Life As A Trainee Solicitor At O’Flynn Exhams LLP

Life as a Trainee Solicitor at O’Flynn Exhams LLP

Tell us a little bit about yourself before you arrived at OFX? Where did you study? What are your hobbies?

Niamh: Before arriving in OFX I did two internships in two law firms in Dublin and I worked for almost two years with the Lithuanian cabinet in the European Court of Auditors in Luxembourg.

I graduated in 2016 having studied Law and French at UCC and at the University of Strasbourg for my Erasmus. I completed my masters in European Law at the College of Europe in 2019.

I love running, yoga and climbing. Since coming back to Cork I will usually be found climbing up the walls in Awesome Walls or out on a hike on Sundays.

Clíona: I graduated from University College Cork in 2017 with a Bachelor of Civil Law. I undertook two internships during my studies – the first at a medium sized Cork based law firm and the second at OFX.

I love reading – anything by Jane Austen and WWII novels! My main hobby is horse riding. For years, you would find me competing at shows most weekends, but now I enjoy long hacks along country roads in the fresh air to relax. I love being active and outdoors.

How did you get your current position?

Niamh: I applied for the training programme during my masters. Training in Cork has always been my goal. OFX is a perfect size firm. As a trainee you get involved with substantive work and work directly with partners from large corporate transactions to big litigation disputes to conveyancing and will drafting. The diversity of work and in-depth exposure you get during your OFX traineeship is unique.

I applied for the training programme by emailing in a CV and cover letter. I flew home to do to the interview which happily coincided with the jazz weekend. OFX is a perfect fit for me because you get real hands-on experience and work directly with the partners and the clients to get the best training.

Clíona: I applied for the OFX Internship Programme which took place during May/June 2018. I was delighted to gain a spot on the programme as I had always hoped to complete my traineeship in Cork, and this felt like a great starting point.

The internship gave me an authentic insight into the work of a solicitor and how a firm operates. The programme affords interns the opportunity to work directly in various departments with lawyers who are experts in their fields.

During my internship, I got the chance to assist in the preparation of a case that ran in the High Court during the final week of my internship. The partner involved kindly allowed me to attend the case in Dublin. I had the opportunity to meet the clients, and attending gave me an invaluable insight into the workings of the Court and how a case is run, which was exciting and enriching.

Following the Internship Programme, I was given the opportunity to interview for a traineeship. I was over the moon to be offered the position on completion of my FE1 examinations in October 2018 and I have been really enjoying the experience to date.

What does a typical day in the office look like for you?

Niamh: There is no typical day which is what I love most about being a trainee. Every day brings something new and exciting to learn. At the moment I am doing my Commercial seat and I am involved in the acquisition of a nursing home.

My training programme is slightly different in that I am part of the PPC Hybrid class- which only started this year! The hybrid programme involves studying PPC1 and PPC2 whilst continuing to work. My PPC1 programme ran from January 2020 – October 2020. The hybrid programme affords students a chance to continue working whilst studying. OFX were very accommodating and allowed me work 3 days a week during this time. My course then ran for one weekend a month every month. Whilst those weekends were intense, I found working and studying simultaneously highly beneficial as I got to complement my studies with the benefit of the office insight.

Clíona: Each day is different. I am currently undertaking a seat in the Litigation department and am assisting in the process of discovery at present.  I have the opportunity to work on a variety of files, and tasks can include researching Irish and European law, preparing books for court, attending the district court on a watching brief and many more.

Recently, I was afforded the opportunity to sit in on a remote (due to the current Covid-19 pandemic) mediation. Although conducted remotely, the mediation followed the established process and was facilitated by one of Ireland’s top mediators. It was an extremely beneficial learning opportunity for me, from observing the partner’s interaction with our clients to soaking in the negotiation tactics employed by both sides.

No day is the same. Some days I will spend the day at my desk researching case law, drafting various documents, or pouring over a set of old title deeds. Other days can be spent attending meetings with my training solicitor or racing around the office putting together books for court, just in time for a deadline – I love the variety!

What do you most admire about your colleagues?

Niamh: Their dedication and precision. Most importantly how approachable everyone is and how generous they are with their time to ensure that the trainees get a thorough understanding of the work.

Clíona: OFX has an open-door policy. This means that the trainees can feel supported, knowing that questions are always welcomed, and that there is always the opportunity to discuss and learn from our colleagues. Their warmth and willingness to share so much of their time, expertise and enthusiasm is what I admire most. I feel privileged to work with colleagues who put so much time and hard work into what they do.

What has been your favourite part of your time at OFX to date?

Niamh: Going to Court and attending on Counsel. I love the formality of Court and the real buzz from litigation!

Clíona: It is hard to choose just one as I am really enjoying my training! Recently, I got the opportunity to sit in on a virtual board meeting. This gave me insight into how such meetings are conducted and how key issues are discussed amongst members. It was an excellent learning experience to observe the partner at OFX advising board members in relation to various legal issues pertaining to the project they met to discuss. I feel lucky to be afforded such exposure to high quality work and clients.

What inspired you to look at a career in Law?

Niamh: Someone once told me being a solicitor is one of the most creative things you can do– I couldn’t agree more!

Clíona: My love of languages – particularly English and French – and history in secondary school. The use of language is an essential skill for solicitors, and I find it intriguing that history has contributed to the formation of many laws which govern life today. For example, ground rents which are touched on by land law, are part of the history of Irish social and political agitation. I also enjoy working in a fast-paced environment such as a law firm as I find it stimulating and often exciting, and I knew it would be a good fit for me!

Is there any advice that you would give university students?

Niamh: Law can be a long road, enjoy the journey.

Clíona: Agreed, Niamh! Don’t be in a rush. The route to becoming a solicitor includes completing your undergraduate degree, then sitting the Law Society FE1 examinations. This usually takes between six to 18 months depending on how you approach these exams. Once you have completed the FE1 exams and secured a traineeship, you will compete your in-office training and the Professional Practice Courses 1 and 2 within a 24-month training period.

From the time you begin your undergraduate degree to the time you qualify as a solicitor is a long road, but can definitely be an enjoyable one and is most certainly worthwhile! I would advise students to get as much legal experience as possible in order to get a sense of what areas of law they are most interested in. And most importantly, don’t ignore your extracurricular activities. Get involved in clubs and societies that interest you – these can often be a great way to develop the skills that you might need to be a solicitor, and are also a great talking point in interviews.

Niamh Carey and Clíona O’Connell – Trainee Solicitors at O’Flynn Exhams LLP (2021)