Building on my experience in Commercial Property
I'm now almost halfway through my second seat in the Commercial Property department...time flies when you're buried in old maps and reams of paper! I'm still waiting for the day when not everything that crosses my desk raises a host of questions. I am however assured by a recently qualified trainee in the team that such feelings are normal, and that they lessen with each seat change!
I arrive in the office at about 8.30am. Whilst my computer is warming up, I make a cup of tea and then prepare a to-do list. Typical trainee tasks in Commercial Property will generate work for a couple of days so it's always worth looking back at the previous day's to-do list to see if there are any matters to follow up. For example, Stamp Duty Land Tax Returns are a trainee's bread and butter. Once the tax has been calculated, I'll fill in the return, get it reviewed by a fee earner and draft various Land Registry forms. When the matter has been completed, perhaps a few days later, I'll file the various forms in the appropriate portals. Working with another trainee, I created a spread sheet to track all the client matters on which trainees are carrying out such tasks and I spend 10 minutes ensuring it is up to date so it can be circulated it to all the fee earners in the team.
After reviewing my emails and prioritising the day's tasks, I begin reviewing a set of Heads of Terms I have been given. This covers key points that have already been negotiated between a landlord and tenant, and is vital when it comes to drafting a lease. I find the morning the best time to tackle these larger drafting tasks and I spend a few hours drafting the lease, taking the plunge and free drafting a break clause, as there isn't a suitable precedent for it. I'm looking forward to getting feedback.
I catch up with a few of the other trainees over lunch in the atrium area; we discuss some upcoming charity events that we are organising and start allocating tasks. Cake and chocolate will feature heavily on this year's fundraising calendar!
In the afternoon I attend a completion meeting with an Associate. As our team deals almost exclusively with businesses, most client contact takes place via email and over the phone, so I really appreciate the meetings in which you can put a face to a name. Such meetings are a great learning environment as this is when the fee earner explains the various leases, statutory declarations and deeds that need to be signed in detail, and ensures the client understands the legal consequences of each document. This particular meeting is quite short as the client already has a thorough understanding of the legal process involved in selling businesses as the Commercial Property team has been providing support to sell part, and reorganise the remainder of his business.
I take 15 minutes to dictate a brief attendance note before moving on to another matter. I attended a client meeting earlier in the week to obtain a client's replies to 'Commercial Property Standard Enquiries' and as there were around 100 questions, I have several pages of notes to help me draft the set of replies. I make a note of any missing information and then draft an email to the client requesting clarification on those points. After receiving some feedback from my supervisor I send the email to the client and the initial replies to the solicitor acting for the other side, for her comments.
Most days in this team are varied and I'm pleased to say that with each attempt at drafting there is a little less red pen on the page. There is plenty of opportunity within this growing team and the firm for trainees to gain first hand exposure to clients and other legal professionals and to receive excellent training, so my advice to fellow trainees is - take it!
Written by Zahra Farooq