• Two casually dressed young professionals smiling

Stories from our trainees and paralegals

James Casey

James Casey James is a trainee solicitor in our Bristol Commercial & Private Client Litigation team.

I joined Clarke Willmott in September 2018 as a paralegal in the Bristol Employment team. I started following the completion of my Legal Practice Course (LPC) at the University of the West of England (UWE) in Bristol.

I liked that Clarke Willmott only accept trainees from their pool of paralegals at the firm, which encourages progression. At the end of 2020, I was successful in obtaining a training contract with Clarke Willmott. I started as a trainee solicitor in March 2021 and will complete seats with employment, Corporate & Commercial and Commercial Litigation before my qualification in September 2022.

What is your experience of working remotely at Clarke Willmott?

The firm has pivoted to remote working really well. From an IT standpoint, the firm changed its way of working quickly with very few issues. From my experience, the teams I have worked in have handled the change well and managed to find ways to keep in touch to avoid anyone feeling isolated. The changes do seem popular to the extent that it seems that we will be working with greater flexibility in the future.

What’s the culture like at Clarke Willmott?

The culture at Clarke Willmott is really positive. People can get as involved as they wish and there always tends to be a strong presence at social events. There is a commitment to a positive work-life balance whilst also completing high-quality work for big clients.

Describe your typical work day at Clarke Willmott

My typical workday starts between 8:30am and 9:00am. I usually start by checking my task list for the day Following this, the morning will be spent completing fee-earning work and attending any team/client meetings. This can vary from independent work through to working closely with colleagues. After lunch, the afternoon will be spent undertaking further fee-earning work. Towards the end of the day, it will be preparing the task-list the following day. Generally, I log off between 6:00pm and 7:00pm.

What do you enjoy most about working at Clarke Willmott?

One of the aspects of I most enjoy of working at Clarke Willmott is the high-quality work and working with supportive colleagues. My experience is that colleagues at Clarke Willmott are really accessible and helpful, regardless of seniority. There is always the opportunity to receive feedback on work and the performance review structure ensures you are aware of your own development and progression. This has been beneficial in terms building up my skills.

What keeps you at Clarke Willmott?

The opportunity to maintain a positive work-life balance alongside high-quality work. Colleagues are always friendly and the culture is good.

Siddika Chowdhury

Siddika Chowdhury - Trainee Solicitor - Commercial Property - BirminghamSiddika is a trainee solicitor in our London and Bristol Restructuring and Insolvency team.

After completing my LPC in June 2014, I spent a year volunteering at my local Citizens Advice Bureau and working part time at a university library. I joined Clarke Willmott in November 2015 as an administration assistant in the non-contentious Construction team in London. Initially, I was assisting a small team with the administration of their matters as well as assisting them in producing and sending out engrossments. My role quickly progressed into a paralegal when I started getting involved in drafting some of the contracts and regularly liaising with clients on the status of their contracts.

Between March 2017 and April 2018, I was on maternity leave and within a year of coming back, I was offered a training contract that commenced in March 2019. I completed my first seat in non-contentious construction and then went on maternity leave in 2020. I am now back and working from home with the Commercial Property team from Bristol. My final seat will be with the Insolvency team.

Tell us about your experience of learning and career development at Clarke Willmott

Clarke Willmott has provided me with many opportunities to grow and learn. Not only has my role progressed, but I am also regularly notified and invited to attend various webinars and workshops both internally and externally. We also have a lot of external events that we are invited to so this helps us with our social networking skills with clients.

How has your experience of working in a number of teams as a trainee been?

As the Non-Contentious Construction team is my sponsoring team, this is where I did my first seat. By transitioning from paralegal to trainee, I could see how much my role had really developed in terms of how much more responsibility I was given and also how I was now dealing with more complex legal issues.

My second seat was in Commercial Property with Birmingham, which I enjoyed as I had a chance to work for a completely different office. Although I never met my team face to face, it did not have any adverse impacts on my learning and development as this was during the lockdown, so everyone was in the same position. In fact, my supervisor made a conscious effort to regularly arrange team calls so that I got a chance to ask questions and also be given training on legal tasks.

I am currently doing my final seat with the Insolvency team and very much looking forward to it as I will not only get a chance to work in contentious law but also have the opportunity to develop a completely new skillset.

What is your experience of being a working parent at Clarke Willmott?

Clarke Willmott is a very parent friendly firm. After coming back from my maternity leave the first time, I was able to work part time and also continue to work part time during my training contract. I feel lucky to have found a firm that allows me to pursue my career whilst being a mother to two young children.

What keeps you at Clarke Willmott?

I feel fully supported in my career at Clarke Willmott and love the fact that I am working with people who want to see me progress and grow.

Sam Harkness

Sam Harkness - Commercial Litigation - Clarke Willmott TauntonSam is a trainee solicitor in our Taunton Commercial & Private Client Litigation team.

I joined Clarke Willmott in August 2019 as a paralegal in the Commercial & Private Client Litigation team, immediately after graduating from the University of Nottingham. I had been job-hunting for some time before graduation to try to find a paralegal job that was within reach of my home, offered me good opportunities to build a career and do fulfilling work with clients; the role in C&PC Litigation gave me a perfect mix of all three!
Since joining, I have been able to establish myself, particularly by assisting Daniel Gill and Tim Hayden in our Crime & Regulatory team. As of 1 March 2021, I am now a Trainee Solicitor with the firm.

Describe your typical work day at Clarke Willmott

It is very hard to pin down a typical day here, not least in my team! This is in part due to the wide variety of the work we handle on a daily basis. The general rule I have learned is that if there is a potential civil litigation issue, there will be someone in our team who has worked on similar matters before and can assist. Personally, I have focused a lot of my practice on the criminal and regulatory work that we do. Even in that particular sector of work, I can’t describe a typical day. I could do anything from attend an interview under caution for the Environment Agency or police, attend court with counsel, or advise clients on regulatory proceedings brought against them.

What attracted you to Clarke Willmott in the first place?

Clarke Willmott has a very unique status compared to other law firms I have encountered. It is very much a national law firm with big-name clients and quality work, but also retains its strong regional connections and heritage. My family has been in the West Country for generations, and I have relatives heavily involved in agriculture and field sports. The fact that the C&PC Litigation do a significant amount of rural and agriculturally-based litigation, contributed highly to my interest in the firm.

What is your experience of working flexibly at Clarke Willmott?

During the pandemic, I really struggled after the first month of working at home due to my own living situation. By the end of May, I had reached a stage where working from home was untenable for a variety of personal reasons regarding the work that my family were doing, and the lack of space at home. My line manager Esther was extremely supportive, and so successfully pushed for me to be able to work as the one member of my team in the office full-time; I will always be grateful for that support, and grateful that I was able to get back to working at a level which I could be proud of.

What keeps you at Clarke Willmott?

I feel thoroughly supported by my team and my managing partners; I feel that they are genuinely a lovely bunch of people to work with. They make it very easy for me to want to remain at Clarke Willmott, and I want to build a career here for the future and progress in my team. In addition, I thoroughly enjoy the interesting work I have been able to carry out here and the relationships I have been able to build with clients. I am very comfortable in saying that I don’t think I could do what I do now anywhere else!

Michelle Manley

Michelle Manley - Paralegal - Court of Protection - Clarke Willmott BristolMichelle is a paralegal in our Bristol Private Capital team.

I joined in CW in 2011 as an admin assistant, working in the Court of Protection finance team based in Bristol. It was my very first formal job since I moved to the UK from China and finished my legal course in the UK. I am now a paralegal and the team manager of the Court of Protection finance team.

Describe your typical work day at Clarke Willmott

Going through posts and emails; dealing with phone calls from clients’ family, social services and other professionals; sorting out team admin

What is your experience of working flexibly at Clarke Willmott?

I feel that it has been more flexible in choosing to work from home or working in the office. The head of our team has always been very supportive and understandable if I need to work from home.

What do you enjoy most about working at Clarke Willmott?

The people make the difference. I love our team and really enjoy working with my colleagues in the COP team.

What keeps you at Clarke Willmott?

The people I am working with.

Ryan Rahim

Ryan Rahim - Paralegal - Business Recovery Unit - Clarke Willmott TauntonRyan is a paralegal in our Taunton Business Recovery Unit.

In 2016, through an employment workshop at my university, I learnt how Clarke Willmott give students from diverse backgrounds the opportunity they need to start their legal career. I applied and was really pleased to be accepted. Despite having two legal degrees from different jurisdictions I’d found it hard to find a role that didn’t require me to have work experience, so this was perfect. During my work placement, I sat in firm’s Financial Services Litigation, Family and Property Litigation teams. After the work placement, I had a valuable insight of a large commercial firm. I was drawn by the standard of litigation work, knowledge and expertise that the firm had.

Though between 2016 and 2020 I worked for other firms, I knew which kind of firm I want to settle in. Clarke Willmott was on top of my list. In 2020, I joined the Clarke Willmott’s Business Recovery Litigation team as a paralegal.

Tell us about your experience of working in the BRU Insurance team

I work on the defended insurance claims and I deal with mostly subrogated, non-personal injury road traffic accident (RTA) claims. Whilst I have my own caseload that I manage under supervision, I also assist our other sub-teams in reviewing prospect and issuing court proceedings once the pre-action steps are exhausted. Apart from RTA matters, I also get to review and issue other claims arising from breach of contract or third-party negligence.

Describe your typical workday at Clarke Willmott

I strongly believe litigator’s success depend on how well organised they are and how efficiently they can juggle their daily work. The firm has an established customised case management system that helps me to check every case regularly and organise my daily work. At least once a week, I check each case I am dealing with and update the client. I action daily posts to ensure the court deadlines and directions are met on time. I give advice to our insurer client and their customers, and if appropriate, negotiate settlements in line with the client’s instructions. If the settlement is not reached, I prepare the matters for hearings, assisting the court to ensure that the hearing can progress as efficiently as possible.

What is your experience of working flexibly at Clarke Willmott?

When I joined Clarke Willmott, not only was I a young parent, I also committed to sit for final stage of LPC exams. My supervisor was aware of my situation and had supported to me to balance my work, family and student lives. Working from home during the pandemic meant I was able to cut a huge travel time and invest that time to my study and looking after my family. I can proudly say that I passed my LPC and have become a graduate member of CILEX. I am now hoping to be Fellow CILEX member and then qualify as a solicitor by the end of next year.

What’s the culture like at Clarke Willmott?

We are a group of friendly, hardworking, caring and kind people who treat each other equally and with respect. There is accessible support that we can use and approachable people that we can go to. Instead of blaming, we take responsibility collectively and do the best to resolve any problems. We believe in treating customers with upmost respect and respond to their needs with efficiency. We value the tradition and support the local communities, but equally appreciate the need of adopting new ideas and technologies.