Trainees swap roles to find out how the other half works

Chris Fogarty reports

Bristol's St John's Chambers and law firm Bevan Ashford have pioneered an exchange programme between trainee solicitors and pupil barristers in a bid to improve communication and understanding between the two legal sectors.

Under the scheme pupil barrister John Dickinson spent two days in March working in Bevan Ashford's commercial litigation department, while trainee solicitor Ed Crosse was packed off to chambers.

"It is helpful to see how solicitors operate because it helps you as a barrister to focus on what they want," said Dickinson. "It focuses your mind on how two elements of a legal team work."

Dickinson's work at Bevan Ashford, the largest law firm in the South West, included interviewing clients and preparing instructions.

At St John's, a broad-based set with 38 tenants, Crosse attended court with a barrister who was appearing in a professional negligence claim. He also spent a day with a banking barrister learning about case preparation including constructing skeleton arguments to present the background of a case.

"One of the most important lessons I learned was how barristers can work more efficiently when they receive solicitors' instructions that are well structured and, quite simply, presented in the right order," said Crosse.

Bevan Ashford commercial litigation partner Charles Metherell said the trainees were fully debriefed to ensure both organisations got the most out of the experience with the ultimate aim being to offer clients a more streamlined service.

Bevan Ashford marketing manager Sarah Hall added that all barristers chambers complain about the way solicitors operate and this was a way in which both her firm and St John's Chambers thought they could improve their working relationship.

While Bevan Ashford has not decided whether it will extend the scheme to other chambers there are already plans to repeat the exercise with more trainees at St John's Chambers.