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Reflections on my time as a trainee in Litigation

In September 2018, I found myself one year into my traineeship with Gilson Gray. Following four years of undergraduate study and one year of postgraduate, this marked six years in the legal world and brought with it a further change of direction: to Gilson Gray’s Litigation team.

This marked a big change. Having worked in Residential Conveyancing and Private Client for the first year of my traineeship, my focus was essentially client driven whereas my role in Litigation has predominantly involved research and drafting. The first few weeks I found it very strange not dealing with clients on a day to day basis, but as I grew in confidence and gained a better understanding of the work I was trusted with a good level of client contact.

One of the main benefits of working in the Litigation team has also been the strength of the team itself and the support available. With four partners as well as a good number of junior fee earners, there is always someone available should you need anything clarified or to have your work checked. Being a trainee in any department, it is very reassuring to know that there is a strong support network for you and plenty of people to learn from.

Working in a Litigation team with such a varied workload has also exposed me to many different procedures within the court system. The unfortunate downside of that, however, is that at many times you think you are getting to grips with the process but find that different procedure can very much “move the goalposts”. This has certainly kept me on my toes so far.

Another interesting change that has emerged as a result of my move into Litigation has been having an opponent to deal with, with their own clients and their own interests which, by their very nature, are different to yours. It is reassuring, though, that in the majority of cases there is a mutual respect and a common desire to find areas of agreement as well as areas of dispute. Underpinning this is the fact that the Scottish legal world is a small one and being co-operative and respectful with opposing solicitors will serve you well in the long run.

I have also been glad that some of the skills gained from my first year in Residential Conveyancing and Private Client were transferrable to Litigation. For example, an understanding of property searches, conveyancing time limits, and the missives standard clauses has assisted me any time there is a residential property angle to litigation and an understanding of the executry process has prepared me well for any contentious executry cases.

As well as technical, legal skills, a lot of the soft skills gained from client exposure in my first two seats grounded me well for my time in Litigation. For example, working on urgent Wills in hospices and Estate Planning for terminally ill clients prepared me well for the emotionally charged nature of serious personal injury and medical negligence litigation, where clients’ lives are negatively and often permanently affected by the actions of others.

As a reflection on my traineeship to date, it has been affirming to serve our clients and to use the law to help people in their daily lives. Be it helping a young couple buy their first house, helping an elderly person ensure their estate planning is in order, or ensuring that the victim of another’s negligence is compensated for their pain and suffering, you quickly find that the law can be (and usually is) a tremendous force for good.

The information and opinions contained in this blog are for information only. They are not intended to constitute advice and should not be relied upon or considered as a replacement for advice. Before acting on any of the information contained in this blog, please seek specific advice from Gilson Gray.

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