I arrive in the office early. I would like to say because it’s too hot to work during the day – like I’m some 18th Century aristocrat touring the Continent. Or that there is a ‘start-early ‘leave-early’ policy so we can catch the early baccarat games at the Casino. The more mundane reality is that there’s six fee earners in the office and I’m the only trainee so there’s a lot for me to do.
I start by going through my emails from overnight and reviewing my ‘to-do’ list for the day. We act for a lot of commodity traders and charterers in this office – whose approach to receiving legal advice is the same as their approach to business. We want it quickly, we want it cheaply and we want it now. So it is inevitable that a load has come in overnight that requires pretty swift attention. You also have to be very pro-active with the work that comes in from clients – if I think I’m qualified to take a stab at something before the fee earner gets to it I’ll let them know immediately and get it done.
After the initial flurry of morning emails has subsided and I’ve had my first espresso of the day I get into some of the heftier jobs that I have on the go. One of our big clients down here chartered a vessel that didn’t have any working cranes – needed to load the vessel. So they deducted a lot of hire which the owners weren’t very happy about. I am drafting the letter to the owners’ lawyers that explains exactly why our client made these deductions.
One of the big benefits of being in this office is that we are often instructed by clients from the very start of the problem. We were called for some initial advice as the vessel arrived to load so we know, pretty much, exactly what went on from the get-go. This often gives us a bit of an advantage over our opponents who only know what they are told after the event. Another benefit is that half of our clients work in the same building, so if we need to ask them about something – we just pop to their office.
After getting the first draft of the letter over to the fee earner I crack on. We do a lot of smaller claims for clients who don’t have dedicated legal departments and I’m running a couple of small demurrage claims. I need to instruct Counsel to prepare the Claim Form and Particulars of Claim as clients have had enough of waiting to be paid. So I pull together all of the supporting documents and draft a brief background to the facts so Counsel knows what is going on.
I have a call with an expert for an investment dispute that I’m involved with. This a case that I was on in London but as the partner is often in the Monaco office I’ve kept running it. We are trying to allege that a charterer was negligent in making a lot of fixtures. It involves a lot of discussion with Counsel and our expert. The expert wanted to discuss a number of allegations that had been made by the Counsel in our pleadings. So we talk through this, I draft a quick file note and an update to Counsel and the partner and head out for lunch.
It’s sunny and thing aren’t (too) hectic in the office so we all head out to one of the restaurants by the Port for a quick team lunch. This is one of the best things about working in a smaller office – we do a lot more as a whole team. This is great because you know what everyone is getting up to and we will often talk through matters as a group so you learn a lot.
We all get back into the office and straight back into work. A number of emails have come in over lunch that the fee earners want me to review and prepare first draft responses on so I get on with that. Quite a lot of my time is spent drafting the longer responses to opponents or the bigger updates to clients. This is great because it allows me to keep my finger on the pulse of all the cases we have but it also means I can put my own ideas forward as to how we can push a matter forward. If I have an idea, for example recommending a certain course of action to a client, then I’ll stick it in my draft and discuss it with the fee earner.
We have some urgent emails come in from a client who have a vessel discharging in the Yemen that is running dangerously short of fuel and supplies. The client needs quick advice on what to do. I’m tasked with reviewing the charterparty and assessing what the clients’ rights are.
When doing these sort of tasks not only do you have to have an eye on the legal position but you also need to be aware of the facts on the ground. As the vessel is discharging in the Yemen it cannot refuel or get supplies from the port because it is for all intents and purposes a war zone. So I have to figure out whether the client has the right to stop discharge and take the vessel to Djibouti – the nearest safe port. In this instance this has further legal implications as vessels need special permits from the UN coalition to discharge so we have to figure out whether the vessel would need new permits if it leaves and comes back. After reviewing the charterparty I draft advice for the client and pass it onto the fee earner for final review before it is sent out.
We all leave the office a little early today as we have an event at the Monaco Propeller Club. The Propeller Club put on monthly talks on the current legal and commercial shipping market which the whole office are encouraged to attend. Not only is it a great opportunity to show your face and do some marketing but it is also a good chance to keep yourself updated with what is going on in the legal and commercial markets. It has the added benefit of an open bar and a sit down meal.
Propeller Club event finishes and I head back to my flat in Nice. Another fun and busy day on the Cote d’Azur complete.