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With 40% of our lawyers (including partners) starting their careers at Debenhams Ottaway as trainees, our training programme provides a great opportunity for anyone who has ambition to succeed in the legal world.

If you are a graduate or paralegal applying for a training contract, or you are just thinking about starting a career in law, our day in the life series gives you an insight of what you might expect as a trainee solicitor.

We spoke to Emma Richardson who joined Debenhams Ottaway in 2020 after working as a paralegal at LexisNexis UK. Below is a snapshot of her typical day as a trainee solicitor in the commercial property team.


8.30am I arrive at the St Albans office by 8.30am. Naturally, it depends on how busy the morning is on any given day! It’s time to grab a cup of coffee and prepare for the day ahead. I start by checking my emails to see what came in overnight before writing my task list, prioritising as I go. This is my second ‘seat’ at Debenhams Ottaway and I learnt so much in my first.  I know that keeping the lawyers up to date and managing my own time is so important.

9.00am Looking at my diary, I  have a client meeting in an hour’s time.  This will be an interesting case to get involved in as I’ll be assisting with the drafting of a new lease on new terms. In the meantime, I get on with tackling as many administrative tasks as possible.

9.40am I receive a call from the reception about a new enquiry (a potential client) who would like to speak with a member of the commercial property team. It is my time to put into practice everything I’ve learnt, finding out as much information as possible so I can explain what they are seeking to the team. I let the prospective client know what the next steps will be and head off to talk to one of the senior lawyers about the enquiry.

10.00am I shadow a client meeting with one of the lawyers in the team. I take comprehensive notes of what was discussed, paying particular attention to the agreed next steps. It’s an interesting meeting because instead of preparing a new lease, the client would like to sell their freehold and would prefer that it remain confidential with the tenants. It was a good training opportunity because I observed how the lawyer managed the situation and tailored their advice. Before we return to our desks, my colleague and I spend a short while discussing the law which helps me to go back and read around the area a bit more.

11.15am One of the partners in the team asks me to help him with reviewing a lease. I summarise the amendments made by the other side and add my comments on whether to accept or negotiate the proposed amendments. Under the terms of the lease, we are required to draft a licence for alterations. I review a suite of documents including the planning applications, title documents and correspondence between the parties to capture what has been agreed within the licence. I look back over it and realise I have learnt a lot in the last couple of months and just hope the partner thinks that too!

12.30pm At our weekly team meeting, we hear from the partners who give a business update and provide a reminder of the business’ priorities. There is time dedicated to sharing best practice which is very helpful for my training. The lawyers discuss their live matters and share best practice and/or query how to tackle a particular issue. Debenhams Ottaway is all about its people and ensuring everyone feels supported. To wrap up the meeting, I provide a legal update to the team. This is a great opportunity to practice my advocacy and presentation skills and raise my profile within the firm. I draw upon different sources including news bulletins which I have subscribed to, research tasks which I have found interesting and courses which I have completed.

1.00pm The weather is beautiful today and the St Albans market is on, so a colleague and I decide to wander into town to peruse the street food and local business stalls.

2.00pm I receive an unexpected call from one of the senior lawyers in the team who asks me to assist her with the completion of a matter. Recognising that I have not worked on it before, she explains that we act for a tenant who wants to sublet their lease. This is interesting because there are several parties to the transaction with numerous documents to finalise. I am given responsibility to host the completion call and assist with all the post completion tasks.

2.45pm Looking at my task list, I see that I have been asked to draft a lease and rent deposit deed. Before I start, I discuss the matter with the team. This is an opportunity for me to ask any preliminary questions that I may have and confirm the deadline.

5.35pm I write up the attendance note of the meeting which I attended earlier in the day. I prefer to do this on the day of the meeting whilst the discussion is fresh in my mind.

6.00pm Debenhams Ottaway encourages a good work/life balance, so I am off out for dinner with the other trainees. Before I log off, I update my task list and ensure that my time recording for the day is complete.

Interested in applying? Here is more information on how to apply for a trainee contract at Debenhams Ottaway or if you have any other questions please email Alexandra Langley.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.