Life as a Commercial Trainee Solicitor

This blog was written by Mathew Hughes who trained with the firm until September 2018.

I’ve always seen myself pursuing a career in law, but at the same time I also knew that I wanted to be able to get involved with business, so when I was applying for training contracts, ensuring the practice had a strong commercial focus was at the top of my list.

At Lanyon Bowdler I received hands-on training under leading lawyers who share my enthusiasm for business; this blog reflects upon my experience within the commercial departments of the firm, with a view to providing some insight for those considering a similar route.

Active role

My first experiences of dealing with businesses on a day to day basis came in my second seat with the corporate & commercial team. The department had advised on deals worth over £110m in the previous year and had ambitions to grow further; after just one month I was taking an active role supporting the partner of the team on the due diligence effort in relation to a £2m share sale. Suffice to say I relished the opportunity to get involved with the day to day workings of businesses large and small - even if there was a bit of a shortage on corporate golf days!

As I acclimatised to working for business clients I was pleasantly surprised at the assured approach taken to getting trainees involved with the work; I found that across all commercial teams at the firm that if you demonstrate you’re up to the task, are keen to learn and enthusiastic about the work, you can expect to be meeting lots of clients and being kept very busy!

Add value

In terms of practical lessons, as a trainee you are always encouraged to “add value” for commercial clients; ie to use your initiative to apply legal knowledge to the context and make commercial suggestions to the benefit of a client’s business. Trainees are encouraged to consider the bigger picture to a client’s instructions and to ask questions such as: “Why has this problem arisen?” And “Is there anything we can do to help stop it happening again?”

By taking the time to ask these sorts of questions and offering practical commercial advice, as well as fulfilling our legal retainer, commercial trainees can offer a more rounded service that ideally heads issues off before they arise, and gets clients thinking about the sorts of risks that we as legal advisors see crop up regularly. In this way we can offer clients more for their money and a business-orientated service which stands out from the crowd.

Having established a solid commercial base from which to build I moved on to the commercial dispute resolution department. Whilst sitting within the team I saw a broad range of business disputes; from relatively small agricultural boundary disputes, all the way up to multi million pound manufacturing disputes between international companies.

I found that whatever the size of business the same broad principles of commercial awareness apply; in a dispute context companies generally want to know how much time and effort a dispute is likely to put them to, and they want our advice on whether their dispute is financially worth fighting.

No shortage of work

As for my fourth and final seat, I joined the commercial property team assisting the busy department with a variety of commercial purchases, leases and business ventures. I’d whole heartedly recommend Lanyon Bowdler to a prospective trainee, and as you may have gleaned from the above, there’s certainly no shortage of work!