Valuable life skills

Gaining valuable life skills is a key benefit of work placements. Just over a year ago Fyling Hall’s now Head Girl, Phoebe, commenced her work placement at Pinkney Grunwells Lawyers LLP. Written shortly after her placement, Phoebe kindly shares her experience and makes the case for gaining valuable life skills, which also provided her with great content on her recent UCAS application.

My work experience was guided by the solicitor, Amy Arnold, who is also a Trustee at Fyling Hall School. I wanted this opportunity to develop skills like customer service and to experience an office environment.  I knew in myself that I personally do not want to pursue a career in law, so I was a bit concerned.  And on the first day I was really nervous. However, my concerns were not necessary.

From the first day, Amy and the rest of the employees at Pinkney Grunwells welcomed and included me- even if I got in their way a bit. When I first arrived to the office, Amy talked me through her job and the different sectors that law has (e.g. matrimonial, housing, etc). She also talked me through different websites and criteria they have to use in different circumstances. Amy specialises in property and land law so Deeds and other types of certifications were talked about too. I believe that this initial day served the purpose of an introduction to the ‘law world’ and unexpectantly, I was very intrigued.

During my second visit, I learnt about the journey or the necessary steps that have to be completed in order to close a file, or in other words complete a buy/sell. The most vital ‘step’ in this chain is when the contracts are exchanged and hopefully eventually signed as this is the final clarification of intent. For the rest of my two hours slot I just helped with photocopying and scanning certain documents which even in itself is a useful skill.

The next time I went in, Amy had been to a hearing in court about a certain area of land. In this type of hearing the result was made by a vote, securing Amy with the ‘win’, so in subsequence to this she talked me through the steps she took and what she said which earned her this ‘win’. I had the task later to assign and organise different files and deeds which had to be stored in a very formulated way … maybe aiding to why I made a couple mistakes. I also got to read through a closed file, which provided me with information and also showed the entire process of a property selling case.

Another time I began on reception but scribed some voicemails which was relatively straight forward. I also had the opportunity to sit in on both of Amy’s client meetings, so I knew what was said and how Amy managed expectations. I noticed that when something was described to either of the clients Amy simplified her language to ensure that everything that she said was completely understood. In each meeting Amy laid out any of her concerns and talked about all, if any, restrictions and also the accumulation of searches that were undergone at each property. Both clients seemed to have left these meeting pleased, so this opportunity also gave me the insight of how to manage different types of clients – i.e. customer service.

On one visit my first task was leaning the correct protocol when closing completed cases. Annabelle, Amy’s assistant, first showed me how, then I completed the rest on my own. I learnt that every file must have a ‘Date of Destruction’ (DOD) which is always 15 years from the files’ completion date, e.g. if a file was completed on 27/02/2020 the DOD would be 27/02/2065. I also learnt that all files are primarily stored within the firm itself for three years and then transported to an additional warehouse for another twelve years before being destroyed. Amy also talked to me about the complexities and different types of Stamp Duty.

You must pay ‘Stamp Duty Land Tax’ (SDLT) if you buy a property or land over a certain price. The current SDLT threshold is £125,000 for residential properties and £150,000 for non-residential  properties.

The 12th of March was my final placement at the firm (due to the coronavirus outbreak) and I was on reception for the entire time. As there were not frequent calls, Amy also prepared a dictation that I could write up (Amy often did this for Annabelle and usually it is for emails that are to be sent out to clients). By the end of the day, mail had to be collected throughout the office, which also meant that each outgoing letter had to be franked, using a franking machine. Before my time here I had never even heard of a franking machine nevertheless how to use one!

If I am completely honest, I truly did not expect to enjoy my work experience at Pinkney Grunwells to the extent that I did! All of the people in the office are lovely and so friendly, I felt completely included! I believe that I have learnt and achieved everything and more compared to what I set my expectations to. I really do believe that this experience has gifted me with vital skills that I will definitely use in the future. I just want to say thank you so much Amy for opening your work life to me and always providing me with beneficial tasks, even on your busiest days. I would definitely encourage more people to do work experience because even if you do not know what you want to do after Sixth Form, every placement will provide valuable life skills that can really only be taught in physical working settings.

Phoebe Russell, Year 12 (at the time of writing)