Name, current role and centre
Salomé Verrell. Solicitor and Senior Lecturer. Bloomsbury.
Area of law
I joined the Performing Rights Society in the City as a paralegal and worked in-house dealing with the legal rights of music writers and composers, including collecting in royalties on their behalf. My time at the PRS counted towards my training contract, but I completed my training with a small high street practice that I joined after the PRS.
I officially completed my training contract with a small high street practice in West Sussex, where I was offered an assistant solicitor position. I was in court almost every day, including the Crown Court on criminal matters and I also practised as a Duty Solicitor. I conducted all sorts of cases from driving offences up to murder and manslaughter from the police station as a Police Station Accredited Representative and/or Duty Solicitor through to initial hearing and trial. I also practised in immigration law from ‘leave to enter’ cases in all categories as well as asylum claims. I worked my way up in the firm and became an equity partner in my early twenties. As a partner, I also had to have knowledge of business finance law in order to run my practice efficiently.
When I got married, I wanted a better work life balance so I joined the Government Legal Service as a Grade 7 lawyer in the Treasury Solicitors department working on Judicial Review cases at High Court and House of Lords levels. This mainly involved asylum claims but there was some input into cases involving terrorism.
I then joined a medium sized private practice in Kent as a senior Duty Solicitor to be able to conduct more advocacy because I realised this was my favourite part of being a Solicitor. There, I conducted mainly criminal cases at Magistrates and Crown Court levels. I also attended the police station.
A day in the life...
At the PRS I conducted general paralegal work which included translation of documents from French into English and vice versa; and discovery work. A highlight of my time at PRS was discovering important documents (in a large room housing 100 boxes, with 20 files in each!) which assisted the Society to part win a very costly and important case against BSkyB based on intellectual property and contract law.
At the small high street practice in West Sussex, as a trainee solicitor I had full conduct of cases from start to finish including interviewing clients and court advocacy. This is unusual for a trainee but at a small practice, often you get thrown into the deep end and are expected to hit the floor running. When I qualified, I ran the immigration department as Law Society Immigration Panel member, as well as the criminal department as a Duty Solicitor and Police Station Accredited Representative. I had control of approximately 150 client files at any one time.
At the Treasury Solicitors I worked as a litigator at High Court, Court of Appeal and House of Lords level. I was accountable for all aspects of each allocated case from outset to completion. Our client was the government so I had to comply with policies, standards, procedures and service level agreements set at Agency, divisional and team level; as well as managing a small team. I advised on client policies and guidance to achieve the proposed outcomes requested by the client, and enjoyed building a strong client relationship.
At the medium sized private practice in Kent, I conducted my own heavy caseload for which I had full responsibility as case supervisor with the day to day running of cases, legal advice, legal paperwork and Court work. I supervised other staff in relation to my caseload and the case load of other solicitors at the office including supervising the Magistrates Support Team (MST) and my own caseworker. I attended Court on a daily basis for clients and as Duty Solicitor. I assisted the day to day running of the firm by ensuring compliance of mine and other staff's work with the Legal Services Commission (LSC) requirements, including audits, and the Law Society's requirements. I actively promoted the firm and brought work into the firm.
The best part of working for the PRS was the amount of music stars and celebrities I met and dealt with: I was often in the lift with Sir Paul McCartney who is an active member of the PRS.
The most enjoyable aspects of working for the small high street practice, and later at the medium sized firm, was the Court advocacy which is exciting and involves a lot of thinking on your feet, and is probably my favourite aspect of the law. I also liked learning to run a law firm which included understanding accounts, LSC and Law Society rules and regulations.
The best part of working for the GLS was the real team effort that went into dealing with the cases. It was also interesting both practically and legally to represent just the one client, i.e. the government. I especially liked teaching Home Office immigration officers how to deal with asylum claims at entry level in order to avoid unnecessary appeals.
Advice to students
I have a varied background and my advice to students entering the legal field is that often you won’t know what area of law you really want to practise in until you’ve actually practised. It is possible, as I hope I’ve shown, to change areas if you really want to, but in my opinion it is probably easier to do this if you train for the commercial corporate areas and then move into private law rather than the other way around.
My advice to those wanting to advocate is to listen to what is being said in Court. Preparation is the key to winning but if you don’t take cues from what is actually being said in Court at the time, especially when examining witnesses at trial, you could lose an opportunity for a good line of argument and come unstuck. Practice your advocacy skills for example by entering mooting competitions or attending your local Court and sitting in the public gallery and just listening to the advocates.
My advice to those wanting to enter the intellectual property field is to pay attention to the finer detail. Often this area of law goes hand in hand with contract law and it is important to have an eye for detail as it is often the minutiae that can win a case for you. Intellectual property is a fast moving area of law and you need to stay on top of the changes in order to come across as a viable candidate in any job interviews. This includes being commercially aware.
My advice to those wanting to enter the GLS is to be prepared to toe the line and work as part of the team. To all intents and purposes, you have to leave “the self” at the door and be prepared to be a “team player”. The University works hard to ensure students are taught how to work well as part of a team, for example with group activities in the workshops. Even playing team sports or activities such as charity events can show you as a team player for any job interviews.
To those students who hope to be equity partners one day, I would advise that they remember that a law firm is a business and in order to become a partner, you have to show not just a sound legal knowledge and skill, but you also have to show good business acumen and ensure you are actually making money for your organisation. Good commercial awareness is an inevitable part of this.