The Diplomas in Professional Legal Practice are drawing to a close for yet another year. After five years of studying, the Scottish Law Student is filled with elation and relief as they realise school is out – forever!
Before you know it, you are approaching the first step of the legal ladder: ‘The Traineeship’. As I come towards the end of my first year at Blackadders, here are my top 5 tips on how to progress from Diploma Student to Trainee Solicitor.
- Get involved
If you want to get the most out of your traineeship, get involved with your firms’ activities. With each event that you attend, opportunities (both social and professional) arise. Since starting my traineeship with Blackadders, I have been invited to present to Diploma students at the University of Dundee, attended the Faculty Dinner, worked on my networking skills at professional events, and even joined our incredibly talented touch rugby team ‘The All Black-adders’!
I have found that by getting involved in these activities it has helped me create an invaluable network of colleagues with whom I have a positive relationship. Not only has it made my time at work more enjoyable, it has also provided a platform from which I can approach my colleagues for their assistance and advice. Having a number of colleagues who are ‘informal mentors’ has certainly aided my development, particularly when I have been faced with a challenge.
Furthermore, as someone who has moved to a new city, building connections at work has allowed me to get involved with various organisations in and around the area. For example I am now a member of the Dundee Rotaract and Tayside Young Professionals. In my opinion, being a successful trainee is not just about demonstrating your legal capabilities, but about showing you are a team player.
- Find the balance between using initiative and knowing when to ask for help
It is only natural that after five years of studying you will want to impress your new colleagues and hit the ground running. However, at the same time, it is important to remember a traineeship is a learning environment.
You might feel like you are asking a lot of questions – especially at the beginning of your new seat – but as you gain confidence and experience you will find some things become second nature to you. Don’t view asking your colleagues questions as a negative thing. However, where possible try to do some research of your own and see if you can find the answers by yourself. If you do have to ask, make sure you direct your questions at the appropriate people and be sensitive to other people’s workloads. Finally, if a colleague is giving you advice, listen to them carefully and take notes.
- Made a mistake? Hold up your hands!
Everybody makes mistakes. As a trainee, you are likely to make more mistakes than your more experienced colleagues. As soon as you realise you’ve made a mistake, tell whoever is supervising you. There is little that cannot be rectified by the wise words of one of your more experienced colleagues. However, the longer you leave a mistake, the more difficult it may become to fix. Your colleagues would much rather you came forward and held your hands up, to allow you to amend the error quickly and prevent having an unhappy client. It is important not to dwell on your mistakes but rather come clean, learn from them and move on.
- Learn how to network
Whether it fills you with excitement or dread, learning how to network effectively is an essential skill. Networking isn’t just about how many business cards you can hand out, but how many meaningful contacts you can make. Blackadders has provided excellent in-house training in relation to networking and again leaning on your colleagues’ experience is a very useful practice to help hone your skills. Start practising early and hopefully, with experience, you will find as I have, your confidence will grow and your networking skills will begin to develop smoothly.
In my experience, the traineeship has been a very eventful period. You will find that you have new workloads to manage, various processes to learn, people to meet, events to attend and before you know it, your start date seems like a lifetime ago. With all that in mind, find time to reflect. It is important to consider the areas that you feel you are doing well in, the areas you find more challenging and identify where you can improve moving forward in your traineeship. It is your traineeship and the beginning to your career and whilst the people around you are there to help, the onus is also on you to take control of your own learning.
I hope you find my top 5 tips helpful when starting your new traineeship. No doubt your new colleagues will have plenty more of their own, but for now, a little food for thought. Good luck!
Trainee Solicitor, Blackadders LLP
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