‘Unsupervised’ trainee awarded £36k after enduring training contract from hell

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By Legal Cheek on


Handed two lawyers’ caseloads on second day

A trainee, who was frequently left “unsupervised” and asked to handle the caseloads of two qualified lawyers on her second day, has been awarded £36,000 in damages by an employment tribunal.

The tribunal found that the Mayfair firm Gillen De Alwis Solicitors, which has since entered into administration, “failed to fulfil the fundamental purpose of a training contract”.

It heard that R. Kaur joined the firm in the summer of 2021 and, two days in, was given the “caseload responsibility” of two temporarily employed qualified lawyers, following an email handover.

The tribunal noted that shortly before Kaur joined, the property department became short staffed due to the passing of the solicitor in charge.

This situation seems to have put the department under serious pressure, with Kaur explaining that she and an intern were left to their “own devices at times” and frequently “unsupervised”, often approving documents without them being checked.

It was also noted that less than two weeks into her TC, the trainee had still not received an induction, and evidence showed that one of the firm’s founding partners, Shehani De Alwis, had “made comments that her contract would be in jeopardy” if certain tasks weren’t completed immediately.

Kaur said it was “common place” for clients to complain about lack of progress on their files.

The tribunal noted that another director of the firm emailed the same founding partner, expressing concern about the “threats to terminate her contract” and describing the treatment of the new trainee as “unfair”.

The tribunal further found that De Alwis “bullied and harassed” Ms Kaur, criticising her for not completing tasks she had actually finished, which De Alwis hadn’t noticed due to not reading the emails, and at one point, screaming at her on the telephone. The trainee was also taken off tasks and then shortly put back on them, and she was moved into different departments without notice.

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Kaur raised her concerns in meetings and emails about the way the firm was being run and how she was being treated on numerous occasions, but received no response.

The trainee eventually filed a written report to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), a move she mentioned to the firm she was considering but did not confirm she had done.

In April 2022, the firm summarily dismissed Kaur, less than halfway through her training contract.

On this, Judge Leonard-Johnston dismissed the firm’s argument that the trainee was fired for misconduct.

“I have already found that the claimant was not guilty of misconduct, and I place weight on the fact that the respondent, who was after all a firm of solicitors, carried out no investigation or disciplinary procedure at all from which I draw an inference that the respondent did not seriously consider this to be a misconduct case,” the judge said. “Nor did the respondent respond in any way to the claimant’s grievances. As per my findings above, particularly in relation to the timing of her dismissal, I find that the claimant has established it is more likely than not that the reason for her dismissal was the complaints she was making about the firm’s management.”

The judge awarded Kaur over £36,062 for unfair dismissal and an additional £362 for breach of contract after the firm dismissed her without notice.



Experience not completely unheard of. Most trainees don’t complain, grit their teeth and complete the TC.

Hopefully the SQE will mean such people feel able to leave firms like that more readily and continue their qualifying experience elsewhere

US doyen

Not unheard of. It happens at US firms everyday, where unsupervised trainees are tasked to manage multi-billion pounds financing and M&A transactions.

Billy Big Boots

sure it does…

Lives in reality

Complete rubbish


In my day, being screamed at down the phone was getting off lightly!

Sink or swim?

Lool there’s probs a few satellite US firms like this ….


K&E, Goodwin and Paul Hastings.


And that’s why I prefer a firm with structured training even if the other firm they pays significantly better

Archibald O'Pomposity

“And that’s why I prefer a firm with structured training even if the other firm they pays significantly better”

Did you receive any structured training in how to properly structure a sentence?


Yup, and on £150k too 😂 – how about you grammar police?


Seems a bit too far but lots of responsibility is not uncommon. I was in my 2nd seat in finance (on my 2nd deal) when the associate I was working with had to sleep (they were traveling) and I got left alone to finish off closing that night.

Not a lot to do tbf (sigs and a few redlines / reviewing final docs) but did significantly increase blood pressure as I was on my jack jones.

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