What attracted you to a career in law?
In all honesty I had wanted to be a lawyer since being a teenager. I initially wanted to do crime but after actually practising in that area during my degree changed to wanting to be a family lawyer. I liked the idea of helping people and having a positive influence on a very difficult process.
Tell us more about your training contract
I initially sat with Peter Powell doing commercial property, then with Graeme Wallington doing civil litigation and finally I did a year in family with Patsy Phillips. I was very lucky to have worked with 3 wonderful and extremely experienced partners and I took full advantage of learning as much as I could from them during the time I sat with them. I still turn to Graeme every now and again to this day as he is one of the most knowledgeable people I know.
When did you know you wanted to work in Family?
Whilst my preference had been for family law throughout my degree and my LPC, I knew that was what I wanted to practice in once I commenced my seat in the family department. The work was varied, complicated both legally and emotionally and I thoroughly enjoyed most aspects of the work despite the often difficult content.
Your qualification and progression to becoming a Partner
I qualified into family law in 2004. Nicky Coates (now head of family) moved from Colchester to Frinton and I took over most of her legal aid caseload in Colchester. We had a large team at the time due to our legal aid contract and the pace was extremely hard and fast, it was a very steep learning curve in all aspects. Due to giving up legal aid our department contracted to the point where I eventually became the sole fee earner in Colchester practising family. In 2014 I was made up to Associate and in 2018 was made up to Partner. During the period between Associate and Partner I headed up our internal Influence Group and supported Nicky in expanding the department so that we are now a team of 5 fee earners. I also assisted in interviews for potential trainees whilst I was an Associate and this has continued since being made a Partner.
What would your advice be for someone applying for a training contract?
Be prepared by thinking about potential questions and your answers. Research the firm you are interviewing with, know roughly their numbers, goals, ideals, departments etc. Give good eye contact and a firm handshake! Finally, relax. We want you to do well!
What do you feel are the benefits to doing a trainee contract at Ellisons?
Ellisons was a much smaller firm when I was a trainee, however we have maintained the same personable and approachable manner that we had then despite increasing substantially in size. There is an open door policy throughout the firm and across departments. Our trainees regularly meet up and support each other. Each seat is invaluable as there are always skills to learn whatever department you are in that you can eventually utilise on qualification. Ellisons received high top end work even though we are a regional firm so the actual work experience itself is excellent. The actual training is second to none along with the support of your supervisor, fellow trainees, our HR department and our Training Contract Partner, Julian Outen.
What skills do you need to become a trainee solicitor?
- Listening – You need to be able to listen to your Supervisor’s advice and knowledge. Take on board, process and identify your client’s concerns, you can only do this by listening to them.
- Communication – Ask questions of colleagues if you don’t understand or are worried about something. Communicate with your client your advice in a form tailored to that particular client.
- Organisational – You need to be able to prioritise your workload alongside normal everyday tasks that you may need to complete, make lists!
- Management – You need to be able to manage your time and workload. You also need to manage your client’s expectations as to what you can or cannot do for them, further when they can expect to hear from you and ensuring that you stick to the deadline that you set yourself.
Most memorable moment so far?
Being announced as one of the newly appointed partners in front of my friends and colleagues at our end of year drinks.