Why did you chose Furley Page to undertake your training contract?
Before applying to Furley Page, I had long been aware of the firm’s reputation as one of the most highly respected law firms in the South East having grown up in the local area.
The firm also had, and has, a well-deserved reputation for giving its trainees a good level of responsibility, client exposure and opportunities for development.
As I was born and raised in Canterbury, I wanted to work with clients from the surrounding area. Furley Page has been an important part of the local community for many years and counts many individuals and organisations from the local area as clients.
Training at Furley Page gives me the opportunity to develop my legal and client facing skills at a highly respected law firm all whilst serving and working with those from my local community.
In addition, during my placement week at Furley Page in the summer of 2018, I witnessed first-hand the strong relationships and camaraderie between team members across all practice areas. Naturally, there were differences between each team that I visited but the firm’s culture of delivering high quality service to clients whilst developing talent within the team permeated them all.
I had opportunities to interact with a variety of people who were not only welcoming, helpful and impressive but clearly enjoyed working at the firm. After completing my placement, I felt that Furley Page would be a great place to develop my legal skills to a high standard whilst working within a firm whose values aligned with my own.
How has training and working within the Covid related restrictions impacted on your training?
My training contract can be divided roughly into two, contrasting Covid related halves. The first half took place between the autumns of 2020 and 2021 and was characterised by lockdowns and stricter restrictions. As such, a lot of time was spend working from home.
Like most people, I had never worked from home prior to the pandemic. Working remotely up to five days a week is a potentially challenging situation for anyone but has been turned into a resoundingly positive one by Furley Page. The support provided from my induction – both pastorally and practically – to today has been great.
I have felt welcomed by all at the firm and the sense of community was been maintained through the pandemic by regular contact with supervising partners, calls with fellow trainees, fitness initiatives and more.
Working remotely provided some difficult moments – technologically, practically and mentally – but the firm have been supportive through these periods and provided solutions to any problems that have arisen.
Working from home meant it was not possible to sit in on in person meetings and phone calls or pop over to a colleague’s desk to discuss a piece of work. However, this was been mitigated by being able to sit in on online meetings, have diarised check-ins with colleagues and the trusty team WhatsApp groups.
Furthermore, working from home allowed me to develop skills related to providing client support remotely – something that will continue to be integral to good client care and legal practice in the future.
As a result of Covid restrictions being relaxed, the second half of my training contract has been more office based and, as a result, quite different to the first half.
Being able to attend more client facing meetings has been a great learning experience. In addition, working from office more has allowed me to develop stronger links with my colleagues and to learn more by way of “osmosis” by observing them.
What seats have you been in and has there been any which challenged your perception of that area of law?
In October 2020, I joined the Vulnerable Client team where I completed the first seat of my training contract. For my second seat, I worked and trained with the Private client team. In September 2021 I began my third seat training and working with the Dispute resolution team.
I am currently in the Employment team in my fourth and final seat. Whilst I was aware that this area of law would be technically demanding, I had not anticipated how important emotional intelligence and psychological understanding are in facilitating positive outcomes for clients. As far as I can appreciate, if these skills are developed well then they can be used to better predict what reactions decisions or actions will trigger in people – a key skill for employment law practitioners.
If you could take one key learning from each of your seats you have completed so far, what would it be?
My time in the Vulnerable Client team highlighted the importance of having good administrative and client interaction skills. Carrying out work in support of a panel deputy involves assisting a number of vulnerable people in managing their personal affairs to ensure the best outcomes for them. In order to do this effectively, one must be both well-organised and compassionate.
During my time in Private Client, the importance of having good client interaction and interviewing skills took centre stage. One of the main types of work I was involved in was drafting Wills based on clients’ wishes and, as a result, meetings and interviews were fundamental to really understanding what clients wanted to achieve.
During meetings, I observed my colleagues demonstrate genuine interest in clients, use appropriate language, follow clear meeting structures, highlight the pros and cons of clients’ options, and close interviews in appropriate ways. I was also able to put these into practice myself and feel I have become better at client interaction as a result.
My time in the dispute resolution team highlighted the importance of developing one’s legal skills as well as their technical knowledge.
The varied legal nature of the disputes in the Dispute Resolution team deal with meant that I was involved in a wide range of matters whilst in the team. Each matter asked a different set of legal questions to the previous one and, consequently, demanded different technical knowledge. As a result, I found it more difficult to accrue a foundation of legal knowledge in any one particular area when compared to my time in other seats.
What remained consistent across the matters were the skills necessary to get a handle on the legal issues at play and to obtain positive outcomes for clients. These included legal drafting and research, strategy, communication (written and verbal), stress management and negotiation. As a result of regularly observing and consistently practising the above, I feel that they my understanding of their use and how to apply them well grew.
Whilst I have only been in the Employment team for a short time, I have observed the need for employment lawyers to take a practical and commercial approach when giving advice in order to facilitate positive outcomes for business clients.
Whilst technical knowledge and emotional intelligence are important, the key objective and focus for any practitioner is to resolve clients’ issues in the most straightforward way possible. This involves knowing one’s client and their needs as well as the industry in which they operate. As such, keeping up with industry developments, as well as legal ones, is fundamental to providing up-to-date, practical and valuable advice.
Reflecting back on your training so far, to what extent has the reality of training in a legal firm lived up to your expectations?
Entering into my training contract, I had hoped that it would be stimulating, challenging and rewarding. It has certainly been all three!
During my training contract, I have learnt a lot from my colleagues and they have made my time at the firm both interesting and enjoyable.
The varied nature of the work, the intellectual challenges and, with support, developing my legal skills a little bit every day have also been great.
Naturally, no one could have predicted the Covid-19 pandemic or the challenges that it brought. However, Furley Page have been great at providing support throughout and maintaining a real sense of community within the firm.
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