Examples/explanations of typical trainee “fee earning” tasks include:
- Bundling: this refers to producing hard copy and/or electronic folders of documents, usually in connection with court proceedings or investigations. In contentious seats, you will typically be expected to produce an index and a file (or multiple files!) of documents that have been referenced in other documents (e.g. witness statements, particulars of claim etc).
- Bibling: “bibling” is a typical trainee task in transactional seats. Once a deal has completed, the teams involved usually put together a “transaction bible”, which contains all (or all the material) deal documents, for instance Sale and Purchase Agreements, Transitional Services Agreements, Facility Agreements etc.
- Document review: contentious matters such as preparing for litigation or carrying out an investigation tend to involve “document review” (AKA “doc review”). This process underpins the arguments raised in court or the findings presented in an investigation write up. Document review essentially involves reviewing the client’s/the other side’s/third parties’ documents to ascertain what has been going on. Trainees are usually involved in the early stages of the review and are responsible for identifying the documents which are/might be relevant so that more senior lawyers can focus on these when writing witness statements, particulars of claim, investigation reports etc. On larger matters, document review can take months (even years) and can involve hundreds of thousands of documents and dozens of lawyers (if not more).
- Due diligence: due diligence (AKA “diligence” or “DD”) is typically undertaken in transactional (including specialist) seats. It refers to the process under which a potential buyer (or a seller) and their advisors carry out in-depth investigations into a variety of aspects of a target company or group of companies, to check for any existing or potential issues that could impact upon the deal.
- Verification: verification refers to the process of checking statements made throughout a draft company prospectus to ensure that the statements are accurate and supported by sufficient evidence. Prospectuses can be hundreds of pages long and verification can require you to go through these sentence-by-sentence, line-by-line, making notes of the sources that form the basis of the information included/statements made in the prospectus.
- Project management: trainees will typically be responsible for managing projects, especially in the context of document review and due diligence. On a day-to-day basis, this can involve chasing internal/external teams for input; answering questions from other teams and advisors or the client; co-ordinating paralegals, PAs and others during a document review process or when preparing bundles for court hearings; keeping records of received/outstanding information (get ready to use Microsoft Excel more than you had probably anticipated!); engaging and liaising with barristers or local counsel (e.g. law firms based in other jurisdictions/specialist law firms) etc. Trainees may also be responsible for co-ordinating deal signings/closings, which can involve ensuring that execution versions of all the necessary documents have been printed (with the correct signature blocks in place), laying out the documents in a signing room and ensuring the correct parties sign in all the correct places.
- Drafting: drafting and/or amending key transaction documents, such as Non-disclosure Agreements, Term Sheets, Share Purchase Agreements, Shareholders’ Agreements, disclosure letters, powers of attorney, warranty deeds, equity commitment letters etc.
- Other transactional tasks: in transactional teams, trainees may also get involved in: drafting Companies House forms; incorporating or dissolving companies; carrying out regulatory/court filings; carrying out company searches (via Companies House), intellectual property-related searches (i.e. searching for information on a company’s patents), real estate searches etc.; and preparing legal step plans (setting out the processes that should be followed as a deal progresses) and structure diagrams (which set out the current structure of a company group and/or the proposed structure of a company group after a deal has completed).
- Research: research is one of the more interesting tasks you will be asked to carry out during your training contract. This can involve research into specific points of law (including how the courts have applied the law in certain contexts); research into companies (including its shareholders, the business it carries out, the legal filings it has made etc.); and research into legal processes/procedures (including court procedures, deadlines for court filings, the documents required to give effect to certain courses of action etc.); regulator guidance/proposed legal updates.
- Proofreading: this will involve checking the spelling, grammar, format and structure of documents produced by others; ensuring defined terms have been used consistently throughout a document; ensuring cross-references are accurate; sense-checking documents (i.e. reading them to make sure points are presented logically etc.); ensuring handwritten comments have been accurately typed into a document; ensuring information from other documents has been correctly copied across/comparing two documents. Although not the most exciting of tasks, proofreading can give you the exposure to documents necessary to enable you to subsequently have a first go at drafting similar documents, whilst also providing a great opportunity to demonstrate your attention to detail.
- Meetings: attending internal and external meetings/interviews/briefings and preparing corresponding attendance notes.
Getting clued up about your trainee position is a must. Learn to tackle your challenges and prepare for the road ahead!