We caught up with trainee solicitor Jemma Castell, who started her training contract at CEL Solicitors in September 2019. With experience in civil litigation in a range of different law firms, Jemma now sits in our housing disrepair department.
Find out more about her day to day tasks as a trainee solicitor at a growing law firm – from the first sip of coffee in the morning to completing her training diary at the end of a productive day.
I arrive at the CEL office at around 8:30am. We moved into a brand new office in December 2019 – complete with state-of-the-art coffee machine – so I grab a Latte-Macchiato on the way to my desk.
Whilst drinking my coffee, I start up my computer and review any emails that have come in since yesterday evening. I flag anything that is urgent and deal with this first. For those not so urgent emails I file them and set a task list for the day.
My team leader has already delegated actions to each team member for the day, so I divide my share into; urgent, important and reminders. Doing this helps me to stay on top of my work and plan my day accordingly based on how many tasks are in each category.
A big part of my role is client liaison and so I spend a lot of time on the phone. As I work in housing disrepair, our clients tend to be vulnerable people left in desperate situations. From the outset, we make it clear than they can call us any time with any issues they have. Calls usually start coming in from 9am so it’s pedal to the metal straight away.
I then set about clearing the reminders in my task list, these tasks are usually things such as requesting updates from Court, booking surveyor appointments or chasing our clients for information or signed documents.
Since CEL are specialists in civil litigation, we often have to attend court, meet with appointed barristers etc.
Normally, trainee solicitors aren’t given this opportunity, but I’m lucky that as I’ve grown in my role, I’ve been given more and more responsibility.
Today, I have a telephone conference with counsel to discuss two cases which need to issue court proceedings. Before I go, I refamiliarise myself with the cases and take printed documents in case the counsel needs further information.
The counsel’s chambers are just a 5-minute walk from our office, so I make my way downstairs (with an umbrella – of course it’s raining!) and over to chambers for a 10:30am start.
I meet with our appointed barristers and discuss the files and the possibility of taking them to court. Counsel call the client and discuss their case with them and the appropriate next steps.
I take a detailed attendance note while I’m there. When the conference has finished, the appointed barrister and I discuss the claim and I get an opportunity to ask any questions I may have around the steps taken.
As a trainee, this time to be sit down with outside counsel and discuss how to progress a claim forward is invaluable. I am always so grateful to be able to have these opportunities so early on in my training contract.
Once the conferences are over, I make my way back to the office for a quick debrief with my team leader. I then type up my notes and add them to the client’s file with the recommended steps for my team leader to approve. As a trainee solicitor, I am mindful to run advice and decisions past my supervisors first to ensure they’re legally sound. This feedback stage is a great way for me to learn on a case by case basis.
Lunch time! Our HQ is right in the heart of Liverpool city centre, so there are lots of great places to choose from.
After lunch, I tackle some of the urgent tasks on my task list. While away from my desk, a surveyor’s report on a client’s file has been returned so I review the report, noting down any important information and the surveyor’s suggestions of what repair work needs to be undertaken at the property.
I then review the file as a whole and write a letter of advice to the client advising them of the valuation of their claim. Sometimes, if the property is affected by disrepair issues which I have not seen before, I will look up case law using online law libraries to assist me in valuing the claim.
I prepare a file note of my calculations and reasoning for my supervisor to check to ensure my advice is correct and then the letters, along with a copy of the surveyor’s report are sent to the client for their approval.
It’s a Monday which means its time for our weekly team meeting. The whole office gathers in our amphitheatre (amazing, right?!) and the meeting starts with owner and director, Jessica, discussing important business and notices.
We then start our ‘Claims Clinic’. At CEL we believe that collaboration and communication lead to success, so each week every team brings a claim to the group that has either caused them an issue or the team are unsure which is the best way to progress the case. We take it in turns to present the case to the floor and ask for opinions and advice.
As trainees, we are encouraged to speak up to share our experiences and put forward any ideas or solutions. This is an amazing way to develop our advocacy and public speaking skills.
Once Claims Clinic is over, we start our weekly snap hat (shout out to Legally Blonde!). Every Monday, we each write a snap for someone who has gone above and beyond the week prior. No matter how big or small, every snap is celebrated! To close, Jessica will wrap up by setting a target for the week.
I review some pre-action disclosure that has been sent over by a defendant on a new file. As housing disrepair is a pre-action litigation area, disclosure is dealt with at the inception of the claim rather than after Court proceedings have been started.
I make my way through the documents that we have been sent and note down important information such as the client’s tenancy start date and any times they have reported disrepair issues with their landlord. I make a file note of my findings and task my supervisor to review the note. Since there are some items missing from the list of disclosure we requested originally, I call and then send a follow-up letter to the defendant asking for this to be sent over as soon as possible.
At the end of each working day, I take 5 minutes to reflect and evaluate what I have completed and achieved. It’s a great way to acknowledge new skills and experiences and helps me complete my training diary.