Property Dispute Resolution was my second seat at the firm, with my first seat being in Commercial Litigation and Dispute Resolution. Initially, I thought that this department may be such a specialist area of law that I wouldn’t have the necessary knowledge and also might not gain exposure to a wide range of cases. However, I have really enjoyed this seat and in spending time developing my knowledge and skills - I have gained exposure to such a wide variety of matters.
Property Dispute Resolution is concerned with any contentious matter involving property, both residential and commercial. It ranges from providing advice to clients on issues that have or may crop up with their properties, to acting for them in court proceedings. The work is split quite evenly between the two which provides a really good balance and range of work.
The matters I have worked on include residential possession claims, professional negligence claims against conveyancers, advice in relation to obligations under commercial leases and disputes over land ownership and rights of way. The first stage in a matter is usually to consider and advise on the strength of the client’s legal position and to send a pre-action letter to the other side, but if an issue can’t be resolved, we will often be instructed to commence court proceedings.
There is inevitably a close link with our Real Estate department, however, to my surprise I have found that there is also sometimes an overlap between the work we do and family-related matters. I have been involved in court proceedings relating to the sale of properties owned by relatives or a couple who are separating. This kind of work, which is highly personal and sensitive, adds a layer of complexity and requires you to tailor your approach to clients who may not have a legal or commercial background.
Undoubtedly one of the highlights during my time with the team was working on a case involving a family dispute over the ownership of a football club. My involvement ranged from attending client meetings and conferences with counsel, drafting witness statements and letters to the other side and actually attending several days of the trial in the High Court. On another case involving a neighbour dispute, I got the chance to attend a mediation at which a case was settled avoiding the need to go all the way to court.
Although the work can be demanding, my team is very supportive and approachable and it definitely helps being part of close group of trainees who often pop out to lunch together or meet in the kitchen to make a quick cup of tea. Being part of a relatively small trainee intake and team, I have found that the exposure and responsibility I have been given is far beyond what I was expecting as a trainee. We also get to be really involved with the firm, attending firm events and team meetings and getting an insight into the marketing and business development aspects of a law firm.
We are delighted that Stephanie Clarke completed her Training Contract and is now a Qualified Solicitor in SA Law's Family Law Team.