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working in the construction team

19 March 2014

I am currently finishing off my first seat in the construction team in Browne Jacobson’s Nottingham office and have had a busy and very varied six months. Sitting in this team as a trainee gives you the opportunity to undertake one of the few mixed seats on offer in the firm, which means as a trainee you work on a combination of both contentious and non-contentious work. For someone like myself with little experience in either area, it was a great first start to a training contract.

Construction is not a topic that most people come across on the GDL or LPC and so I was definitely a little bit daunted about starting work in an area that I knew so little about. Luckily I soon realised that no question is a stupid question (well…!) and soon felt very much involved with the team – including being introduced to clients in my first week. I was involved in a wide variety of matters from the outset and before Christmas I had already attended my first mediation in London.

Whilst I had initially assumed all of our clients would be contractors, I quickly realised that there is no ‘normal’ construction client. We act for a mix of both public and private sector clients, from insurers to local authorities, major contractors, charities and retail companies. The team are keen for you to gain as much experience as possible and so I have ended up meeting a number of clients whose work I have been assisting on.

On the non-contentious side, I have acted as the Construction lead on a number of academy conversions. The work involves advising our clients in order to ensure that the new academy trust will receive the benefit after conversion of any construction contracts that the school had entered into. Being the direct point of contact for clients on construction matters certainly makes you wake up to the responsibilities of being a trainee and it gives you great experience of managing your own caseload.

Working on the contentious side, I have helped assist on our UK and international work for a wide range of clients. Although litigation is seen as the main way a dispute can be resolved, a lot of construction matters involve alternative methods of dispute resolution, such as mediation and adjudication. My contentious work has involved tasks such as drafting letters of advice, instructions to counsel, mediation position statements and carrying out plenty of legal research. Conducting research on hypothetical situations whilst on the LPC is one thing but it’s a whole new and exciting experience to research real-life problems concerning clients that you have actually met.

Whilst working in the team I have also been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend site visits. A lot of the construction issues we advise on are technical and it really helps (and is always exciting) to be able to actually visit the site and look at the problems you have spent so much time thinking and talking about back in the office. Luckily I attended a site still under construction last week, just as I was starting to worry I may finish my seat without carrying out the most basic but essential experience for a construction trainee – the donning of a hard hat and hi-vis jacket at last!