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Meet the Trainee - Stuart Willis

What were you doing before you joined the firm?

I finished university and completed my law degree at the age of 22. Truth be told I didn't have any immediate ambition to dive straight into a legal career - I knew that once I had my foot firmly on the career ladder it would be difficult to get off again! I took advantage of my lack of commitments and turned my priorities to making money! I held various jobs over the course of two years from call centres to supermarket checkout work. Once I had saved enough money I went travelling. I spent several months touring Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia and Fiji. I am a firm believer that no time is wasted - during my training contract interview I provided examples of my experiences of teaching English to Children in Lombok right through to dealing with irate customers in a call centre environment. It must have worked as I secured a training contract!

Why Ashfords? 

Don't get me wrong, there are lots of firms where I lived and any young person seeking a career in law will tell you that the last thing you can afford to be is picky! However, from the moment I arrived at Ashfords the glove seemed to fit. Anyone who works at Ashfords will tell you that the best thing about working at Ashfords is the people - it's cliché but it's true! Ashfords offered a relaxed but professional atmosphere both within and outside the office and a work life balance that offered the ability to work flexibly.

What areas of law have you worked in so far?

 I worked in the firm's property litigation team as a paralegal for 3 years prior to commencing my training contract. This was a great introduction to the variety and interesting types of work the firm's litigation departments deal with. My first seat was in the firm's construction department. This area of law complimented by my previous litigation experience although it consisted of both contentious and non-contentious work - I thoroughly enjoyed the contentious work in particular, some very interesting and high value cases! My second seat was in the firm's corporate team. This was a leap into the unknown as I had never really had experience in corporate law but needed to know whether to rule it out as an option. Although I felt after the six month seat that corporate law was not for me, it allowed me to really get out of my comfort zone and I will always appreciate that I made the decision to give it a go. My third seat was spent in the Planning Team. Planning has always been an area that has interested me and I knew that if I enjoyed it, it would be a serious contender as an area I may qualify into. As luck would have it, it was an area I enjoyed and I am now nearing the end of my double seat in planning and I am qualifying into the team in September!

Most interesting case you have worked on?

During my time as a paralegal I dealt with a case where squatters had pitched a tent outside the office and were refusing to move. Yes - right outside a law firm's head office; not the smartest move on their part! I did everything from preparing and serving possession proceedings, to attending the hearing to obtain the possession order. Fortunately they had moved on by the time I was able to serve the order on them but I'll never forget approaching the tent for the first time only to be met with a hand poking out the zip displaying a rude gesture! I am sure this is something that I will look back on humorously in the many years to come!

What has been your biggest challenge at Ashfords?

One of the biggest hurdles to overcome as a trainee is learning to adapt to the way individual partners prefer to work. Looking at it in a positive way, it is a testament to the eclectic and varied personalities within Ashfords - they all work so differently. Adaptation is key!

What is your favourite thing about working at Ashfords?

Location! Ashfords' office locations offer something for everyone. Exeter, Taunton, Plymouth and Tiverton are all country towns and cities in the south west. You're never more than 30 minutes' drive from a rural country pub, rolling fields or an hour from a beach. Of course, if you're looking for a 'bigger city vibe' Bristol (named best place to live in Britain in 2017!) and London have everything else to offer.

What is your aspiration?

I want to become a 'thought leader' in my field and I want to be recognised as an individual whose expertise are sought and admired. In 20 years' time I would like to look back on my career and feel satisfied that I did it to be best of my ability.

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