A Year in the Life of a First Year Trainee

Posted on: May 29th, 2018

Iwan Thomas, as Trainee Solicitor gives an honest and open insight into his first year at Coffin Mew. 

In September 2017 I began my training contract at Coffin Mew. I started fresh out of the LPC, swapping education for the open plan office environment. I was guided through the induction process and finally met the new trainees and our training partner, Amanda Read.

My first seat began in the contentious world of Dispute Resolution and Insolvency, based in our Southampton office. It was a combined seat that encompassed drafting important documents throughout the various stages of the litigation process, including letters before action and witness statements. I was able to attend large mediations which went on until late at night in London and smaller scale mediations in our own offices. During my seat I attended court, both in the South and in London I saw both my colleagues in court and sat behind QC’s in the Rolls Building, assisting counsel and liaising with the client during proceedings.

Throughout my time in Dispute Resolution I was involved in a broad range of work including intellectual property disputes, breach of contract claims, partnership disputes and professional negligence cases. I was able to assist in the various offices that Coffin Mew now have, travelling to Brighton to work with other Partners. The seat provided me with lots of responsibility, client contact and excellent supervision.

Highlights included a three day trial at the Rolls Building which descended into an argument over whether one email constituted a valid contract, showing that first year of law at university is useful after all! I was also able to attend Court on my own, in an advocacy role at Slough County Court and questioning Judgment Debtors in both Bournemouth and Portsmouth County Courts.

The Firm went through huge changes during my first seat. We were presented with the new strategy, a path to 2020, in an firm wide event in November 2017. We were then allowed to vote on a new work uniform policy. We are now encouraged to dress suitably for the client but comfortably for ourselves, a change which shows what a forward thinking and adaptable firm Coffin Mew is to work for.

Following Coffin Mew’s merger with Thames Valley firm Charles Lucas & Marshall my second seat was in Residential Property, based in our Newbury office. During my seat the firm became under one umbrella name, ‘Coffin Mew’ and has a new brand identity.

Throughout my second seat I have been involved in the integration process, from helping to run the World Cup Sweepstake to events such as Football Shirt Friday and the Mental Health Well-Being breakfast where all members of the office came together for a healthy start to the day.

During my seat in Residential Property I have been able to assist clients directly with a range of property matters. I have worked through sale and purchase files ranging from local clients to £1m London properties. I have seen all stages of the transaction, from the initial instructions, raising enquiries to exchange and completion. The seat in Newbury has also provided fantastic experience of property matters that are not so common. I have been able to work with unregistered land, handling vellum title deeds from the 1890’s and dealt with adverse possession claims. The seat allowed me to run my own case load but also provide assistance to my supervisor with legally challenging tasks.

On the business development side I have attended regular drinks events both on the South Coast and in London, catching late trains home from Waterloo! I have been involved in the mentoring scheme at Southampton University and various marketing events the firm has hosted. I captain and organise the firm’s 5-a-side football team which has gone from strength to strength over the last year. I have also, probably very poorly, attempted to play netball for the firm.

We have a close knit trainee group at Coffin Mew. We really get on and regularly attend events together, including the occasional drink. In addition I regularly attend events set up by the SHJLD, which the sitting President and Vice-President are solicitors at Coffin Mew. Events run by the SHJLD during my first year have included cocktail making, speed networking, a talk by Susan Gent, the current in house counsel at the Royal Academy of Arts and the Enchanted New Forest Ball, a black tie dinner event.

I am looking forward to continuing my training into my second year and the challenges that await.