Trainee Testimonials

David Baines

I have been working at Sills & Betteridge since July 2014 and started my Training Contract on 1 September 2014. I’m currently halfway through my first seat, which is in the Commercial Property department at our Lincoln Aquis House office.

The Commercial Property department in Lincoln has two partners, and I work directly under one of them, Wendy Spalding-Siracusa. The department works closely with several others in the firm and the partners are often consulting with fee earners from other departments. This is great experience for a trainee to be exposed to and to witness the regular interaction on files – it’s important to realise that different areas of law aren’t all self-contained! To date I have worked mainly on residential conveyancing matters to get a good grounding in the basic conveyancing process, and am now transitioning to more complex Commercial Property files as my seat progresses.

I have been regularly engaged preparing detailed reports to clients on title documents, search results and mortgage offers, and am approaching the stage where I can fully progress a residential file from instruction to completion. I’ve already had experience on several complex issues and been given chance to really cut my teeth. As a trainee with Sills & Betteridge, you are given a lot of responsibility and client contact. I often deal directly with clients and solicitors on the other side of transactions, and from the start I’ve been able to get to grips with genuinely substantial legal work. It’s certainly straight in at the deep end, but it’s as rewarding as it is challenging.

I went to secondary school in Lincolnshire, but moved away for university and spent the last eight years in Norwich. I only returned to Lincoln in July to begin working for Sills & Betteridge, so really I’m relatively new to the area! I’m finding Lincoln to be a great city so far – beautiful but practical. It’s relatively small and welcoming, but there is also a lot of development going on. Many new shops, businesses and opportunities are coming to the area as the city grows with the University of Lincoln. This is obviously great news for the social aspect of the city and should complement the steeped history of the area – but it also means that there is plenty happening in the local legal sector to get stuck in to! The city provides a lot of options to occupy your free time and has a good nightlife – there are some local bars with incredible live music every week. I’ve also settled into playing regular football with friends in my spare time.

I’m really enjoying my time here at Sills so far; I’m looking forward to the rest of my two years with the firm – and hopefully beyond!

Ruth Craven

Sills & Betteridge is one of the leading firms in Lincolnshire for both public and privately funded law, and as such it has the ability to provide trainees with a wide range of experience in different areas. I have found this incredibly useful as it has allowed me to make an informed decision as to what areas of law I wish to pursue, as well as those that I don’t. During my training contact I’ve had the opportunity to work in the Crime department, Mental Health department, and the Wills Trusts and Probate department.

Sills allow their trainees to have a substantial amount of client contact from the very beginning. Having spoken to my contemporise at other firms, it seems that this is something which is not always so keenly encouraged at other firms.  I’ve found that this has allowed me to build on the knowledge obtained on my degree and LPC in a very practical way.

From day one I’ve found Sills to be an exceedingly friendly firm in which I was immediately made to feel welcome. This creates a healthy learning environment which I’ve found helpful when learning the ropes.

From a social perspective, Sills employ a large number of young people, from newly qualified solicitors  and trainees, to paralegals and secretaries. The firm has a netball team which plays on a weekly basis, and there are regular events to get involved with such as the annual rowathon and 10k runs.

Lincolnshire has a Junior Lawyers Division which  arranges events every couple of month, such as quizzes, bowling trips, cocktail making etc which provides an alternative forum for meeting trainees from other firms.

Overall I have been pleased with my experience at Sills and have found Lincoln to be an enjoyable place to live and work.

Natalie Sheldon

When I was offered a training contract at Sills & Betteridge I knew it was the right move. No aspiring solicitor enjoys the interview process but I can honestly say that I went away from my assessment day knowing my ambitions would be well nurtured. The firm had an obvious desire for growth and everyone was friendly and welcoming.

I was fortunate to be offered a paralegal role in the private client team prior to commencing my training contract. I completed my degree and LPC at the University of Sheffield before moving to Lincoln to take up my paralegal role in 2012. Since moving cities I have immersed myself in the Lincolnshire life. I am part of several clubs as well as being Vice President of the Lincolnshire Junior Lawyers.

I stayed with the private client team to complete the first seat of my training contract. This offered an opportunity to work with individuals and their families on a variety of estate planning matters. As I had already been with the department for 14 months, I was also able to assist with more complicated estates.

My second seat was with the commercial litigation department. I gained insight into dealing with a wide range of dispute resolution matters. While in the commercial litigation department I was also given the responsibility of managing the debt recovery team. The level of responsibility I was given in this fast paced environment meant I was learning something new every day.

I am currently in the commercial team whereby I undertake work ranging from setting up charities to commercial property transactions. From day one of my training contract I have been able to contribute to the firm and in return I was given the level of responsibility that trainees in other firms would only get far later on. While it has been challenging at times, I know this has only helped me gain confidence in my abilities and helped me to become a better lawyer. The support and supervision I have received in each department has not just been from my supervisors but from other fee earners which has proved invaluable. The ‘open door policy’ throughout the firm means that everyone works as a team. Although the firm has expanded since I started my career, Sills & Betteridge maintains its friendly and supportive atmosphere.

Emlie Garthwaite

I am in the first seat of my Training Contract in the family department working with private law children matters aswell as cases with local authority involvement.

This area of work is far from dull. We have some of the most interesting clients and the variety of work is unbelievable. During the first three months, I have already been to visit clients in the community; I have attended the High Court in London and Birmingham; I have assisted Counsel at Courts in Derby, Leicester and Lincoln; and I have been to HMP in Lincoln to speak to the men about how to be a good father whilst in prison.

Being in the emergency team means that our work life is hectic but I love this. Our team has so much energy. We are all very close and everybody is so supportive of one another. If Im not sure how to do something, I know that there is always someone I can go to no matter how busy everybody is.

I am studying my LPC part time whilst doing my Training Contract and this can be quite challenging at times. My supervisor, and also my colleagues, have always been very understanding of my commitments. Working whilst studying is a real juggling act however I have found that a lot of the work I do as a trainee assists my learning at university. In particular, the LPC modules on writing, drafting, interviewing and advising.

Being a trainee at Sills and Betteridge has given me the opportunity to really find my feet as a Solicitor. Trainees are given real responsibility. I began seeing clients very soon into my Training Contract and have even taken full instructions on an Injunction. I have drafted Letters of Instruction to Expert Witnesses, Briefs to Counsel and client’s Position Statements.

I have a few months left in this seat before I move onto another area of law. The start of my Training Contract has been a rollercoaster. There have been times when I have felt unsure of what I am doing and times when I have felt confident and assured. The amount I have learnt in such a short time has been amazing and I look forward to the the next three months.

I am really enjoying this new stage in my career and although we as trainees cannot be sure about what area of law we will be qualifying into, I am confident that the skills I have developed in my first seat will prepare me for my future.

Jess Firth

I began my Training Contract with Sills and Betteridge in September 2013, having completed my Degree at Bristol University. Originally from North Yorkshire I relocated to Lincolnshire in 2011. Since working at Sills & Betteridge I have bought a house and plan to remain in the area for the foreseeable future. I have found Lincolnshire to be a lovely place to live, there is plenty to do and it has excellent transport links.

Prior to my Training Contract commencing, I worked in the Firm’s Family Department as a paralegal. Here, I immediately gained hands on experience with client files.

My first seat as a Trainee Solicitor was in the Family department. After working for some time in the department I was looking forward to the extra responsibility of being a trainee. I was extremely fortunate to be able to attend Court on regular occasions with barristers and to undertake my own advocacy. At times I did feel anxious; however any concerns were soon put at ease through the support of the partner I was working for and other colleagues in the department.

My second seat was spent in the firm’s Residential Property department. The fast pace of the department and constant phone calls certainly kept me busy.  I then moved on to work in the Commercial Litigation department. Working in the litigation department has improved my drafting skills substantially.

An advantage of undertaking a Training Contract at Sills and Betteridge is that there is flexibility with your training seats. Many firms choose your seats with no input from you, however Sills and Betteridge listen to your preferences and subject to the needs of the business, aim to place you in your desired seats.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my training contract with Sills and Betteridge. I am looking forward to the challenges that I will experience as a newly qualified Solicitor. I am certain that the training I have received here will provide me with the best start possible as a Solicitor.

Sills and Betteridge is accredited as an Investor in People and can award continuous progression and development (CPD) hours for its own internal training. Trainees are encouraged to attend all the training sessions offered by the firm. In this way, I learned about developments in all areas of practice, regardless of whether that was my current seat or not.

As a Trainee I primarily worked in the Firm’s Lincoln office, but I also visited our other offices regularly for client appointments. The atmosphere throughout the firm is extremely welcoming. Everyone, including the partners are approachable and always available to answer any questions or queries.

Steven Dowse

I started my Training Contract with Sills & Betteridge in September 2013. I have completed seats in Family, Litigation and Residential Conveyancing.

My seat in the Family Department gave me the opportunity to work on matters such as residence and contact disputes, care proceedings, domestic violence, divorce proceedings and Ancillary relief proceedings. I developed communication skills by seeing and advising clients. I enjoyed going to Court with Counsel where I learnt how to effectively present a client’s case.

The litigation seat provided a wide variety of files for me to gain experience in. I became familiar with the process of bringing and progressing a claim. I was given tasks such as drafting Claim Forms and Particulars of Claim. I was allowed to develop advocacy skills by presenting client’s cases in the County Court. The varied case load and number of different enquiries in this department enhanced my ability to think on my feet as no two cases are the same.

Working in the Conveyancing department has allowed me to be involved in a transaction from start to finish. I have found it rewarding dealing with the sale and purchase of client’s property as you are responsible for such an important process.

Sills & Betteridge provide trainees with responsibility from day one as well as regular feedback and supervision to enable you to develop your skills.  Regular training days and case law updates are provided.

The opportunity is also provided for Trainees to become involved a range of marketing and social activities of the firm. I have been involved in presenting a mock trial to local children and have been involved in playing football against other law firms and local businesses as well as running the Lincoln 10k for the firm.

James Ballaam

Since my very first day with Sills the thing which has struck me most is the approachability and genuine good nature of my colleagues. Despite being relatively low in the firm’s hierarchy I have always been treated with respect, had my thoughts and ideas listened to and made to feel part of an holistic process. Although it can be initially intimidating I was thrust into quality, tangible legal work from the very beginning of my training contract. This sense of trust in the Trainees should not be overlooked and this method of training allows you to push-yourself, flourish and develop at a juvenile stage of your career.

The responsibility that goes with this is something to enjoy and embrace as it is not necessarily something you would get at other firms. You are consistently challenged with new and novel scenarios and tasks on a daily basis, some requiring a quite nuanced and technical approach whilst others plenty of laborious old-fashioned research! You certainly learn something new and beneficial each and every day. The exposure to clients is impressive and I have been entrusted to handle a whole host of legal problems for people and corporate bodies from a variety of backgrounds and demographics. It is refreshing to work for a firm which places so much faith in your ability to fulfil these obligations and to experience so many different clients and their legal issues first hand accelerates your progress and professional confidence.

Everybody’s door is always open and if there is something you are unsure of or just require some light reassurance on nothing is ever too much to ask. My training principals have always carefully monitored how the training process is going and been there to assuage any fears or sweep away any doubts when they do inevitably occur.

Lincoln is an extremely picturesque and historical city to work in but also has a strong collection of shops and vibrant social scene. Housing is affordable and there are plenty of opportunities to network to meet other like-minded young professionals, network and cultivate contacts you might need in the future. I would recommend it if you want to work somewhere with all the amenities a city can offer but without the frenetic hustle, bustle and chaos of somewhere like London and Manchester.

Georgia L. McGuire

I have been working at Sills & Betteridge since February 2016. I am nearing the end of my first seat in the Family Department based in Lincoln, specialising in Divorce and Matrimonial Finance.

I applied for a Training Contract with Sills & Betteridge as I felt that they reflected the values I thought were important and they offered an exciting training experience for aspiring solicitors such as myself. From initially conducting research to attending Aquis House, I knew that I was making the right decision applying for a Training Contract here, and I have not been disappointed.

The application process was relatively demanding. However, it showed that Sills & Betteridge wanted to get the best out of its candidates. The first interview was informal and I was able to get to know the Training Principal and Partner, Rachel Maclean, and the HR Manager Kelly Credland, whilst gaining an insight into the firm. I was then invited for the final interview, where I spent a week rotating between different departments. The week was exceptionally useful, and further confirmed to me that Sills & Betteridge was the right firm for me. I was absolutely delighted to be offered a Training Contract with Sills and I have not looked back!

I currently work under the supervision of John Mitchell, who is the Head of the Family Department. I was given real responsibility from day one of my Training Contract – Sills are not the sort of firm to give their Trainees photocopying or administrative tasks. I regularly attend Court, take instructions from clients and manage my own files. I am also involved in the firms Moving Forward scheme which offers free information sessions for individuals who are going through a separation. The complexity and variety of work has allowed me to build upon the skills learnt during the LPC in a very practical way and I have thoroughly enjoyed the challenge.

As a Trainee I am primarily based at the Lincoln office, but I have also had the opportunity to visit both the Boston and Sleaford offices. Lincoln is a vibrant and cultural city and it offers a wealth of new opportunities and experiences for young professionals such as myself. I regularly attend events organised by the Junior Lawyers Division and the Lincoln Young Professionals. These events provide a good opportunity to network and meet like minded individuals.

I have gained a wealth of experience in my first six months and I am excited to see where I will be this time next year!

Dominic Lee

I started my training contract with Sills & Betteridge in September 2015. After studying law for four years at university I was excited to put into practice what I had learnt and I couldn’t wait to start my training at this long established and well respected law firm.

Being able to take on meaningful responsibility as a trainee solicitor from day one has definitely been one of the highlights of my training contract to date. My first seat was in the Family Department with a focus on matrimonial finances and child law. Having studied family law as an elective on my LPC it was great to be able to apply what I had learnt.  The Family Department is a fast paced environment and each day was truly different. If I had to describe a ‘typical’ week, it would have consisted of assisting counsel in the Family Court in care proceedings on a two day final hearing; spending a day at our Boston office meeting clients as part of our Moving Forward Scheme and drafting legal documents with the supervision of my principal such as Case Summaries and Position Statements to be used in financial proceedings. One of my most memorable days was assisting counsel at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on an international child abduction case.

I’m now approaching the end of my second seat in the Commercial Litigation Department. Being a large regional firm, Sills & Betteridge is able to offer trainees a varied training contract which is brilliant. With the assistance of my principal I feel like I have really developed my drafting skills in this seat as well as my commercial awareness generally. As a trainee, all our work is closely supervised. There’s very much a culture of being ‘part of the team’ and feedback is always given in an informative and constructive manner. There are also regular training course organised by the firm (Sills & Betteridge is an accredited Investor in People and can award CPD) and weekly webinars on a Thursday lunchtime.

There are lots of opportunities to get involved in activities outside of the work place. I play football with a number of colleagues in a local six-a-side league. I’ve attended job fairs to promote the firm, workshops in an immigration detention centre and taken part in the Lincoln 10km run with colleagues.

I’m originally from Cheshire and was new to Lincoln when I started my training contract. Lincoln is a beautiful, compact city. There’s always something going on. I love it because I’m able to get on my bike after work and get into the countryside. Being a keen cyclist, Lincolnshire is perfect for long rides in the saddle! There’s also lots of great sports facilities such as swimming pools/lakes, gyms and a running track.

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