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John Ashworth

John is a second year trainee at Rollits in York. His current seat is in the Private Capital department. Below is his blog about what it is like to be a trainee at Rollits!

July 2018 - This month saw the return of the annual Rollits Charity Golf Day at Brough Golf Club. This day raises money for Muscular Dystrophy UK and Dove House Hospice. It was thoroughly enjoyable to help out with the event, which involved setting up signs around the course and talking with both clients of the firm and other business professionals from the area.

The Private Client department has continued to keep me busy when I have not been enjoying time out of the office at Brough Golf Course. I have been managing large portions of ongoing matters whilst also getting involved with smaller aspects of others. I have also been able to utilise the skills I have picked up whilst in Property, Dispute Resolution and Company/Commercial despite most of my work involving estate administration

July also welcomed my first real holiday of the year. This was a week long trip to France for my yearly Downhill Mountain Biking excursion with friends. It was a nice change of scenery and has left me feeling refreshed and ready to get back to work (albeit for just 2 days before I head down South to spend some time with my family in Dorset). I look forward to what August will bring and then qualification as a solicitor in September.

June 2018 - Private Client remains a very busy department and I have enjoyed being able to sink my teeth into some really interesting drafting tasks. I have also carried out a number of very specific research tasks, which requires being able to sift through a large quantity of material, picking out and putting together the key pieces of information to create a conclusion. Such tasks can be notoriously difficult as the person asking for the research normally knows the area of law very well and so the answer (if there even is one) is not immediately apparent after just a few key word searches, but requires interpretation of statute and the application of relevant case law.

This month I also attended my first hearing (by myself) before a District Judge at Hull County Court. I was covering for a member of the Dispute Resolution team who had ended up needing to attend another hearing at the same time. I only found out about the hearing when I turned up at the office in the morning and then had just a few hours to prepare for it and familiarise myself with the matter. The hearing went well and I achieved a good result for the client, but most of all it was thoroughly enjoyable and an invaluable experience for my future career in Dispute Resolution.

May 2018 - Things have not slowed down in the Private Client department in York since my last trainee blog post. I am still very busy with multiple matters and am thoroughly enjoying the large variety of work and drafting that is involved. Each matter presents different facts and challenges, which means I am always expanding my knowledge so as to be able to deliver the best possible results for the client.

I have also attended two Professional Skills Courses as part of my training contract this month leaving only one more to do before I qualify in September. Both of these courses revolved around Civil Litigation, which I have now decided to be the area of law that I want to qualify into. I am also set to attend an event at Hull University for their E-mentoring scheme. I volunteered as a mentor at the start of my Company Commercial Seat and will be receiving a special recognition award after being nominated by my mentee.

April 2018 - April has been my first month of full weeks in the Private Client department at the Rollits York office. Although I am sad to have finished my secondment at Hull City of Culture it feels good to be back at Rollits full time and getting properly involved with ongoing client matters.

It is currently very busy in the Private Client department and as such I have had the opportunity to gain experience in a plethora of essential works relating to the administration of estates, drafting of Wills and the carrying out of legal research. This month I have also attended multiple client meetings to the extent that I had more meetings in one day than I did in the entire of March. At one such meeting I had the opportunity to take detailed notes on a relatively new matter and am now handling the majority of the work myself under the watchful guidance of a more senior member of the Private Client team.

I am developing a better understating of the day-to-day role of a Private Client solicitor and thoroughly enjoying the work that I am receiving. Due to the single floor, open plan nature of the York office I am still grateful to receive small amounts of work from Dispute Resolution and also a bit from Commercial Property. This adds to the variety of the work that I do and helps with the continuingly difficult decision of what area of law I want to qualify into come September.

March 2018 - My first month in the Private Client department has been both interesting and challenging. Despite my only being in the department 2 days a week due to my City of Culture secondment I have already been involved in multiple matters. I have had the opportunity to draft wills, attend client meetings, draft a deed of appointment in relation to a settlement trust, carry out probate searches and witness a few codicils as well. I have also been lucky enough to be involved in a bit of Family and Dispute Resolution work as these are both areas that I am interested in qualifying into.

As is usual with the Private Client portion of my training contract with Rollits, I spend most of my days in the York office. Around a year ago Rollits moved it office out of the city centre to Monks Cross on the northern outskirts of York. This has meant my commute from Hull is significantly easier than it would have been and is largely much more accessible for clients. I have also got to know colleagues who rarely visit the Hull office and must say I was given a very warm welcome by them all!

Sadly though, the end of the month also brings the end of an era. As of next month I will no longer be seconded to City of Culture as a legal trainee. I gained a huge wealth of experience during my time there and have made many friendships that I hope will last long into the future. I can’t express in words how grateful I am to everyone I worked with, but especially Will Hutchinson, the General Legal Counsel, who was also my supervisor during my time with the organisation.

February 2018 - The past 6 months in the Company and Commercial Department has absolutely flown by. This has definitely been exaggerated by the fact that I have spent 3 days of every week seconded to Hull UK City of Culture 2017. Now I only have 6 months left in the Private Client Department in Rollits’ York office to demarcate between life as a trainee and life as a newly qualified solicitor. I will, however, continue to work as a secondee with the City of Culture team until the end of March.

My time in the Company Commercial Department has been a great learning experience. It has involved getting to know an area of law that I have previously shied away from during my legal career. All of the work I have received has been thoroughly stimulating, from carrying out company searches to reconstituting company books and dealing with share transfers. Everyone in the team has been encouraging and helpful, especially Donna Barnett who qualified last year and was appointed as my mentor during my time in the Department.

I am looking forward to my time in the York office where I will also get to know other people whom I rarely see in the Hull office.

January 2018 - The departure of numerous staff has resulted in the diversification of my job role as a secondee at Hull UK City of Culture 2017. I am still involved in the drafting and approval of agreements for everything from individual artist performances to large deals with the council and major sponsors, but with the added requirement to ensure that all these agreements are accurately recorded and stored. I have also been involved in advising on proposed amendments to company Articles of Association and have continued doing very specific legal research, most recently involving the application of business rates relief.

Due to my time in the Company Commercial department at Rollits being limited to two days a week I have still been unable to get involved with matters that require regular, daily work. Luckily, however, there are a few matters that I have been able to familiarise myself with and work on when I am in the office. One such matter has involved the issue of preference shares, which also requires numerous drafting tasks such as the amendment of the company Articles of Association. I also carry out smaller stand-alone tasks that relate to larger projects. These tasks require me to be able to get a quick overall grasp of what is being done for the client, which is sometimes aided by the matter being relatively new. Just before writing this blog I was reviewing a Letter of Intent relating to the sale of a company and checking for any errors or inconsistencies. This sort of work is always interesting and familiarisation with the drafting and analysis of such documents is essential to my development as a trainee solicitor.

December 2017 - As I am currently on secondment to City of Culture 3 days a week, this year I have had the excitement of experiencing Christmas at two different offices. Multiple parties with plenty of drinks and food have left me exhausted, but with just enough energy left to see me through the New Year.

The end of December brings to an end my first full year working at Rollits. It has been a thoroughly enjoyable year with plenty of experiences, which have been challenging at times, but always rewarding.

Despite the festive period I have still been working hard. My time at City of Culture and in the Company Commercial department has flown by scarily fast. Throughout December, as City of Culture approaches the end of 2017, the number of employees has gradually dwindled, leaving behind a skeleton team of staff to continue the company until it is eventually taken over by the legacy team. Despite the loss of both colleagues and friends I feel that Martin Green’s hortatory remarks in his Christmas speech will keep everybody enthused going into the New Year and beyond into 2018.

I look forward to the New Year and 2018 at Rollits. It will bring a further seat, countless more experiences and, hopefully, my qualification as a solicitor in September.

November 2017 - November has felt like a particularly short month at work. This is mostly due to the fact that I spent 2 weeks of it on holiday in Guyana seeing things like Kaieteur Falls (the world’s largest single drop waterfall by the volume of water flowing over it), harpy eagle and giant anteater. It was a well deserved break, but not the most relaxing of holidays. 5.00am starts were the norm followed by long, hot and humid days, but the rewards of wildlife sightings and outstanding scenery were plentiful and well worth the exhaustion.

As I reach the halfway point of my seat in the Company and Commercial department at Rollits, I also reach the halfway point of my secondment at Hull UK City of Culture 2017. I continue to be involved with current matters for the ongoing company, but also spend more of my time on issues that will affect the future company (still unnamed) moving forward into 2018 and beyond 

This month I also had the great privilege of attending the Old Hymerians Association 92nd Annual Dinner along with some other senior colleagues from Rollits. Here I enjoyed catching up with some of my old teachers, meeting fellow Old Hymerians and listening to Chris Cowdrey regale us with stories of his time spent as an England cricketer.  

October 2017 - October feels like it has flown by in a blur. I have been busy with work both at Rollits and on my secondment at Hull UK City of Culture.

In addition to my day-to-day activities, this month I also got the opportunity to represent Rollits at a careers evening held at Hymers College. This was to talk to students (who were mostly in year 11) about a career in Law and to offer advice on the various ways of reaching where I am today. I spoke about the experiences I have had along the way and gave a brief account about what it is like to work for a firm like Rollits, what we do and why I would recommend pursuing a career in law.

My work whilst spending 3 days a week at City of Culture has continued to be both varied and interesting. Although dealing with agreements still makes up the majority of what I do, the substance of the agreements is nearly always unique. On top of this, the legal demands of the company continue to change as the year progresses, which in turn results in a change in the work I am required to do. Legal research has played a large role in my workload since starting my secondment and looks set to continue as the company moves forward into forever new and unchartered territory.

September 2017 - September has been my first month in the Company Commercial department. I have carried out multiple company searches and have put together forms for filing at Companies House. I have also been getting work from Rollits’ Employment department. I have always enjoyed employment law and have found the research tasks and files that I have been passed to look at extremely interesting.

I have, however, only been spending 2 days a week at Rollits as it has also been my first month working as a secondee at City of Culture Hull 2017. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time spent working with City of Culture so far, which has been helped by the friendliness and approachability of all of the staff that I get to work with. I have been involved with drafting agreements and dealing with other important legal matters from the outset. Further to the good quality of people and work, I also really appreciate being given the opportunity to be a part of something that benefits the city that I have lived in all of my life. Though my role is only a small part of a much bigger operation, I feel a sense pride when I see something that I have been a part of come to fruition.

The end of September also sees the return of the Hull Incorporated Law Society Annual Ball. This year the event is being held at my old school, which I am sure will bring back (mostly) good memories. Rollits will be well represented at the Ball, including some of the new trainees and as such will be an invaluable opportunity to get to know those from Rollits even better and to socialise with other legal professionals from the area.

August 2017 - August has been my last month in the Dispute Resolution department. It also brings to an end the first year of my training contract at Rollits.

It is also the time where second year trainees become newly qualified solicitors. Daniel and Jas have both moved on to new pastures in Leeds, whilst Donna has secured a job in the Company and Commercial department at Rollits, which is where I will be spending some of my next 6 months as a second year trainee.

I am looking forward to moving to the Company and Commercial department for two days a week where I will also re-join Stephen Le Cornu who I spent my first 6 months with at Rollits in the Commercial Property department. As well as my Commercial work I will also be spending 3 days a week helping out with legal work at the City of Culture. This scheme is a rare opportunity to experience doing in-house law and something I have been excited to do since its inception last year.

Other than the excitement brought by the upcoming seat swap, August has been relatively more normal than previous months. The vacation schemes finished a while back and I haven’t been on any holidays, but having a solid uninterrupted month of work has been my ideal way to end 6 months in such an interesting and inspiring department.

Although I look forward to the change I will be sad to leave behind a department full of wonderful people who have helped develop my skills in litigation and given me a great insight into working in Dispute Resolution on a daily basis.

All the staff I have had the joy of working with, on the first floor of Rollits, have been friendly, supportive and fun to work with. The work has been both interesting and thoroughly enjoyable. I started the 6 months expecting I would enjoy them as I have always felt my argumentative side would fit in well practicing in a contentious area of law. This expectation was not ill-founded and I found myself enjoying the time more and more as the weeks rolled by and I became more familiar with the procedures and practices of the department.

Roll on year 2 of my training contract.

July 2017 -  Just as June saw the first the group of Vacation Scheme students arrive at Rollits for two weeks of work experience, July has seen the second group complete the scheme and return back to their various walks of life. 

My life has since returned back to normality, but the time I spent with the students and the feedback received from them about the firm has forever solidified in my mind how grateful I am to be doing my Period of Recognised Training at Rollits.  It was truly fascinating to learn about all of their interests, goals and past accomplishments and though I hope they gained some benefit from the work experience themselves, I feel I gained as much, if not more, from the experience myself.  

This month I also attended a course on Advocacy and Communication skills in Leeds as part of my Period of Recognised Training.  This particular course took place over the course of three days.  The first two days were based around increasing knowledge on how to identify key issues and formulating case theory.  I also improved my advocacy and communication skills, which I learned on the Legal Practice Course and practiced these skills with the other course attendants.  I got the opportunity to make a mock interim application in front of a District Judge and learned how to carry out Examination-in-Chief and Cross-Examination of witnesses.  The course culminated on the third day with a mock hearing.  Considering my interest in contentious law, this was an invaluable experience.

June 2017 - The start of the month saw the annual return of Humber Business Week.  Rollits encourages staff to attend events of interest to them and their work.  The event that I chose to attend was entitled 'Wildlife Riches on Humber Industry Land'. This event kicked off with presentations from experts and land managers including the RSPB, BP and the Total Lindsey Oil Refinery.  Lunch was provided and this gave me an opportunity to network with the presenters and others who had attended the event. In the afternoon we took a short walk along the south bank of the Humber to Far Ings nature reserve. This allowed us to see the effects of good wetland management and talk further about investment in natural capital and the benefits that companies can gain from setting aside unused land for nature.   

This month Rollits also welcomed the first of two groups of Vacation Scheme students to the Hull office.  Each group spends a total of 2 weeks at Rollits with their time split between the Dispute Resolution, Company/Commercial and Property departments.  The scheme is more akin to a 'mini training contract' and the students end the two weeks with a short presentation on a given topic.  The students are given as much real work as possible.  I spend a good proportion of my time doing legal research and as such have delegated as much of this as I can to the students.  I have then proceeded to review their research with them before handing this to the relevant fee earner.  I have also taken time to speak with the students more generally about a career at Rollits, my experiences in getting to where I am today and tried to answer any questions that they may have.

As can be seen a lot has been happening at and around Rollits this June.  Along with all this and my usual day-to-day activities I have also managed to fit in a weeks worth of downhill mountain biking in the French Alps, so, all in all it has been a thoroughly enjoyable month!

May 2017 - My third month in the Dispute Resolution department has been the busiest and best yet!

Rain or shine I still enjoy my daily trip to Hull's Combined Court Centre to drop off and pick up documents.  After a morning of reading e-mails and dealing with urgent matters, the short walk gives me a chance to get a bit of fresh air and contemplate my tasks for the day ahead. 

This month I also attended a conference with Counsel in Leeds with the head of Rollit's Family Department, Sheridan Ball.  This was a most memorable experience.  Having never met the client before it made all the work I had done on the matter more meaningful after being able to put a face to the name.  Having put the instructions to Counsel together I was very impressed with the manner in which they had rationalised all of the information and were able to form an un-biased opinion and relay this to the client in an understandable and concise manner.

The conference itself was only trumped by the opportunity to spend the journey to and from Leeds talking to Sheridan. We spoke about the case to be discussed at the conference and about life as a solicitor.  It was an invaluable experience being able to pick the brain of such a knowledgeable and experienced lawyer.

I have also begun to become more involved in high profile cases and have found myself working to some tight deadlines.  I relish working under pressure and always find it a lot more satisfying when I complete a job that someone is relying on me to finish on time.

I am looking forward to the second half of my 6 months in Dispute Resolution, but am astonished at how fast the first 3 months seem to have gone!

March 2017 - My first month in Dispute Resolution and a new chapter in my training contract at Rollits.

The change in scenery and colleagues that I work with on a day to day basis was initially a little bewildering, but the opportunity to get involved with highly interesting matters from day one quickly got me back on track.  On top of this I am surrounded by people who are just a friendly and helpful as those I spent the last six months with in Commercial Property.

As part of my time in Dispute Resolution one of my daily tasks is to go to the Hull Combined Court Centre to drop off and pick up documents.  I also attended a Case Management Conference, which was a first for my legal career and gave me a lot of insight into the dispute resolution process.

This month I have also completed my Client Care & Professional Standards part of my compulsory Professional Skills Course modules.  This took place in Leeds over the course of two days.  I got to meet fellow trainees and share experiences of working at different firms from across the region.  I am looking forward to my next training session in Advocacy & Communication Skills.

February 2017 - I look back on the first 6 months of my training contract at Rollits with a big smile on my face.  I have spent 6 months in the property department with a group of truly wonderful people who have all taught me many new things (not just limited to matters of law).  My time so far has allowed me to reflect on how lucky I am to have acquired a training contract at such a prestigious law firm that employs kind and friendly individuals who are devoted to and enjoy the work that they do. The atmosphere this creates goes a long way to providing the high quality of service and excellence that Rollit's clients expect and deserve.

Despite having to leave behind the property department and the people I have worked with for 6 months, I look forward to my next seat in Dispute Resolution.  Here I will get to expand my knowledge of law further and into an area of law that I always enjoyed learning about, but until now have never had the chance to gain practical experience in.

January 2017 - I am coming to the end of the 5th month in my property seat and am now confident with the carrying out of various tasks and administrative roles relating to both commercial and residential property matters.  My understanding of the area I work in has grown massively, which has been reinforced by increasingly getting to know the people I work with on daily basis and being able to learn from them through their sharing of knowledge and help with practical tasks.

My day to day work can now include anything from helping with events hosted by Rollits to dealing with the compilation of an entire voluntary first registration application by myself.  Organisation and prioritisation of my workload (a key aspect of the job) has now become second nature and gives an indication of what it will be like to have matters fully under my control once I qualify. 

I look forward to the final month in my property seat and am excited by the prospect of moving to a new department and a new area of law in the coming weeks.

December 2016 - December has been an interesting month.  It has been my first Christmas in full time employment and as such I have experienced the full plethora of Christmas parties, office decorations and of course the obligatory Christmas jumper day. With everybody excited for Christmas and the New Year it has certainly been a fun and enjoyable time to work at Rollits.

I have, however, still been working as hard as ever.  As time passes by in my property seat (somewhat scarily fast) I have been entrusted with more complicated tasks and have handled aspects of matters in more depth than ever before.  There is still a high level of supervision and always someone available to check through the work I have done, though this does not denote from the independence felt from working through an issue by myself and gaining experience of what it would be like to be a newly qualified solicitor in the property department here at Rollits.

I look forward to the New Year and my first full year at Rollits.  It will bring two further seats and countless more experiences.

November 2016 - I am now half way through my first seat as a trainee solicitor.  Whilst some aspects of the work are becoming familiar, the majority of the work I receive involves doing and learning something new.  Even the routine tasks contain small differences.  I have found it imperative to deal with jobs with the same level of consideration and concentration no matter how many times I have done them in the past.

I have continued to enjoy attending webinars and seminars which have expanded my knowledge and introduced me to areas of Law I have previously had no knowledge of.  I have also had the opportunity to sit in on business meetings and take minutes.

November also saw the first game of 5-a-side football the firm has played since I started in September.  As a regular 5-a-side goalkeeper I was happy to step up and do my part.  I have always found playing football with colleagues to be a valuable experience and thoroughly enjoyed playing as part of the Rollits team.

October 2016 -  October has been my second month as a trainee at Rollits in the property department.  Whist I have been dealing with many tasks similar to those in my first month I have also been entrusted with new tasks.  These have allowed me to expand my knowledge and practical skills.  Many of these tasks have involved leases, which is an area Universities and the LPC shy away from due to their complex nature.  I have also had the opportunity to work on a small woodland purchase from start to finish, which gave me a great overview of the whole conveyancing procedure.  Research tasks have still played a large role in my day to day work and although some are still relatively straight forward, others have been much more specific and detailed in nature.  They have, however, all helped fee earners in advising clients or carrying out their own work.

October also saw me take my first holiday at Rollits. All the work I have done so far in my training contract has been stimulating and challenging, which made my holiday seem all the more deserved.  Not being a great fan of relaxing holidays my trip to Borneo was full of long days and plenty of wildlife.  Time well spent away from the office meant I was ready to return to work with a fresh sense of enthusiasm.

September 2016 - My first month in my first seat as a trainee solicitor at Rollits.

One month into my first seat in Property and I can't believe how fast it has gone.  With five months left to go I look forward to being able to expand my practical knowledge on this area of law even further.  Although residential property is dealt with by the firm, the majority of work done in the Property department in the Hull offices is commercial.

Having worked a support role in residential property before, a lot of the aspects I have found myself dealing with have some similarities, however the differences are notable. 

A big focus of the work I have been undertaking is based on agricultural land and involves dealing with vast amounts of land in any one transaction.  This has given me copious practice in using the Land Registry website and compiling folders full of official copies for the multiple tracts of land our clients own.  As agricultural land has sometimes stayed in the same hands for many generations I have also had the opportunity to become familiar with the transactional processes involved in dealing with unregistered land. 

As well as day-to-day office work, I have also had the opportunity to attend multiple events held at Citadel House (Rollit's Hull based offices).  Most significantly was taking part in Hull's 'Heritage Open Days' where Rollits opened its doors to the public and showcased its 175 years of establishment with a historical display.  As a local, being able to represent such a historical and well established law firm was both a privilege and a pleasure.

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