The first seat of my training contract based in Exeter has provided a useful insight into working in Ashfords' largest office. With over 300 people it's a little daunting at first to try and recognise colleagues on the same floor as you let alone everyone's name, but it doesn't take long to settle in and feel like an integral part of the team.
With the office being based on the outskirts of the city near the M5, the initial thought was of being isolated from other city centre firms and difficulty in socialising after work. Fortunately this was not the case at all and it is easier to not be stuck in city centre traffic each morning, with only a 15 minute drive into town for after-work drinks or a group meal (both of which tend to happen quite often!). Being right by the M5 has also proved very useful when driving to early morning meetings near Bristol or heading to see family and friends for the weekend.
Although dependent on which seat you are in and the number of looming deadlines, life as an Exeter Trainee generally gives a good work/life balance. I have been involved in some very interesting and complex matters, drafting documents and acting as a key contact for a range of clients such as national developers or local authorities. Although greater responsibility with a matter sometimes results in a late night or being the first one in each morning, it tends to balance out. There is a real sense of achievement to have been so involved and then notified that the matter has completed as a result of your role in the team.
I have also had the opportunity to attend a variety of meetings with local councils and individual clients. At first I attended to gain experience in how these meetings are conducted, and how to approach opposing parties with a contentious issue in an agreement or as part of a development. However, as time has progressed I have been able to provide feedback on certain elements of an agreement or provide input on how to resolve a conflict between parties. This has really helped to boost my confidence.
Having previously worked in central London as a Paralegal, life as an Exeter Trainee certainly provides a different working environment. I have welcomed the change and although would happily return to do a seat in London, Exeter certainly has its benefits. The exposure to such high quality work not only tailored to the South West but with a number of instructions from clients in London and the South East has allowed me to obtain the best experience possible for when I reach qualification.
Describing life as an Exeter Trainee would certainly not be complete without mentioning the added bonuses of the Exeter office. With our own car park, a gym, yoga sessions and a café that sells potentially the best brownies in the South West, working here comes highly recommended.