Ever wondered what a trainee's week looks like? Wonder no more...
With the end of the year in sight, what better time to reflect on the last 12 months? To get into the spirit, we spoke to Ema Burns and Dane Harrison, two trainees at Addleshaw Goddard’s London office, who told us all about life at the firm and gave us an insight into a typical week at AG. Ema, who is in her second seat, tells us about her experience with the infrastructure, projects and energy (IPE) team while Dane, in his third seat, looks back on his time in real estate investments and private funds. So, before you get started on your new year’s resolutions, press play on your year in 2023 playlist and read on to find out more about life at AG. Spoiler alert: be prepared to hear about plenty of training sessions, networking events and pro bono opportunities that trainees can get stuck into…
Both our interviewees started their weeks off with a clear desk and usually a coffee in hand. Dane, who worked from home, explains, “I started off by emailing around the team asking if anyone needed anything, and got added onto a doc review for a joint venture we’ve been working on. My job was to see what the future of the joint venture looks like from a risk and document perspective.” During a call with a legal director, Dane tells us that he was given the responsibility of drafting a private placement memorandum from scratch, noting how “you get challenged with things at AG, and you get more responsibility the further into your training contract you are. It was nice being given the first go of something so important.” The rest of the day was spent on business development, researching for a report on trends in the funds market, and choosing seat options for his next rotation.
“Teams are busy across the firm during this time of year, so I’m working on quite a few different matters.”
Ema, meanwhile, was in the office bright and early on Monday for a fortnightly 9am IPE team meeting. “Each member from a different subsector of the team reports on what they’re working on and delivers subsector news,” she explains. “It’s nice to hear what different people are up to, because you might not get the chance to while working on your own matters.” With Christmas on the way, upcoming social events were on the IPE meeting agenda, yet Ema acknowledges, “teams are busy across the firm during this time of year, so I’m working on quite a few different matters.” Namely, she tells us that much of her work has recently involved energy and social infrastructure (e.g., healthcare and education) projects. So, the rest of the morning was spent working on a due diligence report before drafting a deed of variation, “and then I had a tea break with a fellow trainee – all before lunch!” Her afternoon was taken up by meetings, emails and working on putting together a signing matrix.
Now getting into the swing of things, both of our interviewees spent Tuesday in the office. “My whole team was in, which isn’t always typical,” says Dane. “The partner who assigned me yesterday’s joint venture review was sat right behind me, so we grabbed half an hour to go through what I’d found.” Dane was happy to receive some advice and feedback, telling us, “the documents we’re looking at are pretty novel so the partner has shown me the way. He got me to draft an email outlining what we’d found for the client so we could send that out in the afternoon.” A doc review for the real estate team was his final task for the morning, looking over a series of property managing agreements with a legal director to create a due diligence questionnaire. A deal closed in the afternoon, so Dane worked on post-completion filings, document dating and circulating final emails. He also worked on post-completion actions for a deal that closed earlier in the month, “flagging things that the client should be mindful about from now on, and wrote out an action plan.”
Tuesday also marked the birthday of a member of Dane’s team, so they celebrated with lunch out around Liverpool Street. “They’re keen to create a cohesive working culture, and I really like the people I work with!” he exclaims. “That makes coming into work more pleasant, especially when we do organise celebrations amongst ourselves.” An evening careers event at SOAS with the early careers team rounded off the day, where he met plenty of uni students to discuss the realities of a career in commercial law.
“It’s great being able to work with individuals as well as corporations.”
Ema crossed yesterday’s signing matrix off her to-do list first thing in the morning, which was swiftly reviewed and distributed to the relevant parties. Afterwards, she attended an insight talk on future seat options, which was an opportunity to ask questions before making any final decisions. One of her matters also closed in the morning, but Ema got stuck right back into research in the afternoon: “I looked into the review that’s being conducted into the way the UK designs and delivers the offshore transmission network, then put together a few slides for the managing associate who will be presenting the topic.” Finally, she attended the firm’s pro bono clinic, which trainees go to once a month. “It’s like Citizen’s Advice,” she explains. “People come in with various issues and we take turns assisting them. It’s all billable and encouraged by the firm, and it’s great being able to do work with individuals as well as corporations.” Lots of the clients trainees meet through this scheme often don’t have a good grasp of technology or have perhaps just moved to the country, so our interviewees had plenty of experience helping them navigate TV licence warning letters that often come through the post!
For Dane, Wednesday was packed with meetings, both with senior lawyers for feedback and with clients to report on progress. He explains how “trainees get a lot of opportunities to take control and be the main person on client calls. That responsibility sets us apart from other firms, where I’ve heard some people aren’t trusted until they’re qualified!” Ahead of submitting seat choices, Dane had a few coffee chats with other trainees who were toying with the idea of doing a rotation with the real estate investment and private funds team (“it’s an enigma!” he quips). However, he assures that these sorts of catch-ups aren’t unique to seat option season, recalling an instance when he reached out to a senior AG lawyer “not expecting to hear anything back, but he replied 10 minutes later inviting me out for a coffee the following week.” Dane’s afternoon tasks were decided when a 1pm email from the corporate team came in asking for some legal research to be completed by 4pm: “they were facing pressure from the client to turn it around, so those three hours were very hectic, but I still had time to finish other bits and pieces, such as a due diligence report.”
“Being one of the lawyers who knows how to use AI when it’s in its infancy is going to really help us in our careers.”
After uploading her seat choices, Ema attended a training session on improving research skills: “you’d think that I’ve surely got the hang of it by now, but it was very useful! They taught us a few new tricks.” Current trainees have also received training on legal tech, particularly regarding the firm’s own version of ChatGPT, AGPT: “they did specific sessions on how to prompt when it launched. Being one of the lawyers who knows how to use AI when it’s in its infancy is going to really help us in our careers.” Ema finished up the morning reviewing board minutes, flagging inconsistencies and sending it over to an associate to review. Over lunch, she attended a webinar hosted by UNICEF’s in-house legal director on the organisation’s relationship with AG, and the various initiatives held by the firm to support it. Her afternoon was filled with catch-up calls with senior lawyers as well as a formal mid-seat appraisal which, fortunately, “went well!”
A new instruction in the real estate investments team meant Dane’s morning started with reviewing documents before doing a first draft of some board minutes – a classic trainee task! “It’s a limited partnership, which was completely new to me when I started this seat,” he explains. “There’s a special way you have to write, sign and authorise them, which adds an interesting twist to more ordinary tasks.” Yet another deal closed in the morning so, after finalising signatures, Dane put the closing pack together. The rest of the day was occupied by an upcoming M&A deal, where a massive real estate portfolio is being acquired, so teams across the firm would be involved in the due diligence. “My job was to get the index of the data room turned over, which involved going through hundreds of contracts and allocating them to different teams,” says Dane. “On one hand, it helps you take a look at all the documents your team will be dealing with. However, it also builds your network as you have to reach out to other teams and ask them to take a look.” Though due diligence is just one way to interact with people across the firm, Dane especially valued the training contract as “you can bring fresh people to the team. While the rest of the team is full of people who’ve been there for at least three of four years, you bring the perspective of the other teams you’ve spent six months with.”
The first task of the day for Ema was organising the postage of signed documents for a completion, before joining a team training session. “It was about term and termination clauses and the different provisions in a contract, how they operate and the many different ways they can be drafted,” she tells us. “Even associates and managing associates attended, so it’s nice to see that everyone makes an effort to keep up their knowledge up-to-date.” After lunch, Ema prepared documents for DocuSign so they could be virtually signed by the relevant parties. A monthly IPE knowhow session followed, “which is organised by the team’s knowledge lawyer who goes through sector news and government guidance that has been issued. We’re a team that’s heavily influenced by public policy, and whatever’s being put forward by the government affects the work that we get.” Finally, she attended an induction session to be a mentor on the firm’s Legal Explorer Programme, which pairs trainees with A-level students to discuss CV and university application advice during monthly meet-ups.
“We’ve got an event coming up on how to spot domestic violence, which will be held by The Vine, our women’s network.”
Despite most spending Friday at home, Dane was in the office for another networking event, where students visited to get to know AG. He recalls how “there were a lot of business, finance and economics students who had taken law modules and were starting to think this may be a career path for them.” After a networking lunch, Dane got to work collecting signatures for another fund closing before joining a team seminar. “It was about the different ways to structure a joint venture and the pros of cons of each,” he says. “It felt very collaborative as we could ask questions and discuss.” Other tasks filled up the afternoon, including a team call about an M&A transaction, post-completion company filings from a previous closing and putting together a transaction bible with the paralegal team. Finally, he attended a DEI meeting to discuss upcoming events and brainstorm ideas for the future. “We’ve got an event coming up on how to spot domestic violence, which will be held by The Vine, our women’s network,” he evidences. “We’ve got lots of stuff going on and outside speakers often come in to talk on them.”
Ema started off her work-from-home Friday with some end-of-week admin. First, she filled in her training log with information about key work she had completed that week: “it’s part of your qualification pack, so it’s good to keep on top of it. I try to add to my log weekly and include the most interesting work I’ve done, what I learned, and what skills I demonstrated.” Afterwards, she caught up on time recording and updated her capacity on the shared IPE platform, so that her colleagues could see whether she’d be available to join matters in the following week. Then, she reviewed a power purchase agreement, looking for any cross-referencing or definition issues and checking that it made sense. An advice note for a managing associate was the final task of the day, containing information that would be used in a later due diligence exercise.
New year, new you: Addleshaw Goddard’s London office will be moving to 41 Lothbury in 2024, right in the centre of the financial district. AG employees have already had the chance to vote on desks, monitors, chairs and even meeting room layouts for the new space.