Advice for Trainees in Waiting – by Chloe Chan, Blackadders
As I come to the halfway point of my training contract, this feels like a good time to reflect on the past year. To those applying for training contracts, or waiting for their first day of their traineeship to arrive, here are some things I wish I knew before I started my traineeship:
- It takes a certain caliber and type of person to put themselves through legal education and the tough application process for training contracts. Apply that drive and commitment to your traineeship. The traineeship offers the luxury of ‘working on training wheels’, where you will always have the support of your supervisors and teams on-hand to assist. The exams and graded assignments we become so accustomed to at school are replaced with a daily test of your legal knowledge, skill and EQ to service the firm’s clients and your partners.
- The firm you are entering will most likely have seen many trainee solicitors come and go. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions – however, do know who and when to ask them. Concentration is a scarce commodity in practice, and repeated or obvious questions will be noted. I was impressed by how efficiently and effectively the teams worked together and collaboratively across the firm. I found that even as a new employee, I had access to the partners and senior members of staff.
- Being a trainee is more than knowing about substantive law in the beginning as you learn to adapt to your firm’s processes. The first few weeks of starting the traineeship is a huge learning curve in itself, by learning how to navigate the file management systems, time recording (when does having to account for every 6 minutes of your working day become any easier?), finance processes and drafting simple documents.
- Whatever you have been asked to draft as a trainee has probably been drafted before! Thankfully, our firm has a comprehensive and up to date Styles bank, which allows the sharing of complex or more specific templates across all areas of the law we practice in. If you are asked to do something that is completely foreign, it is worth searching the Styles bank as often you may find something similar what you need – and then adapt accordingly to suit what you require.
- Say yes – so many opportunities are offered to trainees, including some that may be outside your comfort zone. It is worth trying everything at least once, and offering to be of assistance wherever possible. Adopting this approach will get your name known by your colleagues across the different offices. Bringing enthusiasm, energy and an open attitude will open doors not only for career progression but also in a social context. Having participated as a guest, and offering to volunteer at firm events, I have increasingly understood the importance of business development and how to grow your firm’s reputation in an industry saturated with legal service providers.
- Whenever I have been reluctant to try something, I have come out of that experience with a different and more positive outlook. Throughout the past year, I have learnt to approach things with an open mind and learn how to be flexible in unknown situations. If you are invited to attend an event after work, or asked to get involved with your firm’s marketing social media campaigns, say yes!
- Many of the things I have learnt in the last year haven’t been taught in a tutorial or learnt from a book. For example, I have been fortunate to sit in many client meetings with my supervisors. Observing the way they communicate with the client has taught me how to develop my own professional tone and mannerisms. Emulating the aspects I admire from others in my own work has been something I hugely value from my traineeship and will be something that I will carry throughout my entire career.
- Every task, even the ones that seem mundane and routine, presents an opportunity to learn and add value for the firm. The more you do it, the easier and quicker it becomes. If you are allowed to dictate then learn how to do the actual task manually before delegating.
- ‘No problems, only solutions’ is a saying something my supervising partner has drilled into me since day one. A day hasn’t gone by in my traineeship where I am faced with something new and unknown. The traineeship is a steep learning curve, one where you learn very quickly, and it is easy to find yourself in a panic when you are faced with the unknown. Stepping back from the seemingly big problem is important, and then identifying the first course of action. Keeping a note or diary of the answers and useful contacts, websites, articles etc. will prove useful in the event that the issue arises a second time. It is also useful approaching colleagues or trainees who may have completed the seat you are in to ask if they have ever come across the problem at hand.
While I was at university I was advised to ‘take ownership’. By bringing your ideas and productivity to the table, it demonstrates that you can be trusted to get on with your assigned tasks and be accountable as a team member. Your traineeship is what you make of it, don’t forget to enjoy the ride!
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