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Life as a trainee

Sophie Laing is a Third Year Associate 

"In September 2014 I completed my training contract at Collyer Bristow and I qualified into the defamation and reputation management team within the dispute resolution department. I am working on a variety of libel, privacy and harassment cases with a particular focus on the firm's phone hacking and cyber investigation work. I also do more general commercial litigation.

Dispute resolution involves careful research, hard work (often under intense pressure) and the clear expression of complex ideas. Added to this is the satisfaction of helping individual clients to resolve their difficulties by reaching practical solutions to real problems. It is intellectually demanding combining as it does clear analysis and the need to keep abreast of changes in the law. It is also of real practical benefit to others.

The dispute resolution department at Collyer Bristow has a wide range of private and corporate clients with a variety of different legal needs. The department gives a high priority to establishing and maintaining close relationships with its clients. It is large enough to provide a wide spectrum of legal experience, but is not so large as to run the risk of losing sight of the needs of individuals."

Dominic Cole is a First Year Associate 

I qualified into Tax and Estate Planning in September 2017 having spent two years as a trainee with the firm undertaking seats in Dispute Resolution, Tax and Estate Planning, Property and Corporate/Commercial.

Trainees at Collyer Bristow account for around 10% of the fee earning staff so are a vital part of every team which really does afford you early access to clients and high quality work. Whilst there was a fair proportion of fairly basic but vital tasks, a significant amount of my time as a trainee was taken up with client meetings, research tasks and generally progressing clients’ instructions, all of which has stood me in good stead upon qualification.  I was encouraged to contribute to meetings from an early stage and was given responsibility for some very large projects and matters, which are all fantastic learning experiences.

My first seat was in Real Estate Litigation, however dispute resolution trainees are expected to cover work across multiple disciplines so I worked on disputes involving property, construction, employment, trusts, intellectual property, finance and general commercial matters. I was asked to appear before a Master in the Queen's Bench Division within the Royal Courts of Justice which was a good opportunity to brush up on my advocacy skills.

When I was in the Property department I covered both residential and commercial property matters. It is a busy department and I had a high and varied workload, including a number of files which I ran myself, albeit with supervision. Corporate/ Commercial exposed me to some very large deals (and some good completion parties!) and improved my commercial drafting ability no end. 

My qualification department, Tax and Estate planning, is one of Collyer Bristow’s largest single discipline teams.  The teams works across a variety of areas including UK and international trusts, wills, probate and general tax planning. At times the advice can be quite technical, however the team have a very good training program in place and I therefore felt like I could make a valuable contribution to the department as a trainee, and even more so now that I have qualified.

The size of Collyer Bristow allows you to train in an environment where there is a good mix of complex work, whilst everyone still knows everyone else's names. The partners and associates are always willing to provide help where required, and everything is made to feel like a team effort.  Frequent networking and social events serve to improve your connections inside and outside of the firm, with particular highlights being the quiz and the numerous client events in the firm's own art gallery.

Lucy Waddicor is a 1st year Associate

I trained at Collyer Bristow from 2015 to 2017 before qualifying into the Dispute Resolution department.  This department is split into a number of teams which specialise in different kinds of disputes.  I work on banking and financial disputes, as well as more general commercial disputes.

Collyer Bristow encourages trainees to get a broad range of experience and a high level of responsibility during their training contract.  This kind of training has been very useful in the transition to an associate.  As an associate I have continued to be able to work on a wide range of matters which means that each day is different from the last.  Since qualifying, matters I have worked on include breach of contract and negligence claims, shareholder disputes, claims for unlawful means conspiracy, claims relating to complex financial derivatives and judicial review.  I have acted for individual and corporate clients, from a variety of backgrounds.

At the same time, as an associate I am also developing a specialist knowledge of my chosen areas.  Collyer Bristow supports this process with regular know-how sessions and encourages associates to attend seminars to keep abreast with changes to the law.

Helen Ingram is a 2nd Year Trainee

I started my training contract at Collyer Bristow in September 2016 and am part-way through my fourth seat. Over the past year and a half, I have done seats in Real Estate Litigation, Employment and Intellectual Property, Corporate Commercial and am currently in Property.

My first two seats were within the firm’s Dispute Resolution (DR) department. As a “DR trainee” you are assigned to a particular team and will do most of your work with that team, but you also provide additional support to other teams within DR as needed. A particular highlight for me was having the opportunity to work with members of our Banking and Financial Disputes team on a matter in the High Court which set a new precedent. At the time I was in my second seat, Employment and Intellectual Property, so I was also assisting in the preparation for a trial at the Employment Tribunal and generally undertaking work for those teams. The opportunity to have a wide-ranging workload means that you get an insight into the work of all of the firm’s DR teams, which in the short-term can help you to narrow down where you might like to do future seats, and in the longer-term gives you a breadth of experience – and an ability to multi-task – which can prove really valuable.

My third and fourth seats have been in two of the firm’s non-contentious teams. A seat in the Corporate Commercial team gives you the chance to work on various corporate deals and a wide variety of commercial contracts and policies. One highlight of my third seat was getting to work on a particularly big corporate deal from (almost) start to finish, so that I grew to know the client quite well and was often dealing with them directly in the run-up to completion, in particular as we prepared the necessary disclosure for the other side’s due diligence. The firm’s Property team encompasses both residential and commercial matters; trainees often have the chance to run their own matters (with supervision) which prepares you for life as a qualified solicitor.

Generally Collyer Bristow encourages trainees to take on a high level of responsibility and to experience as broad a range of work as possible. As well as the usual trainee tasks that you expect when joining any firm, you have a high level of client contact and are expected to take an active role in progressing matters. But at the same time, it is never a problem to ask a question and the firm’s size means that you always know the person you need to ask! From day one, you are taught to think about your professional and business development with regular training sessions on different skills which solicitors need, from drafting to negotiating and networking. You are also invited to all of the firm’s know-how and networking events, as well as being encouraged to attend any external events you may be invited to, so that you are developing your professional knowledge and your own network.

Christian Davison is a First Year Trainee

I applied for a training contract at Collyer Bristow at the end of my final year of university in 2016, expecting to receive a start date in 2018. However, there was the option to apply for 2017 which was perfect for me as I just had time to squeeze in the accelerated LPC before starting.

It is a cliché to say, but the firm has been very friendly and welcoming from the outset. I was invited to both the Christmas and Summer parties before I had started. This made the first day in the office considerably less daunting, as I had already met my intake of trainees, as well as the people that I would be working with.  All trainees are assigned buddies from the point at which we received an offer, which allowed me to ask all the silly questions I needed to – from what I needed to wear to questions about my LPC electives.

My first seat has been in Banking and Financial Disputes, so I have been involved with very large, complex pieces of litigation - one claim was valued in excess of £200m.  Larger teams are involved with such cases, but you can still see how your contributions impact upon the team effort.  However, there has still been scope to draft important documents myself, with significant responsibility from day one.  I have also been involved in business development, drafting articles for the website and preparing documents for pitches.  The highlight so far has been a two day visit to clients in Italy within my second month of working for Collyer Bristow, on a £30m dispute.  I returned with far more confidence in my work, and in myself as a lawyer – and it has given me a taste of what is to come.

I share an office with one partner which means that I can observe the way he deals with matters and develop my skills.  Collyer Bristow provides ongoing opportunities to improve your skills, with weekly seminars for trainees, as well as regular know-how sessions from barristers.

As mentioned above, there is a busy calendar of staff events, ranging from our recent black tie Christmas party at the Hippodrome, to drinks events in our gallery and a firm pub quiz.

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