“The journey to qualification as a trainee is challenging, the one thing that remains constant is the support available to you throughout.”
James Coulthard, Trainee Solicitor
The first thing to say is that in each seat, you get to share a room with a senior member of the team, often a partner. The result of this is that you can benefit from just sitting at your desk; whether it is listening to how an experienced lawyer interacts with clients, taking five minutes at the end of a meeting to break down what was discussed, or just being on-call to take on tasks as and when they arise. The first-hand exposure you get to high quality legal work not to mention the mentoring you get on a daily basis is incredibly valuable.
The Firm has an incredibly friendly culture, and everyone is approachable regardless of seniority. You won’t think twice about chatting to partners and other senior members at the firm throughout your week – even if the prospect of it seemed daunting when you first started. There is a strong team ethos at the firm, and the senior members all take an involved role in your training. I have a fortnightly catch-up with one of our senior associates to discuss my progress, whilst I also have a supervising partner and separate partner mentor who provide me with more formal guidance and feedback.
The result of this is that you are given an incredibly strong and personalised level of training, delivered by experienced lawyers who are experts in their respective fields, that will enable you to develop into a senior member of the team in the future. their genuine interest in my development is one of the best things at Fox Williams.
Millie Pierce, Associate
I first heard about Fox Williams in my second year of university at a networking event and their expertise in fashion law stood out to me. It made me want to do a lot more research into the firm and from this I realised that I could combine my interests in intellectual property law from university into my interest and hobbies involving fashion in my career in law. The fact that the firm offered such a specialism and that it combined with so many different areas of law convinced me to apply for a vacation scheme and then keep my fingers crossed that I got accepted onto it!
After a successful vacation scheme in 2018, I joined the firm as a trainee in November 2020 with my first of four seats being in the commercial litigation department. I then completed seats in the corporate team and then actually ended up doing a double seat in the commerce and technology (C&T) department before qualifying into the C&T team in November 2022, specialising in commercial and IP law. Trainees are encouraged by the HR team to inform them of their seat preferences before each seat and trainees in their final seat rotations are most likely to get their first choice. However the HR team work hard to ensure that everyone is happy with seat rotation and that if a trainee missed out this time around that they are considered again for their first choice in their next seat.
Emphasis is on each trainee having enough contentious and non-contentious experience across their four seats and having this range of experiences helped me realise where my key interests and skill set were. I knew that I really enjoyed litigation and contentious work and in particular IP litigation as well as commercial work as part of the fashion and agency law teams.
I would recommend that if there is a specific department that you know you want to qualify into, you should tell the head of department and HR as soon as you know. Each trainee is also assigned a mentor partner who you can talk to and discuss how best to approach these conversations.
Even if you are unsure which department that you want to qualify into, my top tip would be to approach each seat as if you would like to qualify there, making sure that you try to complete work to the highest quality, ask lots of questions, make an effort with getting to know the team and make sure you’re getting involved with efforts outside of chargeable work such as article writing. These small things can have a big impact.
When qualifying at Fox Williams, available NQ positions depend on business need and are not guaranteed. That being said, Fox Williams have made offers to all newly qualified trainees since 2019 and every effort is made to retain trainees on qualification.
For me, the route to qualifying meant being enthusiastic and willing to give every specialism a chance. I worked on finding out as much as I could about each department at all levels, made sure I stayed in touch with people from previous departments, and tried to get as much of a breadth of work as possible in each seat.
Having had no prior experience of working in law the prospect was daunting, particularly as two days into my training contract we were plunged into another national lockdown. However, my fears were unfounded and, even virtually, all teams I sat with proved to be so warm and welcoming and always on hand to answer questions and provide support.
Claire Bowler, Trainee Solicitor
As a trainee, you experience four of the firm’s departments for six months each across the two years. As your training contract progresses, you get more autonomy as to your next seat, with fourth seat trainees being given the greatest priority as to their seat choice.
For me, it was really interesting as to how my choices evolved over the course of my training contract. I went in with four very specific seats in mind, but then changed my mind to the extent I only did two of the seats I had originally chosen! In the end, I’ve done Commercial Litigation and International Arbitration (twice!), Corporate, and Commerce and Technology. As with most firms, to qualify as a solicitor at FW, you are required to have gained a certain amount of contentious work; at FW this could be in a straight Commercial Litigation/International Arbitration or Employment seat, or as part of your work in Commerce and Technology, or Financial Services Regulation.
Trainees are obviously responsible for the more administrative tasks, for example, putting together bundles for hearings (I’m now a pro at using Adobe!), and taking notes of meetings with clients or counsel. However, because of the firm’s size, whatever the department, FW offers trainees a chance to get involved in the proper “lawyerly” stuff, perhaps more so that you would at other firms. You will be given every opportunity to push yourself and while it may sound trite, the more you put in, the more you’ll get out.
This could include researching and drafting up advice notes for clients, liaising directly with clients or solicitors on the other side, or drafting up agreements and supporting documents for a large transaction. Trainees work both directly with partners, as well as more junior members of the team, and as a result, are expected to take on a high level of responsibility from day one.
To complement this, trainees receive regular support from their department, and we are encouraged to ask questions to help with our understanding. In each department, you have a partner as your supervisor with whom you have monthly catch ups, and often a senior associate in your department will also take you under their wing and check in with you more frequently.
All in all, being a trainee is a bit of a rollercoaster: there will be ups and downs but if you go in with your hands in the air and a grin on your face, you should have a whale of a time!
Evie Meleagros, Dispute Resolution Partner
Cast your mind back, what were your expectations when applying to Fox Williams all those years ago?
I applied to FW six months before I started as a trainee – in those days the firm was much smaller and there was no lag between application and joining. That worked well for me as I just wanted to get moving with training and qualification. In hindsight, this was a smart move given that, soon after starting in September 2008, we entered a major recession as a consequence of the subprime mortgage crash in the US.
In truth, I am not sure I had any expectations at that point. Even if I did, they would have been blown out of the water by the economic crisis – my first seat was in the Employment department and I hit the ground running dealing with bankers in the droves who had lost their jobs. It was a fascinating way to learn how critical lawyers are in a time of crisis.
What were the best parts of being a trainee?
Learning! Learning everything.
Everything is new, and each day is another opportunity to learn and develop your skills. You’re given a wider berth, too – we all make mistakes and lots are made as a trainee, but that’s how we learn.
The senior people that I have learned most from and that have supported me the most since I joined the firm, have been those that took that approach with me.
What is it about FW that means you’ve continued your career here?
I always feared being a lawyer in a London firm would mean that I couldn’t be myself. I don’t necessarily fit the mould of what people might expect a lawyer to be like, and I was worried I would need to shoehorn myself into that mould.
But I have not had to do that once, and I am still here! Being myself and being encouraged to give my opinion on matters (both internally and in respect to client work) , has had and continues to have a huge positive impact on my career here.
What personal qualities would you say you need to succeed here?
Hard working, enthusiastic, positive attitude, a genuine desire to work in a team in a collaborative effort.
Apart from becoming partner, what’s given you the most personal/professional satisfaction here?
Driving forward the firm’s Diversity & Inclusion agenda.
What advice would you give to potential applicants?
Whatever firm you apply to, make sure you are as satisfied as you can be that it is the right firm for you – don’t just think of it in the reverse. A training contract is a two-way street!
I was very conscious of that when I first applied to Fox Williams and it’s one of the reasons why I have spent my whole legal career here.
That coupled with the support I’ve received from all corners of the firm at all levels of experience has been key in getting from trainee to partner.
I aim to get into the office by 9:00, so that I can enjoy a quick breakfast and coffee. I check my emails for any urgent work that has come up over the weekend and I then draw up a to-do list to prepare for my day’s tasks.
I attend a weekly call for one of my matters to discuss progress and action points for the week ahead. I take notes during the call and circulate them to the team afterwards. I am also asked to draft an email to the other side’s solicitors to update them.
We have an in-person client meeting attended by the client, the matter partner, a partner from dispute resolution and me. Lots of our work spans multiple sectors, so working with partners, associates and trainees from other departments is common. The client in question had his employment terminated unfairly. As I had previously been tasked with calculating his losses, I am given the opportunity to take the lead in asking him questions regarding his thoughts on my calculations. Trainees are expected to be prepared to step up and take on additional responsibilities when managing clients, all whilst under the tutelage of partners with expertise in the field. As a team, we then discuss how we present these findings to the other side’s solicitors.
Most matters are made up of a team of either a partner and a trainee or a partner, a trainee and an associate, which helps to maintain contact with and learn from more senior members of the firm.
Following the client meeting the partners and I have a debrief in order to evaluate how the discussion went. I proof-read and circulate the attendance note of both meetings and draft action points for each member of the team.
We have a bi-weekly employment department meeting to discuss ongoing matters in the department and look at capacity levels for the week. This is a good opportunity to seek out interesting work, and to identify who in the team requires assistance. If I am quieter than usual, I will describe my capacity as “green” so that my colleagues know that I am available for new instructions and that I can help out wherever necessary.
I receive a call from a partner asking for urgent assistance on a new matter. I am asked to procure a visa appointment for an employee of a major tech company who needs to travel to a European country on business. As I have never done this before, I have a quick discussion with an associate who tells me who our immigration contacts are that can help me make such arrangements. The associates at the firm are very invested in the development of the trainees and they often spare time to guide us through any work we might have or answer any questions. I make the appropriate calls and I am able to ensure that we secure an appointment that works for our client’s travel dates!
Shortly after, the partner gives me a ring to congratulate me on a job well done. I am very pleased that they have acknowledged my work right away.
Lunchtime! The trainees (and sometimes associates!) often eat lunch together and it is a great opportunity to catch up on everyone’s days. This is an opportunity to strengthen the relationship between the trainee cohort and offer a hand to anyone who needs some help, particularly if they are in your previous seat.
Following a client call from last week, I am asked to draft a witness statement regarding an ongoing unfair dismissal claim. I ask an associate for a previous witness statement they have done on the matter, so that I can ensure that the style and presentation is consistent. I review the note of the client call carefully, ensuring that I encapsulate the tone and individuality of the potential witness. Before I am happy with my work, I give it a final proof-read in order to ensure there are no errors. After writing up their answers, I flag any sections in which we need further information or clarification. I then draft an email to the client, asking them for further information to fill out these gaps, and send it to the matter partner for approval.
I receive an email from the associate for the witness statement asking to discuss the work. Associates regularly find the time to give feedback on trainees’ work and this is a vital part of our development. This allows me to take detailed notes on the constructive feedback and continually improve the quality of my work.
I manage to catch the head of department and ask them if they could use any assistance towards the end of the day. They are thankful for me reaching out to them and ask me to harmonise contracts for an employer that is changing the terms of their service agreements. I make the necessary changes and make some suggestions as to how we can further protect the employer’s interests by making some further amendments.
Depending on my workload, I can usually leave the office around this time. Before I leave, I ensure that my daily task list is complete and close all of my time narratives. I pack my bag with all my notes and resources, as I know that I will be working from home tomorrow.