Ceris Fuller: Trainee (London Office)
Team: Commercial Litigation (first seat)
University: LLM at Bournemouth University, LPC with MSc in Law and Business at University of Law (Distinction)
I arrive in the office and greet my colleagues. All of Ashfords’ offices are open-plan; I sit on a bank of desks with my supervising Partner, a Senior Associate, Solicitor and Trainee Legal Executive. I am surrounded by specialists in the field and so I am never deprived of the opportunity to ask questions and gain a wider understanding of the practice.
I log on to my computer and open up my e-mails. I take a moment to review any firm emails that have come in regarding our Corporate Social Responsibility (“CSR”) and latest developments in the industry generally and/or specifically within Ashfords. For example, today I received an email regarding the new SRA Standards and Regulations which are coming into force on 25 November 2019.
I update my to-do list based on any new instructions I have received overnight and prioritise these accordingly. I also check my calendar for any reminders, deadlines and scheduled meetings. I have quickly come to realise that a calendar is a hugely important (and helpful) tool in a contentious department!
Today, I am attending a mediation with colleagues in the Commercial Litigation team (a Solicitor and my supervising Partner), together with our Counsel. The matter concerns a claim under section 423 of the Insolvency Act 1986. I take some time to review the papers which I have printed and prepared in advance of the mediation and pack these ready to leave the office. The papers include a property valuation report which I had sourced some weeks earlier.
We head over to the mediation venue - a local chambers - where we meet our Counsel. I am in attendance throughout the day to take a note of key discussions and to be on-hand to distribute the necessary papers as their relevance falls due. My attention to detail and organisational skills are pivotal in assisting my team to progress seamlessly with the mediation.
This was my first experience of a mediation. I found it interesting to see how the technical legal points and merits of the claim are almost put to one side whilst the commerciality of an agreement becomes prevalent. For me, this was one of the most apparent examples of how important commercial awareness is in the legal industry.
I tend to leave the office to get some fresh air and time away from my desk. I like to get in some steps and take a walk in the local area – Lincoln’s Inn Fields are a short walk away – as are various shops and eateries. I then join my colleagues in the office kitchen, and we talk over lunch.
On this particular day (of the mediation), I have a catered lunch at the venue. I take a break with my colleagues to enjoy the food and replenish ready for the afternoon session.
The mediation continues after lunch with a new lease of life. New instructions are sought from our client based on proposals put to us by our opponents. Further discussions with Counsel explore alternative pragmatic settlement structures. The mediator seeks to ground both parties in these negotiations and this continues throughout the course of the afternoon, with various toing and froing between the parties. The disparity between the parties tightens and the parameters of an agreeable settlement become clearer.
Having learned the importance of Alternative Dispute Resolution whilst studying the LPC and in particular, how the court encourages parties to reach a settlement outside of court (as per the Pre-Action Protocol), it was helpful to witness how this plays out in reality.
On later reaching a settlement, I leave the mediation venue and return to the office with my colleagues. We de-brief and discuss the next steps we each need to take. Whilst they are still fresh in my mind, I update my to do list with subsequent actions to be picked up the following day. Finally, I review my attendance note of the day to ensure all key elements of the negotiations and settlement are captured in a clear and accurate form.