Chris Miller joined Barrett and Co as a Trainee Solicitor in July 2016 from the Joint Legal Team at Reading Borough Council, where he worked as a paralegal.
Chris grew up in Reading and graduated in Law from Aberystwyth University in Wales in 2013. He then spent 3 months working in the United States as an intern in the US Congress, in Washington, D.C. On his return, Chris started his Masters of Law and Legal Practice Course at the University of Law in Guildford, which he completed in early 2015. He will be completing his training contract later this year.
What time do you start?
I arrive in the office around 8:30-8:45am most days, unless I’m in Court, in which case around 8:15am.
What do you do day-to-day?
There is no standard day as a trainee!
I’m in the Property and Commercial Department at the moment so my work is extremely varied. I could do anything from reviewing property documents on a conveyancing matter to writing letters to clients on commercial matters.
When I was in my previous seat in Litigation, I was also involved in drafting Court forms and witness statements. I was occasionally in Court assisting counsel and accompanying the client.
Do you see clients?
Yes, although most of my current client contact is over the telephone as I am assisting in conveyancing. In my other departments I had extensive client contact on a very regular basis.
What practice area are you working in?
Currently I’m working on both residential and commercial property, and I also do some general commercial work.
What practice areas have you been working in?
When I joined the firm in July 2016 I started in the Private Client department dealing with Wills, Probate and Court of Protection work (some of these cases are still ongoing!). For most of 2017, I was in Litigation which involved dealing with disputes – although not all of them ended up in Court!
I have also done some family work and was involved in a big final hearing which involved nearly a week of focusing just on that case followed by a full day in Court.
What is the office like?
The office is very open and friendly. The small size of the firm means you work closely with everyone in all Departments, so you can share expertise and insights with colleagues in other departments. This is really useful in cases which cross two or more departments.
How many people do you work with?
My department has 5 lawyers (solicitors or legal executives), 2 trainees and 2 Legal Support Assistants, so 9 people in total.
In my previous seats, I worked with a similar number of people across 2 different departments.
How does work compare to your legal studies at university?
Sometimes at university, you think the answer to everything is written down in a textbook or case report when, in reality, this is only half the answer! The written law is essential and the basis for your advice, but there are so many other factors that influence your decision making just as much, including costs, practical realities and the client’s requirements.
This can be especially important in litigation and other contested fields – you quite often find that the answer you would give in a university exam question may not work in practice, even if the problem is identical! This could also apply between two cases on the same issue. Ultimately, in practice, law is about understanding your client’s specific problems and their ultimate objectives.
What is the best thing about being a trainee?
The diversity of work undertaken. No two cases are the same and you learn something new nearly every day. One particular case in my probate seat, involved a procedure that is so rarely used it still has a Latin name!
What is the worst thing about being a trainee?
I think the worst thing is when you are working on a matter where the client is extremely stressed and in a rush to get an answer. It can be hard to tell a client that the answer they want is not appropriate for the situation.
Would you recommend a career in law?
Yes, it is a lot of hard work and there are times when you can feel like time and your opponent are against you, but the satisfaction of achieving a positive result for the client on a complex case makes law a very rewarding career.