Life as a Trainee Solicitor in Private Client

I have been a trainee solicitor in the private client department at Lanyon Bowdler since the beginning of September. Before joining the department, I had never really thought that private client would be an area that I would like to practise in as I have always been drawn to more contentious areas of law. My preconceptions about private client were that it would largely be about tax and that it would be difficult working in an area involving death. In fact, it has been very different to how I anticipated. 

What does your role involve?

My role is actually incredibly varied, much more so than I expected. Some of the more typical tasks I do include preparing pricing documentation and attendance notes, drafting Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorneys (LPAs) and writing letters to clients, beneficiaries and other bodies such as banks.

Most days involve some client contact, whether that is speaking to clients over the phone or attending client meetings. Clients themselves are all different and each require a different approach which is one of the things that makes private client so interesting. I have attended meetings with clients with large estates who want help with inheritance tax planning, and clients who are losing capacity and who wish to enter into LPAs.

Some of the more unexpected tasks I have been asked to do relate to the practical side of estate administrations. For example, I have visited a deceased person’s property to take meter readings and to get an idea as to the condition of the property. This has made me realise that there is so much more to private client than just the legal side.

What have you found the most rewarding about being in private client?

Dealing with estate administrations for clients is something I have found particularly rewarding. Our clients have usually been through a difficult time with losing a loved one, so it is fulfilling to feel that we are taking a weight off their shoulders. One of my most rewarding moments so far was when I was finally able to contact a beneficiary who we had been trying to track down for nearly two months, in relation to a complex intestacy estate. I was able to reassure our client that the estate administration would now be much more straightforward.

Preparing Wills and LPAs for clients is also a rewarding process. These are important documents to have in place, but often clients don’t want to think about what happens once they pass away, or if they lose capacity. One of our clients, who I met during my first week as a trainee, was anxious to have a Will as soon as possible, but she was struggling to make decisions about who to benefit and she didn’t really want to think about it. I had an extra meeting with her to discuss this and I clarified some aspects of the draft Will that she had been worried about. She was so relieved at the end of the meeting and said that she now had peace of mind about the whole thing.

As private client involves dealing with some complex concepts and documents, another aspect of the role that I find satisfying is when I am able to complete difficult tasks, such as the first time I completed an IHT400, and when I have drafted trusts documents and more complicated Wills. These milestones have made me realise how much progress I have made and how much I have learned in the last two months.

Overall I have really enjoyed my time so far as a trainee solicitor in the private client department and it has definitely exceeded my expectations. I feel so fortunate to be working in such a great team of people. I can’t wait to see what the next three and a half months hold!