Amanda Sime talks about her experience of starting her training contract during the pandemic

Amanda Sime talks about her experience of starting her training contract during the pandemic

I started my Training Contract on 1st September 2020; smack bang in the middle of the current COVID-19 pandemic. When I’d imagined my Training Contract over the years, I had always imagined it as a very ‘face-to-face’, shadowing based experience. This is not something that is available in the current climate!

I am lucky to work in a ‘small’ firm; we all know each other well and all of the team members have each other’s phone numbers, which we constantly ring. This sounds basic, but it has made all the difference to being able to work effectively from home. Being able to pick up the phone to ask a question, just as I would shout a question across the office floor, has been very beneficial to all of us. Each morning at 9am, we have a group WhatsApp call to discuss our days ahead; this ranges from talking about the serious work tasks we need to urgently complete to what we’re having for tea that night. This is exactly what we used to do each morning in the office over a cup of coffee, and it really helps to still be able to bounce ideas off each other and ask any questions needed. This also prevents us from feeling isolated.

On the flip side of this, working from home has made me a more confident Trainee. In the office, I would often ask questions I was 99.9% sure I knew the answers to, just for some reassurance. Now that I work physically alone, and although I could ask any member of the team on the phone, I am forced to trust my own instincts and believe in my experience and what I have learnt over the past few years. I do feel that working from home has made me a better, more confident and more efficient Trainee.

We, as a nation, have had to adapt to new and more technological ways of working. If you had told me last year that serious, multi day trials would take place via Microsoft Teams, I would have first asked you what an earth Microsoft Teams was, and then I would have laughed. “Important hearings can’t take place outside of a courtroom!” I would have said; and I would have been wrong. I believe it is the same concept for training contracts; if I had been offered a Training Contract last year and been told I had to do it all from home, I would have panicked. Now, with experience of working well from home throughout the pandemic, I am taking it in my stride pretty well. As solicitors, we have to be able to adapt quickly to keep up, as has been proven by the events of 2020 so far.

I have nothing to compare my Training Contract to, as I have only ever done it from home, but I see no reason why partially home-based Training Contracts cannot carry on into the future, when a mix of office and home working will no doubt continue. If you work in firm with an ‘open door’ policy, this will simply convert to an ‘open phone’ policy. With all of the technology we have available now, it is very possible your Training Contract can be just as beneficial online as it would be in an office-based environment. My Training Contract diary is still filled in and sent to my supervisor weekly; it is just emailed rather than printed out.

It is very easy when working from home to let your job consume you; to log on the minute your eyes open, and to be working late at night while half watching the latest Netflix series. I think this is especially true for trainees who want to make a name for themselves and prove just how great they are.

Luckily, my employers are keen to make sure we take time off and do not work too many hours. I remember at the beginning of lockdown, when we had lots of staff on Furlough and we were busier than ever, I asked if I could work the Easter bank holidays and was horrified to be told no, that I would burn myself out; but my bosses were right. Even today, the first day of a really busy week for our department, my line manager rang me to tell me I needed to book some days off and make time for myself. If Training Contracts are to continue taking place at home, it is really important for Trainees not to feel like that have to work every hour to prove that they have what it takes.

I am lucky that my first seat is in Family, the department in which I have worked for the last 2 years. If everything is still the same when I move to my Employment seat, an area in which I have never practised, I can imagine I will be more apprehensive. However, this pandemic has cost us enough this year; we cannot let it affect our careers too.

NOTE: This article was first published in Liverpool Law, the online magazine published by Liverpool Law Society, November edition: https://www.liverpoollawsociety.org.uk/services/liverpool-law-magazine/

Amanda Sime talks about her training contract

Canter Levin & Berg trainee solicitor reflects on her career route

by Amanda Sime, trainee solicitor at Canter Levin & Berg

Growing up, I always wanted to teach English. When I went to Carmel college in 2011, one of my friends in the year above was studying law and kept telling me how amazing the classes were and how inspirational the teacher was. I took this as an A-Level and it completely changed my life and my career goals! I was intrigued by every topic and couldn’t wait for each lesson. I started my qualifying Law degree at the University of Liverpool in 2013.

Because my sister and I were the first in our family to go to University, I got some financial support from the University (and the bank of mum and dad!) but I still had to work part time around my degree. I spent lots of nights working in the Krazyhouse night club from 7pm – 7am, and then (sometimes) getting up for lectures. I made sure to do as much work experience as possible and I did lots at Gregory Abrams Davidson Solicitors. I also participated in a few shadowing schemes organised by the University.

I graduated in July 2016 and started a job in the GAD Personal Injury department in September 2016. At this point, I had no idea what type of law I wanted to study. I had really enjoyed the medical law module but hadn’t yet found what I was really passionate about; I just knew I didn’t want to do anything related to contract or land law! I worked at GAD for a year, working in Nando’s at weekends and night-times and after 12 months I left to go travelling.

I travelled in Asia & South America for a year and had the absolute best time of my life! Looking back, I am so glad I took this time out of studying to explore the world and gain lots of new experiences. I had hated my time in Personal Injury so much that it had put me off working in law in general and I was back to my original life plan; I was going to waitress full time and do a PGCE in the nighttime. A few days after I got home from travelling (without a penny to my name) I heard of a job going in the family department at Canter Levin & Berg Solicitors.

I went to the interview and was very honest with my manager, Martin. I told him I had no idea if I even wanted to do law anymore! Martin talked me through some of his own life experiences and encouraged me to take the job and figure out what I really wanted to do, and said the firm would support me either way. At this point, I still thought I’d work there for a few months and then go back to University. After two weeks I knew that I’d be staying in family law for the rest of my career and not looking back.

I adore my work, and I love that I get to genuinely connect with people who need my help. I love working closely with lots of different kinds of people and being able to make a positive difference in their lives. I eventually went back to University to start my Legal Practice Course (LPC) in September 2019 with the University of Law (based on the University of Liverpool campus). I do this part time, two nights a week while working full time. I started my training contract with CLB on 1st September 2020 and I will qualify in March 2022.. I plan on staying in family law for the long run. I have finally found what I am passionate about! I could talk about family law forever and I really bore all my family and friends by going on and on about it all the time.

If you have any doubts about your pathway or are undecided about your future steps, please do not hesitate to contact me and we can talk this through!

Comment: This article was first published in the October 2020 update of the Law Society Merseyside Junior Lawyers’ Division bulletin (www.mersysidejld.com). We are delighted that Amanda is already a key part of our family law team and also very pleased to see that Louisa Gardner, formerly a clerk with Canter Levin & Berg, has recently started a training contract with Bermans.