John Thompson, Trainee in the Russell-Cooke Solicitors, private client team.

A year and a half as a trainee at Russell-Cooke

John Thompson, Trainee in the Russell-Cooke Solicitors, private client team.
John Thompson
5 min Read

Third-seat trainee John Thompson reflects on the invaluable experience he has gained across a broad range of services at Russell-Cooke, highlighting why you should apply for a training contract at the firm.

A year flies by when you are a trainee. Having reached this milestone, I find myself in the fortunate position of being able to reflect on my experiences encountered in three distinct training areas: property litigation, private client, and corporate & commercial law.  

I hope that through my reflection prospective trainees can get an idea of what’s on offer at Russell-Cooke, and what to potentially expect from the early stages of your legal career.

Property litigation: variety is the ‘spice of life’

Stepping into property litigation, I was immediately immersed in a world of disputes and intricacies surrounding property rights. I reflected on this seat in my earlier blog: property litigation: a great answer to ‘why law?’ (a shameless plug, I know). I concluded that this was a seat for a trainee who believed that variety is 'the spice of life' and who enjoyed working with substantive subjects with tangible impacts. I still stand by this conclusion and now in my third seat, I can reflect on the key skills I picked up from contentious practice, that have carried me through my training contract, namely: 

  • Time management and prioritisation: the challenge of meeting court deadlines helped me to develop good practice around time management and my work flow (your outlook calendar and to-do lists can become your best friends).
  • Legal analysis: advice and case preparation in litigation naturally involves a significant amount of legal research to identify the issues presented in a client’s case, and to evaluate the strengths of potential legal arguments. This discipline also carries over to non-contentious practice. 
  • Communication: a maxim I was taught on day one was that ‘law is a relationship business.’ In the context of litigation, I learned that this not only applied to building a positive rapport with clients, but also with colleagues within the team, and across other departments.

Private client: estates, inheritance and client contact

Transitioning to Russell Cooke’s private client team offered an entirely different experience in non-contentious practice. Here, the focus shifted to the more personal aspects of law. Working on wills and trusts meant gaining experience handling the estates for clients during their lifetime and also during probate. I felt a great sense of privilege meeting clients with a broad range of experiences, and being part of a team entrusted with such responsibility as planning their estate. If anything, I would recommend this seat alone based on the insight it can deliver to one’s own future planning.

With such a focus on client contact, it was a seat where empathy played a pivotal role. Understanding the intricacies of a client's life, such as their family dynamics was key for delivering advice and for instructing documents that met the client’s objectives. For example, when drafting a letter of wishes in relation to funeral wishes, it was important to explore a client’s personal, religious and cultural beliefs to ensure that their wishes were fully communicated in line with their principles.

The aforementioned maxim of ‘law is a relationship business’ also featured prominently in this seat. As a trainee, I was responsible for compiling the information required for inheritance tax returns and for liaising with the deceased’s estate and third parties to ensure proper administration surrounding probate. Far from being confined to mundane tasks, I found as a trainee at Russell Cooke that I was helping to manage relations with the estate, and at times negotiating with third parties.  

This also extended to my work with the team’s Court of Protection and deputy matters– where the firm is instructed by Russell-Cooke Trust Company to assist with manging the financial affairs of people who have lost capacity. This included helping with visits to people in care to check that they were properly supported, and to speak to them to understand their needs and wishes. In this aspect, I also helped arrange for services for people lacking capacity who were living at home. 

Corporate & commercial: a complete package

I’m now in the third phase of my training contract with the corporate and commercial team (otherwise known as ‘CoCo’).  

CoCo are well-regarded for their work with assisting startups. In my experience, this has led to working with clients at particularly exciting times of their entrepreneurial journeys – including assisting with advice on documents for fundraising rounds (such as share option agreements).  

Beyond startups, I’ve also had the opportunity to incorporate companies, and assist with the drafting of constitutional and ancillary documents across a range of sectors, including property management companies, and companies owned by trusts for estate management. This has enabled me to maintain relations with colleagues that I’ve built in previous seats, and also get to meet other colleagues, as the team very much works hand-in-hand to support these other departments. The ease of referral has also given me insight into the value that can be provided to clients, by working in a full-service firm.

The other advantage as a trainee is that due to the structure of the team (‘corporate’ and ‘commercial’), I am exposed to the full spectrum of transactional work. Not only does this keep the work fresh and novel (as there is always a new problem to solve), but has enabled me to get a broader understanding of the deals that the team are working on, and a sense of the bigger picture of the transactions.

Why Russell-Cooke?

Throughout my training contract, I've come to recognise the invaluable lessons ingrained within each area. Property litigation instilled in me the significance of methodical analysis and time management. Private client work helped show me the human side of law, emphasising empathy and the profound impact legal decisions have on individuals and families, as well as best practice with daily case management. Working in CoCo has so far sharpened my commercial acumen, and given me insight into the broad range of intricacies in deal-making.

The socially active culture of Russell-Cooke has also been present across all teams I’ve trained in. Recently, I attended the Great British Entrepreneur Awards (GBEA) as part of the contingent from CoCo. Aside from being good fun, opportunities such as this are excellent for networking with colleagues and stakeholders alike.

Overall, I have felt that Russell-Cooke has provided me with a unique opportunity as a trainee to gain insight across the broad range of work, with a significant degree of responsibility. For the variety and quality of work on offer alone at Russell-Cooke, I couldn’t recommend applying for a training contract here highly enough. 

Applications for the 2026 Russell-Cooke graduate training are open from  16 November 2023 until 16 February 2024. 

Get in touch

Visit our graduate recruitment portal for further information on our training contracts and vacation scheme.

Blogs Trainee blog graduate trainee trainee lawyer training contract legal training legal training contract third-seat trainee property litigation private client estates inheritance corporate and commercial CoCo