Oliver Barber recently completed a week of work experience with Farleys. Here he tells us all about what he got up to…
As a Politics Undergraduate heading into my final year at the University of Durham in September I have a number of daunting career decisions heading my way. From choosing the size of the firm I want to work in, to the area of law I aspire to specialise in- everything can quite quickly become rather stressful.
The only remedy for this conundrum therefore appeared to be experience; getting inside the office of a number of firms and getting a real taste for their corporate culture and approach to business would hopefully provide the insight necessary to take on such decisions with a bit more confidence.
The only issue with this was… (as you probably guessed) yes, Covid-19. With most lawyers working from home in light of government guidance, the reams of enquiries I made to firms were invariably unsuccessful- let’s just say I soon grew tired of reading emails which led with the dreaded and quite menacing ‘unfortunately’. That was until, with a little help from Oxford-Astrazeneca and co, solicitors slowly made the move back to the office and Farleys’ Partner Stephen Greenwood was generous enough to offer me the chance to get some first-hand experience of Winckley Square’s most prestigious and successful legal practice. This is therefore a ‘week in the life’ of an aspiring lawyer undertaking work experience at Farleys Solicitors.
With my freshly ironed suit soaked through by an untimely downpouring of rain, my week began as I nervously knocked on the impressive doors of Farleys’ Preston office. However, contrary to the popular literary depictions of the austere quintessential English lawyer, I was greeted warmly at the entrance by the jovial Stephen Greenwood and by my new colleagues for the week- insolvency Associate Partner Mark Hague and Paralegal Olivia Cooper.
It was clear from the outset that, while the team here conformed to the stereotypical expectation for solicitors to work extremely hard, they would not be bound by the stern and sometimes cold exterior disposition often adopted by professionals working in city firms. They didn’t waste time in making me feel at home, cracking jokes and explaining the firm’s culture of avoiding unnecessary hierarchy and formalities which seem out of kilter with 21st century values.
It was then time to get down to work. Mark quickly supplied me with a case file to review regarding a commercial dispute based on an alleged breach of contract- a genuinely interesting and novel task given my non-law academic background. This served as a useful introduction to contract law while also providing me with an idea of what kind of work and clients you are likely to deal with as part of a mid-sized firm.
I completed a number of administrative tasks in the afternoon and was given time to research the founding principles of contract law before heading back home to tell my parents all about my first day and the wonderful people I met at Farleys.
The following day saw me get my teeth stuck into some fascinating tasks. I was delegated the job of proof-reading a witness statement, something which helped me hone my capacity for speed-reading and attention to detail- both of which are essential intellectual weapons required as part of any lawyer’s armoury. I subsequently observed Mark undertake a number of calls where I took careful note of his ability to articulate legal advice clearly while simultaneously building a rapport with clients.
Wednesday was equally exciting- with Stephen giving me the opportunity to shadow him in two in-person meetings with clients. Much like Mark, Stephen provided a good example of someone who had clearly developed strong relationships with clients, taking time to ask personal questions while, of course, tackling the legal technicalities with his characteristic clarity of thought and expression. This gave me a real insight into how to structure client meetings and provide professional business advice.
Having spent the majority of my time at Farleys analysing and reviewing documents, on Thursday I was given the chance to take on something completely new; a researching task focused around the government extension to the moratorium on commercial evictions. Broadening my knowledge on commercial law, the chance to scrutinise the Coronavirus Act and produce a blog post for the company on the issue felt like a big deal- it was certainly more responsibility than I had ever been given at any other work experience I had completed prior to this week. Like with every other task, the staff at Farleys provided helpful guidance and were all too willing to answer any queries I had on the esoteric legal details surrounding this task.
This leads me to today, where I am sat on the final day of the week finishing off this post and looking forward to the weekend following a jam-packed week at an excellent firm. I will leave Farleys forever grateful for this learning opportunity and certainly hope to keep in touch with all the talented people I have met. I would therefore undoubtedly recommend a week here to anyone considering a future in the legal profession or who simply want to catch a glimpse of professional work. I promise you that you won’t regret it!
To enquire about work experience placements at any of our six North West offices, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us a bit about yourself and your aspirations.