Ashfords is made up of six offices covering London and the south west. For the first seat of my training contract I was based in the Plymouth office, the final link in the Ashfords chain. Being from a seaside town some 25 miles away, I was familiar with this historic city and looked forward to my first day in the Plymouth arm of Ashfords' Commercial Litigation Department.
Headed up by James Heath, the office itself consists of around 14 people working across several departments, including Commercial Litigation, Commercial Property and Company Commercial. As a smaller open-plan office, there is less of a feeling of being divided into departments. Having worked mainly from the Exeter office in the past, it was nice to experience this contrast and see how this changed the dynamic of the working environment. As you would expect from Ashfords, the team are very friendly (with a penchant for cakes and biscuits) and they made me feel instantly welcome.
Situated mid-way between the centre of the town and the Hoe, the Plymouth office offers a location which sets it apart from the others. One of my favourite activities as a Plymouth Trainee was to go up to the Hoe at lunch times and walk along the promenade whilst looking out to sea, taking in the views of the Plymouth Sound and Drake's Island. Plymouth is rich in naval history and if you have an affinity for the coast, as I do, it is a real treat to be able to break up the working day in this way - an experience that certainly is unique to the Plymouth office.
I was drawn to Ashfords' Plymouth offering due to the work of Charles Hattersley, who heads up the Marine Team. Assisted by Ieuan Jones, Charles has a broad practice encompassing all manner of marine and transport matters, including defending clients being prosecuted by the Maritime Coastguard Agency or the Marine Management Organisation - work which I found particularly interesting. I was also fortunate enough to sit behind a QC in the Court of Appeal where Ashfords was acting for the appellant.
All in all my experience of the Plymouth office in terms of both work and general office atmosphere was very positive. I would certainly recommend taking opportunities that involve getting to know all the offices. It really helps to be able to put a face to a name you may recognise from an email, and helps to bolster the fact that Ashfords is one firm as opposed to six distinct offices.