All trainees, at least once.
Following last week's confessions, more solicitors have owned up to the terrific mistakes they feared would end their legal careers before they had even qualified.
During the first face-to-face-meeting with clients outside court, one trainee suddenly realised they were taking instructions from the other side's clients, who had similar names to their own. "Can I just stop you there?", the lawyer recalled asking, "I need to go and find your barrister and have a quick chat."
"As I headed back upstairs, I felt physically sick. I contemplated a career serving burgers. I found their counsel as well as ours. I explained what had happened, and handed over my brief notes. I stood back and waited for the firestorm that would eventually lead to a mistrial, my dismissal and regulatory decapitation. What I got instead was a howl of barristerial laughter, a comforting arm around the shoulder and a reassurance that the world would still turn. Also, our guy won. At least, I think it was our guy."
In another case of mistaken identity, 'DJ Experience' went to an unopposed hearing at the old Manchester County Court. "I proceed downstairs to see a lady in a room, casually sat, reading a book...I say hello, I ask her how her day is going... With no response, I try to make small talk and enquire as to the book that she's reading and ask her when I'll be able to see the Judge upstairs in Court". Putting the book down, she replied, "Young man, I am the Judge, you're seeing me in my chambers here", and told him, "it looks like you've forgotten how to address me in this informal setting...You can go back outside, remember I'm ma'am and let's start this again".
'Peach pear plum' arrived at the RCJ for the first time with a big bag containing all the papers for the supervising lawyer and QC, and lunch. "At the station I managed to drop the bag down the stairs. No drama until I got to the court and realised my five-a-day fruit contribution (pear in this case) had smeared all over the QC’s pack. He wasn’t angry, just disappointed, and that’s what makes it so bad...the pity look".
Mixing business with pleasure can lead to worse than fruit stains. "Another (married) trainee in my intake had been getting very flirty with the director of our client", said a solicitor. "This progressed, post completion to them getting a hotel room together. Only for her husband to call and manage to twig where she was and what she was doing. Husband turned up and beat up the director, to the point he needed hospital treatment. Unsurprisingly the client was furious, the director was kicked out by his wife, and the trainee was not kept on".
Others got away with their sloppy behaviour. "As a trainee I wrote an email to a junior colleague calling a partner a c*** 10 times in a row, and then accidentally sent it straight to said partner. Still no idea how I didn’t get fired", said one lawyer.
'CliveWarren' put a decimal point in the wrong place on a Part 36 offer "which was accepted immediately", because it meant the offer was "about 5 times the value of the claim". He told his supervisor "ASAP and wrote to the other side who backed down with minimal fuss. Bricked it in that moment though".
Trainees getting ahead of themselves has led to some notable backfires. One individual sent a threatening letter to the opposing lawyers without partner approval, resulting in his boss yelling at him, "Who do you think you are, fucking Rambo?", while another trainee instructed counsel to file a Supreme Court appeal on a case without client instructions: "Fortunately, the appeal was successful".
'Frank O'Fohn' said, "As a first seat trainee in Big Law, my firm was working for a bank and I was responsible for looking after Conditions Precedent documents prior to an enormous loan being granted to redevelop the city centre of a major UK city - it wasn't small stuff".
"As the closing date neared, it suddenly became clear that we were missing a crucial original document...The entire team was summoned into the senior partner's office, who was fortunately a very mild mannered man, but even he had reached his limit: 'This is a cock-up, an absolute cock-up!' he shouted", and although the deal went ahead, "the relationship between the firm and one of its major clients took a hit".
"A few months later when I was changing seat, I was packing up my office and took apart the CP box with the concertina dividers. There in the bottom of the box, having slipped through a gap, was the missing document, all signed and dated...I hastily shredded the document, moved on to my next seat and I've made sure that I never had to work on a loan since".
The biggest mistake 'Zero Gravitas' made as a trainee was, sadly, "Qualifying", but some trainee errors will go to the grave with the lawyer who made them. "Mine is so bad that I will never reveal it to anybody no matter how anonymous the details, until after I retire", said 'ObstreperousDogey'. "It was so bad that I fear I could be struck off now even though it was in the first month of my first job in law".
You’ve used an image of me beclowning myself without permission. It’s fine.
I didn’t start dropping bombs until I qualified and they took their eyes of me. I still half expect the SRA or my old firm to drop me a line.
I'm in rof news! Yay!
As a first seat Banking trainee I sent a form to file a charge without realising I had to send a copy of the charge with it. I fessed up when I got the rejection letter back and fortunately we were allowed to file it out of time.
To prove that even qualified solicitors aren’t perfect, when I was in a new job and was unfamiliar with my new desk phone, I managed to forward my phone to a Partner at another firm rather than my secretary…
Honestly wondering how some of you managed to get a TC in the first place.
These are brilliant tales! Good work!
On my first ever day as a trainee, straight out of college, I was taken to meet a client with one of the firm's partners. He lived nearby and therefore asked me to drive myself and follow him as once we were finished he would be going straight home. So anxious was I not to lose him in Teddington, an area I did not know at all, that I ended up crashing into the back of his brand new BMW at a round-about.
He very graciously not only didn't fire me but he also must have sorted the scratches out himself as it never went through my insurance and was quietly forgotten.
Had a stint in a private client department during my traineeship, first task instructed by the partner as the incoming trainee was to write to all the old dears whose probate cases we were managing and inform them that I was the new trainee and would be handling their matters for the next 6 months... Whilst battering out these letters I accidentally made reference to "taking over from my predecessor, the late [Trainee Name]"...
Didn't notice this error until bunches of flowers started arriving, addressed to the partner, offering condolences for the death of the previous trainee.
To make matters worse, as a panicking first seat trainee I figured the best thing to do as the partner was on holiday was to get rid of the evidence of this mistake before his return. With no waste bins in the office large enough for all the bouquets, I decided (idiotically) to use the large document shredder to feed them all through.
Shredder eventually - and unsurprisingly - broke due to being clogged with flora and foliage, and I kept quiet when the office manager sent a pleading email round the firm asking "who put a shrubbery in the shredder". It remained, and probably still remains, an office mystery at that firm.
Day before starting my vac scheme at a firm I sent some pics to a guy on Gaydar. He replied back with something cryptic and we started chatting and then he confirmed: (1) he worked at said firm, (2) he was one of the people organising social events for the vac scheme, (3) he recognised my picture.
And on the penultimate day, we made it into one of the pods.