Mason Hayes Solicitors

Archive for the ‘Trainee Blog Archive’ Category

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Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

September 2014

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Working with Counsel

There are continuing changes to the traditional relationship between the two branches of the legal profession.  It is still the case however that key distinctions still apply, albeit the lines have been blurred.

Traditionally, the bar has been a “referral profession” whereby a barrister is approached by a solicitor to act on behalf of the solicitor’s client.  Whilst it is now possible in some instances for a barrister to be instructed by a client directly, the norm is still very much for a barrister to be instructed by a solicitor.

It will however be interesting to see how the trend goes over the next few years.  From what I have seen clients who use chambers offering a direct access service will still require the service of solicitors in some shape or form.  There are commentators who suggest that there will ultimately be fusion of the two professions but I think that is unlikely to be the case, in the short term at least.   It will continue to be the case that clients will be assisted by a legal team consisting of a solicitor and a barrister.

Here at Mason Hayes we instruct from a list of preferred barristers.  There have been instances where the client has insisted upon use of a certain barrister.  However, on the whole the client will instruct one of the barristers recommended by us.

It is common practice, certainly in Commercial Litigation matters, for a barrister to be instructed in the early stages of a dispute and before the client commits to its position (either in pre-action correspondence or in pleadings).  That is so that the client is aware as early as possible what its prospects are, what the risks or evidential issues are, what the strategy is generally and what the best and worst case scenarios are.

It is important to have a barrister involved in that early stage as they will ultimately be the person who makes those arguments to the Judge.   As barristers have a better perspective of how evidence and/or legal arguments are likely to be received by the Court given their greater advocacy experience, it is important that a barrister is involved from the outset.

Equally and from the perspective of the barrister, they will have a better knowledge and understanding of the case if they have been instructed previously, rather than if they are instructed for the first time in advance of the Trial, having not been involved in the initial formulation of the client’s position or in considering evidential matters.

The best way of looking at the relationship between a solicitor and a barrister is to look at it as one of a team working together.  Whilst it is true to say that the role of solicitors and barristers can overlap in part, there is a distinct difference in skill sets and experience which means that a client will require services from both a solicitor and barrister in any substantial litigation dispute.

Until my next blog


August 2014

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

My blog this month is about my political experiences at Mason Hayes.  Mason Hayes takes its social responsibility very seriously which is clear from the fantastic work carried out by the Mason Hayes Charitable Trust.  However, in addition to that, Mason Hayes is actively involved politically with regard to issues which are relevant to the firm or those which members of the firm feel passionately about. 

I personally have been involved in research papers with regard to changes to the Civil Procedure Rules and Civil Litigation generally, providing input on draft legislation and attending meetings with members of Parliament.  Being somebody who once considered a political career, I found these experiences enlightening. 

The most recent contribution that I have made was to a research paper with regard to reform of the civil justice system to improve its efficiency as a whole.  Our submission  included proposed reforms to the use of mediation, the introduction of compulsory mediation, the introduction of small claims adjudication, changes to the use of technology by HMCTS and changes to how litigants in person are dealt with.  I have recently been informed by the firm’s Managing Director that the proposals we submitted are being considered and may well form the basis of further research.   I therefore hope that I will get to undertake further work regarding this research paper moving forward.  Even if our proposals are not the subject of further research, I do anticipate having further involvement in the research project which I look forward to.  It would however be fantastic if one of the changes which we proposed made its way into government policy and was then introduced. 

Our involvement has not however been restricted to legislative matters which directly relate to the legal profession or the practice areas within which the firm operates.  For example, I was invited to attend a meeting with Edward Timpson MP with regard to the Children and Families Bill earlier this year.  The purpose of the meeting was to outline the issues with the current regime and the flaws with the Bill.  This was not just to highlight the difficulties legally but also the detriment that would be caused to children, both in terms of their education but also in terms of the wider social and economic implications. 

I have found that the skill set that you acquire and develop as a lawyer is a set of transferrable skills which would stand you in good stead for a career in politics.  The adversarial and confrontational environment that exists in Parliament and Government is akin to that in the litigation arena.  I can see why there are so many lawyers who move into politics.       

Until my next blog 


July 2014

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

The topic of my blog this month is corporate disclosure and completion.  Throughout June I have primarily been assisting the Head of our Corporate Department, Karen Houghton, in respect of the disposal of two companies in the telecommunications sector.   I have assisted Karen on previous deals, however this was my first opportunity to really get involved in the deal and in particular with disclosure which was fantastic!  I was given the task of drafting the disclosure letters for each of the target companies, as well as preparing the Index to the disclosure bundle.  This gave me greater exposure to the clients, their accountants and the solicitor for the Buyer which was great!

Being from a primarily litigation background, I did find corporate a much less formal environment, which should not have been surprising given that the parties are not within a formal Court process.  I did have to adapt my writing style accordingly and break some habits which was easier said than done.

The due diligence and the disclosure exercise has become a much easier task to manage since Data Rooms became the norm (so I am told).  Data Rooms have been used on every deal that I have worked on and are incredible!   I can only imagine the difficulties that were faced in completing the Due Diligence and Disclosure process without this facility.  Having said that, the use of a Data Room is only effective where everyone involved in the deal uses it or knows how to use it, as I have discovered!

The completion is set to go ahead shortly, with all documentation in agreed form.  However, there are issues which have arisen as we approach the final hurdle of completion. This is not uncommon and I really do hope that the deal goes ahead for the clients.

Until my next blog



June 2014

Monday, June 9th, 2014

The topic of my blog this month is public speaking.  Strong communication skills are a must for a solicitor and public speaking is becoming increasingly important.  Whilst it is true that there is a distinction between solicitors and barristers, solicitors do have rights of audience in the lower Courts and can also obtain higher rights of audience in High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.

A client may well prefer a solicitor to represent them at Court as you would be more familiar with the case than a barrister who in all likelihood would be instructed shortly before the hearing.  It may also be more cost effective.

As part of my training contract I will of course be required to undertake advocacy.  In preparing for that and in developing my public speaking, I have been given the opportunity to give lectures and seminars at the University of Sussex and for our clients.  This has provided me with the opportunity to practice public speaking and has given me greater confidence.

Before giving my first lecture I was convinced that I needed detailed notes to follow, and the thought of speaking without them was quite frankly frightening.  However, mid-way through the first lecture I realised that I was actually speaking without reference to those detailed notes that I thought I could not do without.  I realised that in fact it was easier to speak around the topic headings on the Powerpoint slides – a thought that had previously terrified me.  It also stopped me from saying “ermm” every other word as I was speaking naturally rather than attempting to say word for word what was in my notes.

Since my first time speaking in public, I do not prepare detailed notes but simply outline the key points.  Of course every time I prepare thoroughly in terms of the content of my lecture or speech and therefore the key points are simply to ensure that I do not forget anything.  If you are well prepared then strictly speaking you probably do not require any notes.  This, I admit, I have yet to try!

Knowing the content of your presentation enables you when presenting to focus on the delivery.  You can focus on engaging with your audience by making eye contact with people and involving them in your presentation.   It enables you to move freely around the room, be more animated and less rigid than if you were stood still clinging to your notes for dear life.  The manner then in which you speak, your expressions, gestures and movements appear confident, natural and relaxed.  The delivery of the speech will also be clearer and more conversational.   It is then easier for your audience to follow your presentation and remain engaged.

So here are my 6 top tips for public speaking:

  1. Know your material
  2. Practice, Practice Practice
  3. Relax!
  4. Engage with the audience and try to encourage interaction
  5. Know your audience
  6. Look the part

Finally, a joke or funny story won’t hurt.  That is of course presuming it is funny, relevant and appropriate in the circumstances!

Until my next blog


May 2014

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

I began working at Mason Hayes as a fee earner within the Debt Recovery Department. I moved to the firm from a large regional firm where I worked as a Graduate Clerk. I joined Mason Hayes for career progression. In addition to applying for a Training Contract in the ordinary way, I was keen to gain more commercial experience and gain further responsibility.  Shortly after joining the firm, I was offered a Training Contract.

Unlike a traditional Training Contract consisting of four six months seats, the Training Contract at Mason Hayes is much more flexible. I carry out work in different practice areas on an ad hoc basis.  I am therefore required to switch between practice areas to meet the business needs of the firm.

Commercial Litigation

I have been fortunate enough to assist the Managing Director, Marcus Hayes, in a number of high value complex Commercial Litigation matters during my Training Contract so far.  In doing so I have frequently attended conferences and consultations with both junior and leading Counsel.  The discussion of both legal and commercial issues and the subsequent formulation of a strategy is what I found to be one of the most interesting and exciting aspects of Commercial Litigation.

In addition, I have attended a number of Mediations and Without Prejudice Meetings which have provided me with fantastic exposure to the realities of dispute resolution.  To be able to see different negotiation strategies and tactics in practice, and how those tactics evolve as the cases progress, has been an invaluable experience.

I have also been involved in the drafting of pleadings and pre-action correspondence in a number of cases.  In order to be able to draft or provide input in pleadings and correspondence, I was required to consider a substantial amount of documentation and correspondence in order to be fully appraised of the factual position.  There is a great sense of satisfaction when you are able to get to the bottom of what has occurred. This I found however could be quite a challenge.

My experiences have ranged from bringing and defending multi-million pound claims in respect of breach of contract to defending small claims brought by both companies and individuals.  In addition to assisting in defending small claims, I have assisted in advising our clients as to the overall strategy to be adopted.

I was recently placed on site in one of our client’s office in London. I was given the responsibility of supervising a complex and lengthy disclosure exercise.  This gave me a unique insight in to the client’s business and how the in-house legal department operated.  It of course afforded me lots of client contact which I enjoyed.


I have assisted one of the firms Consultant Solicitors, Karen Houghton, with a number of corporate deals within the telecommunications industry and found corporate work a very different experience to litigation.  Whilst some of the skills which I had developed earlier in my Training Contract were transferrable, the most challenging part for me was negotiating and drafting the contractual documentation, such as the Sale Purchase Agreement.  In drafting the contract, a whole different skill set is required which is the ability to consider the potential scenarios that may arise and to cater for those.  I therefore began to look at contractual documentation from a different perspective which has only enhanced my understanding of contractual principles.

Initially I began drafting ancillary documents and preparing bundles.  I have however had the opportunity to be involved in conference calls and very recently I attended at a completion meeting.  The meeting was a totally different experience to the meetings which I had attended in respect of litigation matters.  Both parties worked towards the same goal, that of completion, and there was a real sense of momentum and willingness from both sides to work together to achieve it. Of course once completion has taken place it is generally still practice for both parties and their solicitors to celebrate the completion over dinner and a glass (or two) of champagne!

Debt Recovery

The firm acts for many public company clients across a number of industry sectors.  Prior to beginning my Training Contract, I worked as a Fee Earner within the Debt Recovery team which provided me with a good foundation.  As my Training Contract has progressed I have been allocated more complex disputed Debt Recovery matters being both fast and multi-track cases.  This has enabled me to gain an in-depth knowledge of legal issues and litigation both procedurally and tactically.


As a Trainee Solicitor at Mason Hayes I have been involved in the Mason Hayes Charitable Trust Scheme that the firm operates with the University of Sussex.  I have prepared seminars in respect of the Work Placement Scheme at Mason Hayes and acted as the main point of contact for students who attend placements with us.

In addition, I have prepared seminars and lectures and presented them at the University of Sussex for the University’s Law Society and Commercial Awareness Society.  I also offer ongoing support to those students whom I have met from the University such as  providing assistance in relation to obtaining a Training Contract by checking and giving feedback on applications and CV’s and providing students with an insight to the Training Contract process from my own experiences.


I have been invited to attend various networking events organised by the firm, clients and other third party providers.  I have attended at various events including drinks receptions, dinners, awards ceremonies and sporting events such as the Rugby League World Cup.  Mason Hayes actively encourages involvement in networking for Trainee Solicitors.  I have enjoyed the networking experiences and they have been a fantastic introduction to business development and marketing.


I am now in the second year of my Training Contract and already I have gained extensive and valuable commercial experience.  I hope to continue to make the most of the opportunities available to me during the remainder of my Training Contract and thereafter make the transition from Trainee Solicitor to Assistant Solicitor within the firm’s Commercial Litigation department.

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