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Meet the Trainee - James Crotty

What were you doing before you joined the firm?

Prior to joining Ashfords I worked at another large Bristol law firm as a paralegal. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and spent 2 years within the Corporate team. Being a paralegal gave me valuable experience and it was there that I realised that Corporate was where I wanted to qualify.

I wanted a break before starting my training contract and therefore went backpacking in Africa for two months prior to starting as a trainee. I would thoroughly recommend everyone takes a break and does some travelling before they start! Not only is it a welcome break after all the studying, it allows you to experience new cultures and learn different ways to approach problems, an invaluable skill for any lawyer!

Why Ashfords?

I have lived in Bristol for roughly 8 years now. Having studied as an undergraduate and completing my LPC here I quickly fell in love with the city and saw its growing importance in the legal market. Whilst the majority of my university friends moved to London it did not hold any attraction to me and I quickly settled in Bristol and shortly after the LPC bought my first property here.

Having made a decision as to which city I wanted to work in, I next had to start thinking about what firm. Between paralegal positons and training contract applications I had interviewed at several Bristol law firms and I always knew almost immediately if it was the kind of firm I wanted to work at. I knew Ashfords well and through networking events had come to know some of the then trainees. They all spoke very highly about the firm and I could see that they genuinely enjoyed working here. That coupled with the reputation of the Bristol Corporate team made it an easy decision to focus my applications on Ashfords.

What areas of law have you worked in so far?

My first job out of university was in mortgage enforcement as a case handler with another large Bristol firm. Suffice to say the job of taking away people's homes when they could not afford their mortgage was not for me and I quit after just 6 months!

It was back to the drawing board and shortly after I interviewed for a Corporate and Commercial paralegal position with another large Bristol firm. Having no clue what Corporate law was I took the job with the plan to mainly focus on Commercial. Fast forward two years and 99% of my work was Corporate based and had barely touched any Commercial work during my time as a paralegal! I soon realised that I was enjoying the Corporate work and focused all of my attention on gaining as much experience and knowledge as possible.

On joining Ashfords I wanted to experience a contentious area of law and really challenge myself, therefore my first seat was in the Employment Team working with Stephen Moore. The cases were fascinating and each one was completely different to the last. I enjoyed my Employment seat but on balance I still believed that Corporate was where I wanted to be.

For my second seat I joined the Corporate team. Shortly after I was offered an NQ position to start in March 2018 which I was delighted to accept. Not only could I use the Time To Count process, I would be qualifying into my desired area of law. For my final seat I am currently in the Commercial team working with Andy Braithwaite. I chose Commercial as my final seat as it complements the work I will be doing as a Corporate NQ come March.

Most interesting case you have worked on?

I had not kept it a secret since joining the firm that Corporate was where I wanted to qualify. Therefore when it came time to move into the Corporate Team for my second seat the pressure was on and I knew that I had to impress my new team.

The day before I was due to join the team the Head of Corporate asked if could come in early to help him with a large M&A matter that was due to complete the following week. Naturally I was eager to get involved and saw it as a fantastic opportunity to integrate into the team. We believed completion was roughly a week away as there was still a lot to do. Half way through the day and the other side dropped the bombshell that we had to complete that very day!

We rolled our sleeves up and worked through the night, eventually closing the deal at 6am the following morning! In hindsight I do not think many trainees have had such an eventful first day in their new team or have eaten pizza with their new boss in the office kitchen at 3am!

What has been your biggest challenge at Ashfords?

Moving seats every six months. It sounds cliché but it is so true. You are given six months with that team and more often than not, you have zero experience of that area of law prior to joining. That was certainly the case when I joined the Employment team and what followed was a very steep learning curve! Then just as you begin to feel comfortable with the work you are doing it is time to move seats. That being said, there is never an expectation at Ashfords for you to walk into a new seat and know everything about that area of law. Every new team I have worked in have been very supportive and have taken the time to give training and guidance.

The seat moves give you a valuable opportunity to try different areas of law and pick one to qualify into. You have to remember you are choosing the area of law that you will likely work in for the remainder of your career so you have to enjoy it!

What is your favourite thing about working at Ashfords?

My personal experience is that the working atmosphere in any law firm is dictated by the personality of the partners. Here in Bristol we are known as one of the more social Ashfords offices and again that stems from the partners. After work social drinks are common and we usually take any new joiners out for a team lunch. There is certainly an expectation to work hard and that can mean late nights or the occasional weekend but those efforts are always recognised and rewarded.

What is your aspiration?

In March next year I will be qualifying as a Corporate lawyer here in the Bristol office. My aspiration going forward will then be to gain as much knowledge and experience as possible working towards eventually being promoted to an associate.

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