Saturday, 18 June 2011


Newsflash... I'm not a trainee any more!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Big proof... on liability too, complete with witnesses

Have had a bit more fun at court recently, hotly opposed motions, and even a day where I sat through the whole morning to discover I had turned up on the wrong date...  (it had been changed... a lesson to check the rolls when you come in!)

This week had my first proof on liability.  A whole new ball game, with lots of things to prepare for (and I did LOTS of preparation) - including preliminary matters, witnesses who disagreed on facts, and actual law to be argued.

The hardest part was dealing with the witnesses and productions.  There were lots of documents.  Sounds obvious, but it hadn't occurred to me that you need someone to speak to them so they can be part of the evidence.  Had a very patient sheriff who (luckily for me) grasped everything quickly.  He asked plenty of questions, asking the witnesses questions throughout.  He clearly just wanted to get to the point without wasting any time.

Dealing with the submissions was more fun than the witnesses.  I had prepared extensive and detailed submissions but it was more of a discussion of the law with the Sheriff.  He asked questions as I led him through, but he didn't require details, clearly grasping what was being said, though it was handy to be able to back up what I was saying from time to time.  The preparation was worth it as at least I (kind of) knew what I was talking about.

I was also very lucky on one point - I was relying on a set of regulations and had looked into a particular amendment on the offchance the day before the proof.  The old regulations would have killed my argument and the sheriff wasnt aware of the amendment.    Phew.

So it was brilliant to win, facts and law accepted.  Returned to the office and was cheered on the way in (nice!) to learn that we had previously had limited success in convincing decision makers on this particular point in the past.  So happy days!

A lot of effort, and a little stress, but a total buzz at the end!

Monday, 31 January 2011

First proof

Finally had my first proof - a feat in our office as most cases tend to settle unless there really is no chance of it.  It was in an out of town court, and after tonnes of preparation I thought I was ready.  I headed down feeling semi confident.  The sheriff gave me a slightly hard time (but wasn't seriously bad and could have been a lot worse!).  The opposing solicitor impressed me a lot (lessons taken).  It didn't all go according to plan though and at the end I didn't feel as good about it all as I thought I would.  And I didn't know if I had won - the Sheriff opted to think about things and give a written decision.  

I then spent a while worrying about losing (yikes).  It was like waiting for exam results.

2 weeks or so later and it arrived without fanfare.  It was an excellent result for us, and it's a nice feeling to get congratulations from the whole office and a handshake from the boss...!   Obviously I've not set any precedents that law students will be learning about and quoting for generations to come but I'm still delighted!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

First day in court


There were lots of brilliant things about today.  Finally I have my wings, and they let me loose out of the office and in front of a Sheriff.

First thing first though, some preparation.  Did a little reading of the rules last night about the procedure (just in case I had forgotten it all from the diploma...) plus I ironed my shirt (!)  This morning arrived early in the office for a mad rush of checking the files that were due to call.  And then the big moment, picked up a gown and headed off to court.

One thing that was particularly brilliant was bumping into lots of people to say hello to -including many other people I was at uni with who have also recently been let loose in court by their firms.  And plenty of them were in the same court with me, getting a front row seat of my first time performance.

First was the callover, which was fine.  My attempt at sounding clear, measured and confident, and managing not to mess things up.  An early chance to see what the other side had to say - the opposite of what I was seeking, so just about everything had to call before the sheriff.

After lunch the Sheriff wandered in.  He wasn't led in with us all standing, he just walked in and sat down.  In his leather jacket, which he wore all afternoon.  Admittedly there were only about 6 other people in the court room.  He was very relaxed and jocular, and made plenty of jokes during the afternoon.  In fact, a very pleasant Sheriff to preside over my first appearance.

It was a brilliant afternoon, but went on and on and on.  There was one local agent there who had a massive volume of cases which he tried to stay on top of, but there were so many he hardly knew which were his until prompted.

Best of all the Sheriff was with me on the various things I was seeking so I could go back to the office with everything that was sought.

I'm looking forward to courtwork (and there should be plenty).

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Court tomorrow

Tomorrow is the big day - my first appearance with a gown.

Over the last week there's been a few near appearances.  It looked like I was all set for an opposed incidental application later this week, so was preparing for it.  It looked like a good argument too, a great first outing.  And while I was preparing for that, one of my cases due to go to proof settled last minute.  Nearly had to deal with the incidental application on that one too - a similar argument - but both defenders changed their minds and decided not to oppose.

We always have a few summary actions calling.  Somebody else was due to deal with these, but after my near misses (and one of my colleagues saying I'd had a lucky escape) I was itching to actually get up and say something... so I asked if I could go along too and have a go.

So tomorrow morning it is.  Should be interesting.  It's only a few cases but the ones I've been given require some talking.  We'll see how it goes!

Thursday, 17 June 2010

A year in...

I'm now a 1 year old trainee.  Got various papers ready to send off to the Law Society so that I can appear in court.  Will be interesting...

Work has been great this year but now it's become rather busy (... "get used to it"... ).  The caseload is increasing, but many of my cases have matured and are making their way through court.  It was one thing juggling the caseload before loads of them were in court, but now theres (1) serious deadlines (2) sudden court type things which crop up and need dealt with over other things (3) fear that I'm forgetting to submit something, or intimate something when I should and (4) dealing with other solicitors (not a bad thing, by the way!)... and this is all before I have to prepare for being in court myself

On the plus side, the work is still great so am still enjoying myself.  And I am looking forward to court! 

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Almost a year

Can't believe I'm almost at the end of my first year.  The workload has been increasing, and now I'm endeavouring to keep all my balls in the air.  The case load has steadily increased, and am now doing all sorts of fun things - the cases come in from scratch, and I'm settling them, raising them, dealing with them whilst being litigated, organising cover (as yet still can't appear)... all under the watchful eye of my managing partner.

Now much of the work is about organisation.  There's all sorts of deadlines which run beside the need to manage each file to stay on top.  I'm discovering lots of things that I don't know how to do (and I thought I knew it all) so luckily there's loads of support where I work.

I'm looking forward to the next exciting stages.  There's the PCC to organise, and of course, there's my enrolment to apply for.  I've been warned that in the 2nd year I'll be swamped and unable to cope, so I've been working on all sorts of strategies and systems to make sure I'll be able to cope.  We'll see...!

Friday, 15 January 2010


Had an amazing week. Been involved in a big civil jury trial. They don't come around very often, so it was quite exciting to be involved. It didn't settle beforehand, or even on the morning it was due to start.

The case was interesting, the advocates were all excellent, and the judge impressive. There were objections galore with interesting discussions of the law. Everything you could hope for.

It was all very even handed and played fairly, with plenty of assistance and camaraderie between the advocates and the judge.

There was plenty of debate about the outcome and when it came it seemed reasonable.

It has been a thoroughly fascinating week!

Friday, 20 November 2009

Appearance in court part II

Still learning lessons... early on I spotted the agent for the other side and introduced myself. She wasn't interested in talking, but afterwards I noticed her pull out the file and start reading it in detail. Oops... gave her warning that I was ready and prepared, so she was preparing.

So I asked her if I could see what papers she had. (Why not?). And she told me. Handy, let me adjust what I was going to say.

Then it came to it. Did my best to present something structured, tried to pace myself, tried to keep calm. And not give in. And try try try not to say anything really stupid.

It worked. Sheriff was with me. Other side less sure of her facts. I won. Happy days.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

First appearance in court

Had my first appearance in court today. It went really well... until I did something a bit silly.

First thing was discovering that the other side hadn't sent one of their trainees but the heavyweight pro from the office. Not great.

Second thing was being first up - bad, as I didn't have the chance to gauge the sheriff beforehand, but good as he wasn't yet impatient by the time I was on!

I was nervous beforehand but when I went up I felt fine. The pursuer's agent set the scene then the sheriff turned to me.

I made my submissions (went well), tendered a photocopy from McPhail and a Westlaw copy (I know...). Went well, sheriff was with me. I was doing OK. Sheriff was even smiling at me. And then... doh!

Pursuer's agent said that he didn't have the papers he needed with him and asked for a continuation. And I didn't oppose it. So it was continued for 2 weeks. And the sheriff told me that whilst he was impressed with my submissions, agreeing to the continuation was "commendable". I think that means he was calling me a ninny.

Why? Because it was in the bag... and now I have given him the chance to appear with a bunch of papers that will no doubt cast enough doubt about my defence to sink my arguments, or something along those lines. Or I will have a less sympathetic sheriff. Or I will be last on (being a continued diet) so the sheriff will have no patience for bringing out McPhail. And I could have put it to bed this morning and returned to the office to a hero's welcome (or something like that).


So why did I do it? Well, I didn't actually think it would be worth opposing a continuation. Right? Wrong. Let's face it, the pursuer's agent should have been prepared with the right papers, just as I was.

A lesson in inexperience! Am becoming fed up of learning from mistakes! At least I enjoyed the advocacy. And maybe it will be OK in 2 weeks... we'll see.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Insurance companies

Spoke to a claims handler at an insurance company, the defender in an action. He was mightily upset that I'd raised proceedings against him. He said, after all, he only had 2 letters on file from us! He was genuinely aggrieved and annoyed.

I explained to him that the first letter (sent months and months ago) was just to bring them into the picture and give them a chance to respond. When I had heard nothing, I sent the second letter, giving them 14 days. Then when I heard nothing, I raised it.

(What would he like me to do? Tell the client "Oh, the insurance company has ignored us, let's just forget all about it! How many letters did he want - and how many more would he have ignored?)

He was very angry about that. He accused me of just trying to get the most money for my client (he really said that... as if!). I was quite calm (I think it's easy to be calm when you're the one who has initiated things) and he became quite agitated. In the end he said "I'm not going to get into an argument with you" (who was arguing?). And then "I'M PASSING IT TO MY SOLICITORS" (like it was a big threat). Great - perhaps they'll be more professional!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Been a while

Havent posted in ages, which is a shame, as have been having a brilliant time at work.

Am now in full flow, files and clients coming my way, up to litigating. Of course I'm not yet able to do the courtroom stuff myself, so I have to let my managing partners name be on my litigation. But I'm still getting to do the pleadings in the summonses + writs which is an art (proficiently rushed by the pros, they take me ages!)

The office is still a fun place to be. It's a happy office with good people, making the workday into a great thing.

Finally got to use my law society ID card on a trip to court. Of course, now that I have it, they scarcely even look at it. I just waved it in the general direction of security and they nodded me through - it could have been any old card!

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Name in the journal

Very small moment today when one of the solicitors noticed my name in the journal of the law society as a new entrant :) Quite exciting to see it there. Plus had the added benefit of proving to my managing partner that my training certificate isn't forged and the law society really has my name on their lists...


Finally got round to signing my training contract. I'd been waiting for the firm to provide one. It's almost the deadline when the law society demands it, so I emailed my managing partner and the head of HR to see what was going on.

Five minutes later the partner came in and said "but we've been waiting for you to give us a contract! Haven't you received the standard one from the law society?" I had, of course, but I had assumed that the firm, being fairly large, would have one of their own.

There were a few things to tweak. I resisted the temptation to add in clauses for the exclusive use of a company limo, regular meals out paid for by the firm, or even a pay rise.

I spoke to a 2nd year trainee who had to do the same thing at another firm. When doing the same thing she'd inserted for her pay "the law society minimum" whilst her colleagues had put in the actual figures. Come the increase the following year she gained the increase above her colleagues.

So I lightly tweaked my contract accordingly and added in "or greater amount as may be agreed between the Trainee and the Employer". This was picked upon by my managing partner and the finance director.

It was quite a moment going through the contract with the partner, as he picked through each word and ribbed me about it. Especially when he noticed that I had also made the slightly embarassing mistake of misspelling his name...