The diary of...a trainee at DLA Piper

Matt Leon, a trainee at DLA Piper, gives us a taste of working life at the firm
Law school and training contracts

Day 1

8.30 Forward planning

I arrive at my desk and settle in with a cup of fresh coffee and check to see if I have received any emails last night that I might need to respond to.

9.05 Conference call

My supervisor arrives and we dial into our weekly conference call with the DLA Piper national planning team. This weekly call allows the planning team in each office to share any new clients, instructions or particularly interesting pieces of work. The team's professional support lawyer (a lawyer who focuses on research and training) also gives us regular update sessions on the latest developments in the law to ensure that everyone is aware of any recent changes.

9.50 Time with supervisor

We head back down to our desks and begin discussing the work I've been doing and my priorities for the day. This is a good opportunity to ask any questions or clarify any issues that I've been having with my work. I'm lucky to work for a small team of specialist lawyers and have already gained a lot from their experience.

10.15 Begin drafting planning agreement

An email arrives from a local authority answering a query from the previous week on the terms of a planning agreement. I call the client to update them, take further instructions and then I start to draft the agreement. This is a demanding aspect of the work at first but it definitely gets easier with practice! It's important to make sure that everything in the contract ties up and works together and this can be quite a mathematical exercise, but is a crucial skill for any lawyer.

11.30 Tea break

Time for a morning tea break. I meet a couple of other trainees in the kitchen and we have a chat about the previous night's football match and the prospect of an all-German Champions League final!

11.45 - 13.00 Site visit & lunch with a client

I return to drafting the agreement, making my final amendments before sending it on to my supervisor to review. Our team has recently been instructed by a client in an appeal against the refusal of planning permission. This is the contentious aspect of the job and involves drafting written arguments, interviewing clients and consultants as well as advocacy at hearing sessions. I attend a site visit with my supervisor (a perfect task for a sunny day!) and meet with the client and planning consultants for lunch to discuss the afternoon's hearing session.

14.00 - 18.00 Attend a hearing

My supervisor is representing the client at a hearing session near the site, so we drive to the venue and prepare the documents for the hearing. Several million pounds rests on the outcome of this case, so it's important that all the documents are well organised. This is where a trainee can take on responsibility and contribute to the case. I take notes of the proceedings and listen to the arguments put forward by both sides.

18.30 - 21.00 Dinner & drinks

I'm back at the office to drop off the documents and finish up for the day. In commercial law firms it's of course sometimes necessary to work late during busy periods but I have only been asked to do this on occasion. The horror stories of trainees sacrificing all social life for two years have certainly not been proven true! I bump into a trainee from another department as I leave and we decide to go for a drink and a bite to eat round the corner before heading home.

Day 2

8.45 Due diligence

I check my inbox and remember that Real Estate has recently been instructed by a major client in the acquisition of a property developer. I know we'll need to work with our colleagues in Corporate to investigate the affairs of the company before the deal goes ahead - this is known as the "due diligence" process.

9.00 - 9.30 Background briefing

I attend an internal meeting upstairs with partners, legal directors and associates to be briefed on the background of the deal and what will be required. The due diligence is likely to take several weeks, but everybody is keen to get started. The large Corporate-support transactions involve a lot of teamwork and give the opportunity to work closely with colleagues.

9.30 - 12.30 Forward planning

The planning team discuss the structure of the reports needed for the large transaction. I begin to gather together the necessary documentation for the team. The next couple of weeks are looking busy so I make a plan of how I'll manage my workload until the transaction has completed.

12.30 - 13.30 Lunch

I am on the office's Charities and Social Committee, and we have a lunchtime catch-up meeting to discuss recent events in the office calendar and put forward suggestions for future events or worthwhile charities we could support. The committee helps to organise office nights out and activities such as touch rugby tournaments which are a great chance to get to know everybody outside of work.

13.30 - 15.30 International conference call

I sit in a meeting between our lead partner, legal director and a major international client. A conference call is set up with colleagues in Asia, reminding me that DLA Piper really is a global firm with a huge international scope. The discussions are really interesting and I learn a lot about how the client's business works, as well as legal matters.

15.30 - 18.00 Point of law

The rest of the afternoon is spent researching a point of EU environmental law for my supervisor. The firm's Knowledge Management ("Know-How") resources are excellent - I wish I'd had access to these at university! It certainly makes legal research and analysis a much more pleasant experience.

18.00 - 21.00 Pub quiz

The planning team has been invited to a pub quiz event this evening in aid of a mental health charity. The quiz is well attended by representatives of all sections of the property industry. I go along with colleagues, but unfortunately our performance in the quiz is let down by our shaky knowledge of traditional Scottish foods! It was a great night and I had the chance to meet other graduates starting out in the working world.