Before becoming a first seat trainee, I had worked as a Paralegal for BLM for just over three years and already had an understanding of the firm. Other than getting my training contract underway, one of the main things that excited me most was becoming more involved in BLM’s CSR activity.
BLM’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) approach is aimed at creating a positive social impact in the communities in which we live and work to foster a better world. The aim is to make a difference by partnering with national and local charity partners. The firm currently has two charity partners: Mind and SANE, which were selected by BLM employees. Trainees generally help out with BLM-organised charity events, but you can choose to become more heavily involved if you wish to. I was given the opportunity to become the London CSR Trainee Representative in my first seat which I was really pleased about. I am now an official member of the London CSR Committee and continue to plan events.
As the CSR rep, you attend your local CSR committee meetings, which consist of other employees who volunteer their time to organising events throughout the year. Meetings are used to brainstorm events that your office can hold/organise in the hope of raising as many funds as possible for our charity partners. Since I have been on the CSR committee I have had the pleasure of organising many events which have been a great success and really good fun! Over Christmas I organised the annual Christmas jumper day, alongside a raffle. All the prizes were donated by the partners and mostly consisted of alcohol which went down well with all the winners! In February, I planned a Valentine’s Day event which involved of a V-Day themed bake sale, a guess the number of hearts in a jar contest and a sweet sale.
In the run up to Easter, the CSR committee arranged a collection of Easter eggs for Great Ormond Street for the children’s egg hunt, which the London office fully engaged with! I most recently organised our Mental Health Awareness Week Quiz night, which is always a fun evening and a great way to raise money for our charity partners.
For trainees based in London, there is also the opportunity to get involved with our local Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB), which is held in the Royal Courts of Justice (RCJ). Our CAB volunteers are qualified solicitors and each volunteer undertakes a half-day session in which they will see four clients for approximately 45 minutes each to provide ad hoc advice on their claims. Some clients are new to the CAB and others are returning clients, seeking further advice on their claim. A trainee solicitor also attends each session, to provide assistance in advising the client and researching the issues at hand. This is a great way to challenge yourself in advising on issues that you may never be exposed to in your day-to-day work. It’s also really helpful to watch an experienced solicitor deal with legal issues and advise. Additionally, it’s a great way to give back and you can mention the skills used and gained in our Trainee diary.
Lastly, all of the London Trainees are able to take part in the London Legal Walk, which is 10km around London, starting and ending at the RCJ. Each year the CSR team set a sponsorship target and ask participants to do as much as they can to raise donations for the London Legal Support Trust. These funds are donated to charities that help to prevent homelessness, improve the living conditions of children in extreme poverty and combat discrimination and injustice. It also contributes to trusts that provide funds for charities such as Law Centres or CABs so that those who cannot afford to pay, have access to legal advice. This year the walk was held on 21 May 2018 and we were thrilled to surpass our target of £500.
For any future trainee, I would really recommend getting involved with CSR work and other extra-curricular activities. Helping out is so rewarding and your training contract is the ideal time to get involved, without the worry of having to juggle the extra work with increased targets when you are qualified.
At the end of the day, your training contract is what you make it and you have to make sure you get as much out of your two years as a trainee, as you possibly can!
Written by Emily Pilsbury, trainee solicitor at BLM