Back to overview

Meet the lawyer

David Tomlin

David Tomlin

University: Cardiff University
Degree: Marine geography
Year of qualification: 2021
Position: Solicitor
Department: Disputed wills and trusts

Tell us about your journey into law and to Ashfords LLP

I studied marine geography (who doesn’t love the ocean!?) at Cardiff University after finishing college. That led me to a career as a hydrographic surveyor and later operations supervisor for a multinational company. I decided to follow my other passion (that being the law) by completing a law degree through The Open University while working full time.

Once I’d graduated with my law degree I took the plunge and joined a national law firm as a paralegal. From there I joined Ashfords as a trainee solicitor and now live happily in Devon.

What attracted you to a career in law?

One of the things that attracted me to law was that it offered diverse career options; there are so many different areas that you can specialise in – for example, contentious, non-contentious and transactional. I also like the idea that law allows you to work in a dynamic environment with new case law and new/developing legislation, which means you need to constantly keep learning and adapting. I’ve always been a stickler for detail and the law encourages that!

The law also gives you an opportunity to help people (often through some of the most difficult periods of their lives) and I find that very rewarding.

Why solicitor not barrister?

I like working in a team and interacting directly with clients. When I was deciding between solicitor or barrister, the research I did suggested that barristers did not have as much direct exposure to clients and often work by themselves, albeit in chambers. Solicitors tend to work with others in their team/department and have more client contact, which is what solidified my decision.

How did you decide which firms to apply to?

I wanted to join a firm in the South West because that’s where I wanted to be based. I did some research to find which firms would suit me in that region. I already knew about Ashfords and that it was a leading firm in the region and nationally. I was impressed by the firm’s ethos and ambitions for the future. I think it’s important to properly research firms before applying because the firm needs to be the right fit for you as much as you need to be the right fit for the firm.

How does the qualification process work at Ashford?

You get emailed a list of available posts a couple of months before you’re due to qualify. Hopefully by that time you’ll have worked hard and impressed colleagues while in the seat of the team that you want to qualify into and made it clear to the head of the department that you’d like to qualify into that team. If more than one person applies for that post, it goes to an interview process.

What do you wish you’d known about being a trainee before you started that you now do?

Keep an open mind if you get allocated a seat that you don’t think you’ll be interested in. I wasn’t particularly fond of civil litigation on the Legal Practice Course and I couldn’t see myself qualifying into a litigation role until I did a seat with the litigation side of the firm’s construction and infrastructure team. To my surprise, I absolutely loved it.

Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?

The work that the team is involved with is very varied, which keeps me on my toes! We may be involved in contesting a will or defending a claim and providing specialist advice and assistance in relation to will and estate disputes. Particular highlights include: advising on invalid wills, fraudulent wills, undue influence, mental capacity, Inheritance Act claims and claims against executors.

On a typical day, I might be drafting pleadings, meeting clients and corresponding with the other parties in a dispute.

Please discuss a specific deal/case that you were involved with, outlining your role in the matter.

At the moment, I’m involved in assisting a partner with the day-to-day management of a complicated case where we’re pursuing an executor who’s been removed by the court (we were instructed in the removal proceedings) for the recovery of properties that formed part of an estate and which the executor transferred into their name. The case has many moving parts and has involved a lot of digging and research!  

What do you most/least enjoy about your career and why?

I enjoy the client contact and particularly helping clients to reach a positive outcome. Ashfords give you the opportunity to take ownership of client contact and relationships early on in the form of telephone calls, emails and client meetings.

I also enjoy problem solving and legal research. Applying case law and statute to the facts of a case and making arguments is always interesting.

Sometimes the hours can be quite long. While Ashfords has a good work/life balance, there are occasions when you have to work late – especially if there’s an imminent deadline. What I will say is that it’s very satisfying to help clients reach a positive outcome at the end of the day, even if it means working those hours sometimes.

What makes your firm stand out from the rest?

The firm is very ambitious and strives to be the best. I recall on the first day being impressed by high standards of the firm and the opportunities available to grow and progress. Ashfords offers good quality work, excellent clients and a good work/life balance.

What advice do you have for budding solicitors who are contemplating a career in law?

Make sure that a career in law is what you really want to do because it’s a long road to qualification which can be expensive and stressful! Try to get work experience early on because it’ll help you decide whether law is something you want to do for your career. It may also help you to decide what type of firm you’d like to apply to going forward, which is important.

What is the wider culture like (eg, are there sports teams/trips out? Is there an LGBTQ+ group or women’s group)?

The firm has a great culture. There’s a summer party where all the offices descend on one location for a big annual get-together. There are team away days, Christmas events and charitable events. Exeter does have a football team, which is good fun, and there are other teams and organised activities. A group of colleagues from Ashfords recently completed the Three Peaks Challenge for the firm’s chosen charity – Winston’s Wish.

On top of that, there's Ashfords XYBC, which is a group run by the firm that offers young professionals within the Exeter business community the opportunity to network and socialise. I’m actually part of the XYBC committee and I help to arrange the various networking events! The aim is to organise networking events for those who are just starting out.

Describe the firm in three words.

Progressive, ambitious and supportive.

How often as a trainee were you communicating directly with clients (calls, attending meetings)?

I completed most of my training contract during the pandemic, so I wasn’t fortunate enough to meet lots of clients face to face. However, I did get the opportunity to sit in on client meetings held via Microsoft Teams and also email clients when appropriate. Of course, I wasn’t emailing detailed legal advice – it was mostly updates on the case and the next steps. I was fortunate that Ashfords encouraged client interaction because it’s one of my favourite things about being a solicitor.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Not so much a guilty pleasure, but I’m a keen cyclist and get out on my bike as often as possible. I recently cycled from London to Paris.