Meet the Trainee - Ella Nyakuedzwa-Smith

  • 3 mins read

What were you doing before you joined the firm?

Before joining Ashfords I worked as a paralegal at a Bristol based firm working within the Dispute Resolution Team. I was then fortunate enough to travel across America for several months before landing back in the UK just 7 days before starting my training contract!

Why Ashfords?

Being from Bristol I was set on obtaining a training contract in a South West or Bristol based firm. Despite wanting to train in the regions I wanted to experience a high quality of work, making Ashfords the perfect fit! At my assessment day I was impressed by how commercially focused the firm was whilst maintaining an approachable and friendly environment.

What areas of law have you worked in so far?

My first seat was in the Property Litigation department. Within this seat I dealt with a range of property disputes from social housing work through to large commercial property disputes. My second seat was in the Intellectual Property/Commercial department. This seat involved a variety of trade mark work, helping the team to manage trade mark portfolios for several of our clients. I also drafted and negotiated agency agreements and a variety of terms and conditions. My third seat was within the Construction department. Here I focused on contentious construction matters working alongside the team on high value construction disputes. My fourth (and final) seat is within the Commercial Litigation department. So far I have worked on a variety of contentious matters including agency disputes and strike out applications.

Most interesting case you have worked on?

I have worked on a variety of interesting cases, but one that stands out was a construction dispute concerning the design of a 500 bedroom 5* hotel. Due to the large value of the dispute it was unlike anything I've ever worked on - the amount of documents to review, disclose and analyse, coupled with the complex nature of the case, makes it one I will never forget. The dispute is still ongoing following an unsuccessful mediation. Whilst I am no longer in the Construction Team I make an active effort to keep up to date with its developments as I became heavily invested in the matter for several months throughout the disclosure and witness statement stages.               

What has been your biggest challenge at Ashfords?

Seat rotations can be quite a stressful time. Whilst it's exciting to be joining a new team every six months it can be daunting to be moved into an area of law you know nothing about. Learning the dynamics of the team takes time in itself, from individual work styles and personalities all the way through to learning how to master the department tea round! Whilst the process can feel unsettling, you quickly find your feet and recognise that the rotation process enables you to be exposed to a variety of working styles. By the end of your training contract you can pick and choose from the different styles so as to develop an individual way of working that suits you.

What is your favourite thing about working at Ashfords?

Without doubt, the people. Having moved to Exeter specifically to work for Ashfords I didn’t know the area nor have any connections in the city. Everyone at Ashfords was so welcoming and supportive, particularly my trainee intake.

What is your aspiration?

Immediately, to qualify as a solicitor and make the move (hopefully seamlessly) from trainee to NQ. Longer-term, I hope to climb the rungs and eventually become a partner. I am particularly interested in the prospect of building my own client base and bringing work into the firm. 

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