A day in the life of a Family Trainee

Hebe Thorne’s trainee day in the life shows the variety and quality of work the Family team at Burges Salmon do.

11 February 2019
family trainee

This blog sets out just one day in the life of a family trainee. It is not necessarily reflective of every day, but gives a flavour of the variety and quality of work the Family team at Burges Salmon do.

9am

Get to my desk, with my porridge bought from our restaurant downstairs and review the emails that have come in overnight.

9.15am

Catch up with my supervisor, running through what’s on my to-do list and making sure we’re up to date with each other's workload.

9.30am

Review a Form E which has come in from the Respondent husband of one of our clients. A Form E is a means of structuring financial disclosure and can be voluntary or court ordered. I make notes of any entries that don't line up with information we have had from our client and anything which is unusual or unexpected.

10.30am

Talk through what I have flagged on the Form E with the lawyer running the matter, and agree to draft an email to send to our client, asking her to read through it and pointing out any areas for her particular attention.

11.30am

Draft a divorce petition for a client on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour. The client has written down instances which he felt were examples of his wife acting unreasonably. My supervisor advises me that the aim is for the Petition to be drafted in a way that is as neutral as possible, as a protocol many family lawyers work under generally requires draft petitions (once approved and reviewed by the client) to be sent to the Respondent's solicitors before they are lodged at court. This ensures that the Respondent is as comfortable as possible with those reasons being stated. It is a balance between ensuring that the Petition is not unnecessarily hostile, but also reaches the threshold required to prove that the instances mean that the marriage has irretrievably broken down; which is the requirement under English law and has become even more pertinent since the case of Owens v Owens.

12.30pm

Call to Counsel’s Chambers to confirm that Counsel is still available to represent our client for a private FDR (Financial Dispute Resolution Appointment) in the next fortnight, and when they need the papers by. An FDR is one of the Court appointments, where a judge gives an indication of what they might order if the case went all the way to a final hearing (when an order is imposed). A private FDR can be a more constructive way of reaching settlement and can be arranged much faster and be more cost effective than attending an FDR within formal court proceedings.

12.45pm

Attend a lunchtime training session with the rest of the Private Client team on Lifetime Gifts. Although not directly related to family law, the training sessions run by the Private Client team are a brilliant way to expand my understanding, and can help me get a grasp on some more complex topics (often tax related) which may come up in the Family team and future departments.

2pm

Attend a client meeting of a new client with one of the more senior lawyers in the team. As a trainee my role in these meetings is to take notes as the initial meetings with clients provide a huge amount of background which can be used going forward. It is also a really good way to hear how the more complex aspects of family law are explained to clients, and learn how information is collected and drawn out of clients.

4pm

On returning to my desk, I see that the client has responded with a number of queries regarding the Form E sent through to her earlier. Whilst not my place to advise her directly, I can pull out the areas in the form which are of concern, and how they relate to my own review making the process of reviewing simpler for my supervisor.

4.30pm

I begin preparing for, and draft an index to a brief to Counsel I will work on tomorrow for the private FDR I called Counsel about earlier. These are the way to ensure that Counsel has the full background of the case, a flavour of the parties and the issues important to them, as well as sight of previous negotiations and Court Orders. If I know the matter well I might do the first draft of the narrative section of the brief, but in this case I am coordinating pulling together the enclosures which support the narrative. It can be quite a big job, so I am using some quieter time at the end of the day to plan a strategy and work out whether I will need some help from an apprentice or paralegal. The end goal is for a brief to read like a book; the enclosures providing colour to the narrative. 

5.30pm

I review my emails and make sure my to do list is up to date for tomorrow and nothing has slipped through.

5.45pm

I check in with my supervisor, and confirm the status of her matters and whether she will need any help tomorrow. This means I can plan my day accordingly.

6pm

I leave the office and meet up with a group of the trainees for pay day dinner and drinks.