I studied Law at the University of York, where I learnt by way of problem-based learning, working in a team of twelve to research the legal issues presented in a case study. This insight motivated me to pursue a legal career. The ability to work within a team was certainly a factor I considered, that and the fact that your role, the law itself and your client's strategy is continually changing and adapting as you embark on your career. I completed vacation schemes in Leeds and London before joining Herbert Smith Freehills.
During my first seat I was a part of the team instructed to act for the claimant in a large insurance dispute. My role involved a lot of research to resolve factual queries or evidential gaps, the sheer amount of documents that need to be reviewed and identified to give a case evidential backing was quite surprising. To complete the research, gaining an understanding of the complex subject matter is essential. Some of the partners and associates have been working on this case for many years and have accumulated their knowledge over the course of the case. Therefore, as a trainee with just 6 months to grasp an understanding of the case, I needed to complete a lot of reading-in before starting. Only once you have built up an understanding of the case can you start to assist the team. We are going to trial towards the end of the year and during my seat there were many upcoming deadlines for the submission of witness statements and expert reports.
Due to the stage of the litigation when I joined the team, my role consisted of helping to interview witnesses (including some in the South of France), complete witness statements and review the other side's statements and expert reports. I resolved many factual queries by helping our witnesses substantiate their statements by identifying documents such as emails or reports. Alternatively, when reviewing statements produced by the other side, it was my role to check that the statements made were accurate, and if they were inaccurate to disprove their statements by finding the relevant documentation. For instance, if the other side stated "X did not take any steps to remedy the defect until September", I would search for emails or documents which demonstrated that in-fact our client had taken steps before September. This involved using the electronic database which stores all of the documents relevant to the claim. Another example of the role of a trainee would be helping to update chronologies as additional documents and events were identified. Towards the end of my seat I have also been helping with pre-trial preparation.
Being involved in this case in the run up to trial was a great experience, I had the opportunity to meet witnesses and observe the interview techniques used by associates. I was also able to play a part in identifying documental evidence to support our claim, to help the team to build a persuasive argument. I have also attended pre-trial hearings and have been able to observe exceptional advocates in practice. In my first 6 months at the firm I have had a great exposure to the role of a disputes lawyer, there is certainly much more to the role of a disputes trainee than completing legal research or bundling.