Trainee Solicitor, Heather Dunlop, shares her experience of Furley Page’s trainee solicitor programme

Posted by Heather Dunlop

Trainee Solicitor

What does your typical day look like?

I typically arrive early to organise my day, go through emails and prioritise tasks.  In my current Private Client seat, my day usually includes sitting in on meetings (which can range from estate planning advice to signing and witnessing wills), drafting documents such as wills, probate forms and letters, and a steady stream of communication with clients.  Each day, I catch up with my supervisor to discuss matters I am working on and raise any questions that I may have.  She will also review my work, and offer suggestions and constructive criticism. I also assist other fee-earners in the team as needed, which allows me to gain experience in a range of practice areas.

What have been your trainee highlights so far?

I had the opportunity to sit in on various court hearings, as well as attend a day-long mediation between opposing parties. I also attended a county court hearing before a district judge and made an application on behalf of our client, which provided valuable court experience.

Furley Page as a firm is keen to promote a friendly and interactive atmosphere for its employees, therefore there are always lots of employee activities and networking opportunities both within and outside of the firm, often in conjunction with other local professionals.

What interesting challenges have you faced whilst being a trainee?

Every client is different, and I have learned that soft skills can be just as integral as efficiency to providing a professional service.  Clients who look to the firm for assistance will often be worried or grieving; as such, it is important to be aware of the client’s situation and ensure that their matters are handled with care and sensitivity.

Has your perception of the legal sector changed since being a trainee and if so how?

I have come to realise that firms need to work very hard to distinguish themselves to potential clients.  The competition does not come just from other law firms, but many other institutions and businesses that now offer certain legal services in conjunction with their primary offerings.

What training/support have you received whilst being a trainee?

The training and support at Furley Page has been excellent.  Everyone, no matter their position, is approachable and willing wherever possible to take the time out of their own caseload to answer questions and provide guidance.  The firm encourages constant development, and as such I have the opportunity several times a month to attend webinars relevant to the area I am working in.

What was your perception of Furley Page prior to joining us and has that changed/met your expectations – if not why not?

I had a prior perception of Furley Page as a well-established and reputable regional firm, which certainly has not changed.  I was interested to find that a firm that is nearly 300 years in operation is very forward-looking in the way it keeps pace with the market and is open to innovation.

As you might expect for a firm with such deep roots in the region, Furley Page is very connected to Kent.  It has strong ties to the agricultural community, and is heavily involved in supporting local charities and initiatives.

In the two years between attaining the training contract and starting as a trainee, I was very pleased to discover how welcoming Furley Page is to new recruits.  Despite not yet being an ‘official’ employee, I was invited to Furley Page events (including the Christmas parties) and frequently met up with present and future trainees.  It made the first day much easier in that I already knew a number of people, and I began my contract with a familiarity with the firm that I would not have had otherwise.

Are there any misconceptions about being a trainee which you can now set the record straight on?

There seems to be a perception that trainees do not have much to do with clients.  This could not be further from the truth at Furley Page; from day one, I was meeting and communicating with clients, and generally being fully involved in all aspects of the matter.  The result is being able to see matters from beginning to end, getting to know your clients and feeling that you were able to assist them.

Was it a difficult transition from class room to office in terms of applying your legal knowledge to real life clients?

The LPC is very practice-focused, which helped a lot when it came to real-life situations.  Reality is never quite as clear-cut as the scenarios given in the class room, however, therefore sometimes even hours of research will not provide a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.


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