending hearing has concluded, I have a short meeting with the client outside of court to advise him as to the next steps and bail conditions, and to confirm the next date which he will need to attend, which will be at the Bournemouth Crown Court, due to the nature of the alleged offence. Afterwards, I head back home.
11.50 – Once I have returned home, I log back on and prepare for an initial meeting with a client in respect of a road traffic offence, which is conducted via Zoom. Having worked previously for 2 years for a specialist road traffic firm, and having worked alongside my supervising solicitor on a number of matters, my supervising solicitor has asked me to run the meeting and provide the advice to the client under his supervision. I take details from the client in respect of this offence, and his previous endorsements, and provide advise in respect of the next steps and potential avenues to avoid a lengthy period of disqualification. After the interview, my supervising solicitor and I have a quick catch-up to discuss the work we have on, and to feedback in respect of the interview and advice given.
12.30 – After the Zoom call, I spend some time catching up on emails and admin. After I have dealt with everything immediately pressing, I spend some time working on a draft Brief to Counsel in respect of a sentencing hearing listed for next month in relation to a Local Authority prosecution for various food hygiene and other regulatory offences. The client in this matter has already entered a guilty plea to these allegations, but is keen to avoid custody and ensure that any financial penalty is kept to an absolute minimum.
13:00 – I grab some lunch at home, and then jump into my car once again to head this time to Weymouth Police Station for 13:00 to attend a Voluntary Interview in respect of multiple allegations of historic sexual offences, alongside one of the other solicitors in the department. We meet the client outside of the Police Station and clarify any questions he has in respect of the procedure. I then escort the client to be ‘booked in’ with a Police Sergeant, whilst the solicitor attending with me liaises with the Officer in the Case (OIC) in respect of any disclosure. Once booked in, I take the client to meet the other solicitor in the interview room in order to discuss the disclosure made and advise as to options in interview. Once my colleague has advised, I then go to get the OIC to begin the interview. During the interview I take a thorough note of everything which is said, in case we need to refer back to it at any time prior to a transcript becoming available. The interview lasts for over 2 hours, and afterwards we have a quick debrief with the client and advise him in detail on the next steps, before I head back home.
16:00 – I arrive back home just in time for a conference with Counsel, my supervising solicitor, and the client, in respect of multiple serious allegations of fraud carrying the risk of significant custodial sentences, which is conducted via Zoom. I take a full note of the conference, including the detailed advice given by Counsel in respect of prospects, procedure, and any additional evidence to assist the defence case in challenging the Crown’s allegations of fraud.
17:30 – After the lengthy conference, I spend some time responding to any final unread emails and making sure my task list is up to date for the next day, as well as recording any billable time spent throughout the day which I had not had an opportunity to do previously.