Gemini Cecil's Diary
Having spent 5 years working as a legal assistant in the Housing Department, I gained valuable firsthand experience of the firm’s culture and have seen many trainees go through the process and continue to progress in their careers. I knew Winckworth Sherwood would provide a well rounded and diverse training contract and I am pleased to say that I have not been disappointed.
The range of departments within the firm means that you really gain a good sense of what post-qualification will be like, no matter what area of law you choose to specialise in. Although no department is the same, the skills that are gained from moving between departments are invaluable. A training contract with Winckworth Sherwood enables you to gain valuable experience among many different departments, with many different types of client.
My first seat was in Planning, supervised by head of department, Karen Cooksley. Starting my initial seat was always going to be a daunting experience, having been accustomed to Housing. However, Planning proved to be equally rewarding and challenging. It is an extremely fast paced department and you hit the ground running with the work that you are involved in. The knowledge of the team put me at ease, knowing that I was working with experts in this field. They involved me in all aspects of the planning process and were more than willing to pass on their experience and advice. One particular highlight during my seat was assisting in a judicial review application for a small neighbourhood group to overturn planning permission, which we won! It was thrilling to be involved in such an important matter which had a huge impact on the clients on a personal level.
My next seat was in the Employment Department. This was my first experience of non-property work, although an area of law which I had always had an interest in throughout my degree and LPC. The whole team were incredibly welcoming and very generous with their workloads and were keen to involve me in their matters. I was given the opportunity to attend pre-trial review hearings as the firm’s representative, along with counsel and the client, which was an exciting opportunity and enabled me to experience what it would be like post-qualification. The breadth of the work meant that I had the opportunity to work on settlement agreements and contracts of employment as well as preparing witness statements for tribunal. One matter which I am particularly proud of was when I was given the opportunity to be the lead contact for a transfer of staff from a nursery. The support of my supervising partner meant that I had the confidence to advise the client throughout the process. This allowed me to gain exposure to a difficult area of law and manage a client relationship.
My third seat was in the firm’s Construction Department under the supervision of head of department, Eleanor Kilminister, who also trained with the firm. Due to my past experience, this was a department that I was particularly interested in prior to starting my training contract. It is safe to say the team were very supportive with your career and the training process. Their backgrounds within the firm and willingness to help you get the most out of the seat was clear throughout and is something that is invaluable as a trainee. Similar to my previous two seats, I experienced both contentious and non-contentious work. One matter which I ran from instruction to conclusion involved drafting, negotiating and finally completing a scaffold licence for a school. This document was a sticking point preventing the progression of building works which would significantly impact the school if not completed on time. The client was incredibly pleased for the matter to be resolved in time and I was proud to have helped them achieve this.
In addition to the diverse departments which Winckworth Sherwood has to offer, the firm also has an enthusiastic Corporate Social Responsibility team which encourages staff to take part in activities outside of work. I am a member of the reading scheme, during which I assist reception children with their reading. I also help manage the rent arrears clinic which Winckworth Sherwood runs in partnership with Southwark Citizen’s Advice Bureaux. These are both very rewarding programmes and enable the firm to give back to the local community.
One thing which distinguishes Winckworth Sherwood from other firms is that a large number of staff have trained with the firm and gone on to become senior associates and partners of the firm. It is evident that the firm encourages staff to develop their careers and this is shown by the number of trainees that are retained year after year and those that remain for their whole career.
Training at Winckworth Sherwood has been very interesting and rewarding to date. It has allowed me to get hands-on experience and it has enabled my confidence to grow significantly during the past 18 months. I am excited to see what the next 6 months will bring!
Gemini is now Solicitor in Winckworth Sherwood's Social Housing Finance department.