Alex Woolcott's Diary

I chose Winckworth Sherwood partly because of the wide range of work it undertakes for an equally wide range of clients, but mainly because the trainees are very obviously seen to be a valuable member of the firm from their first day. Rather than being relegated to the photocopier, you are trusted and supported to do work which is valued by clients and prepares you for life after qualification.

My first seat was in the firm’s Social Housing department, supervised by Charlotte Cook. Coming into a training contract without any long term experience of working in the law meant that there was always going to be something of a learning curve, but this was an excellent seat for acclimatising myself to both the firm’s processes and what practicing the law means beyond the confines of the classroom or lecture hall.

Despite nominally being a property seat, the work was incredibly varied (a theme which has run through all three of my seats); in my six months within the department I assisted with:

  • The prospectus verification process for a substantial bond being issued by one of our Registered Provider clients through the Retail Charity Bond scheme
  • The preparation of a series of leases passing control of a local authority’s leisure centres to a specially founded trust
  • The clearing of conditions precedent to funding arrangements vital to the bringing forward of a landmark development being delivered by a JV of an RP client and a major London developer
  • Negotiation of substation leases, CCTV licences and commercial leases of RP property.

My next seat was in the firm’s Planning department, supervised by Lindsay Garratt, Karen Cooksley and Colette McCormack. The department deals with both contentious and non-contentious work, meaning that trainees gain experience of all sides of the planning process, from assisting with first drafts of Section 106 agreements, to preparing deeds of variation, to assisting with planning appeals and inquiries. Planning is renowned for always being busy, and six months in the department will certainly teach you how to best manage your time.

Whilst in Planning particular highlights included assisting with the preparation for a planning inquiry regarding the development of nearly 600 houses and a new landmark ‘sports hub’, the opportunity to assist Judicial Review proceedings in the Court of Appeal, and advising on the applicability of Community Infrastructure Levy to a client’s innovative private rented sector product.

My third seat was in the Construction department with Eleanor Kilminster. This seat was a balance of contract and contentious work, so you can go from drafting collateral warranties and advising on proper execution of contracts, to drafting letters before claim and preparing disclosure for TCC claim, typically in the same afternoon! Construction is an area of law which touches on many of the firm’s other practice areas, and offers an indispensable insight into how projects are brought forward by our clients.

One of the key features of training at Winckworth Sherwood is how generous the other fee earners, from partners to newly-qualified solicitors, and support staff are with time, support and advice. Combined with the array of work that trainees are trusted with, you quickly develop the skills and confidence needed for life as a qualified solicitor.

The firm is involved in numerous CSR activities, ranging from Christmas fairs with local charities, to helping with lunchtime reading clubs for local schools, and offering free debt advice at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. I participate in the CAB debt advice clinics – the opportunity to offer advice which can prevent people being evicted is hugely rewarding, and is an invaluable opportunity to invest yourself in a project outside of the office.

Alex is now Solicitor in Winckworth Sherwood's Planning department.

Trainee Diaries