How to be a lawyer in a quiet time

Whilst driving into work, the newsreader on the radio jubilantly announces that the economy is showing positive signs of recovery. Administrations are down! Liquidations are down! House sales are up! I sigh heavily to my fellow commuters, as this time of renewed optimism and growth is the time I’m spending six months in the insolvency department.

I recently asked on twitter what most people would like to see us blog about. Overwhelmingly, they wanted to know what was difficult about being a trainee. Heaven knows, trainees share enough positive messages about how brilliant our job is. Well, in the spirit of pessimism, I’ll be open and say that the first month of my insolvency seat was difficult. The team were quiet, and in turn, so was I. It doesn’t feel so great to see your fellow trainees hitting targets, working late, making elaborate to-do lists.

I watched my team keep busy. Like a hive of activity, they were writing articles, launching a newsletter, planning strategies and engaging in business development. A lot of business development! My team spend a lot of energy building connections and developing relationships with clients and referrers. It’s pretty inspirational stuff. I’ve done the same and used my quiet moments to arrange lunches and drinks with junior members of other services: property agents, accountants, surveyors. That hasn’t felt like work at all and day by day, I’m building my network of contacts.

I’ve given a lot of time to my sector work. I’ve been writing press releases, enhancing databases and writing an article that I’m delighted to say will be published in four magazines. Early in my seat I arranged a meeting with my supervisor and HR to let them know my workload was light, and we agreed that I was able to supplement my insolvency work by picking up work from the clinical negligence department.

It’s been encouraging to realise how invested the firm are in my training. My supervisor, HR and other partners have been keen to ensure that I am kept stimulated and challenged. And, sure, the cynic would say that’s because they want me to earn money for the firm. Of course, that’s true, but I feel that the investment is more personal. My supervisor said I was learning an essential skill – how to be a lawyer during a quiet time. The art of adding value in more ways than raising a bill.

I am now much busier. Insolvency is a varied, far-reaching and academic area. The cross-over into other areas is notable. A client was facing bankruptcy but a recent divorce was shaking things up – so an interesting afternoon was spent researching the interaction between bankruptcy and family law. A company went into liquidation, unfortunately with a number of employees – one of whom was pregnant. Suddenly, I’m looking at statutory maternity pay and reading employment law textbooks. Another company, a licensed premises, entered into a CVL (Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidation) but were due to host a wedding the following weekend. Cue me urgently looking into licensing law to figure out if anyone would be put in prison for serving a champagne toast! It’s very common to see me running around the office speaking with different teams.

So on the whole, I’m learning more than I bargained for in this seat!