Trainee blog: A day in a Contentious Probate seat

Second year Trainee Helen takes us through an average day in a seat in the Contentious Probate team at Michelmores.

There has yet to be a typical day in my seat in our Disputed Wills & Probate team. As is the way in litigation, cases come in unexpectedly and responses from the other side can only be predicted to a certain extent. My to-do list in the morning often bears little resemblance to my time recording sheet at the end of the day!

8:30am – After cycling in to the office, I settle down at my desk with a cup of tea to check my emails. We receive a daily update on legal news so I try to make sure I read at least one article a day. I'm new to this practice area so it's a good way to learn about the current issues.

9:00am – I have a weekly catch-up with my supervisor. This is an opportunity for us both to share what we're working on. My work comes from all the lawyers in the team so talking through what's on my to-do list is a good way for me to prioritise tasks and for her to check my capacity.

9:30am – I start the day with a research task I've been asked to help with about how company shares are transferred when they’re gifted in a Will. I spend some time getting to grips with the issues, and then write a memo to the fee earner summarising the position as applied to our client’s specific circumstances.

11:30am – I go to meet a new client with my supervisor. The client has a lot to tell us and it’s great to see how my supervisor subtly manages the conversation so we get the information we need to assess the claims this client may have. I took part in the national Client Interviewing competition during my GDL and this meeting shows how the skills we practiced as students are relevant in practice. 

1:00pm – I am training for a half marathon, so I join the running club for their weekly hills session. When I’m not running, I’ll have lunch with the other trainees, or attend one of the knowledge sessions run by one of our sector groups.

2:00pm – I have been asked to draft instructions to counsel for an opinion on title issues we have with some properties which may form part of an Estate our client has an interest in. It’s important we know the value of the Estate so we can assess the litigation risk and advise the client on an appropriate strategy. I discuss the matter with the Partner and then make a start explaining the relevant issues in writing for the barrister we are instructing.

2:45pm – A call comes in from a charity client asking for advice on a drafting point in a Will which purports to leave a legacy to them. It’s a technical tax issue so we need to review the documents before giving an answer. I put the instructions to counsel to the side for the time being as this query takes priority. I remind myself of the legal principle and read up on recent case law so I am able to come to a conclusion on how the court might interpret the drafting.

4:30pm – One of the lawyers in my team is handling a defence to a claim under the 1975 Inheritance Act, and asks the team for their opinion on the letter of claim which has come in. Office conversations like this are a great way to learn by osmosis.

5pm – I look at my diary for tomorrow and think about what I will need to do. We have a telephone call with a client about their proprietary estoppel claim so I spend some time reviewing the file and making sure I know what the key issues are so I get the most out of the meeting. I know from experience that this will also help me when I'm dictating the attendance note afterwards.

5:30pm – I hop on my bike and cycle into town to meet an old university friend for dinner.

Connect with us! If you have any questions on being a trainee please tweet us @MMTrainees.