Social media… power at your fingertips

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This week’s blog post is a guest post from the firm’s communications team. Having deliberated on the topic, the team thought they’d offer their expertise on how a trainee solicitor can make the most out of PR and social media in the workplace, which will certainly help them in their future careers.

Social media activity amongst law firms is becoming increasingly important for their own marketing and communications strategy.  For many firms it serves as a route to get in front of potential clients, future trainees and employees and a variety of important stakeholders to their businesses. Trainee solicitors today should make the most of social media to not only help promote what their firms are doing but as a way of raising their own profiles and staying connected in a fast-paced and ever changing digital world.

For many of us, social media has become the norm in our everyday lives. From Twitter accounts to LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook, the majority of us tend to spend at least a few hours a week either knowingly or unknowingly searching hash tags, viewing other peoples’ profiles or just keeping on top of what is going on in the world, social media has become a big part of day-to-day life for so many.

For many law firms, trainees can be seen as best placed to help in contributing to the firm’s online presence and upholding its social media strategy, and with the help of the communications team, trainees at Gateley Plc are responsible for sharing trainee news and events from across the English offices.

However, for all the good that social media serves, it is quite easy for a business or an individual to fall on the wrong side of this communications platform.  Such possible pitfalls are easily avoidable when the basics of what not to do on social media are understood.

So what things should you think about when using social media?

  1. Remember you are not only representing yourself but the company you work for.
  2. Always have your audience in mind when using social media. If you think someone will be offended, it’s better not to say anything.
  3. Comments posted on social media are never private… you are putting your views out there for the world to see and once it’s done it is not easy to backtrack.
  4. Think about what you are saying and the potential impact it could have on your job and future career before posting or sharing anything on social media.
  5. Comments and images will always have the potential to ‘go viral’ and by talking about a ‘trending’ topic you should be aware that this becomes part of a vast online discussion and as such can be viewed by millions of people around the world.

Another common question trainees often ask when starting their contract is “How do I deal with a journalist?” Be it in a face to face situation or over the phone.

These instances may occur when you are asked for an interview for a publication such as the Lawyer2B.  When such opportunities become available the firm’s communications team will help you prepare for any interview that might take place or article that needs to be written.

Don’t worry though, as a trainee you are not expected to be a ready-made communications expert, you will develop these skills as you undergo your contract.  What is important is that you work with the firm’s communications team for any support you need and to ensure that internal and external stakeholders are kept up-to-date with topics of interest and trainee activity via social media and other communication platforms that are available.

This post was edited by Dominic Walker-Edwards. For more information, email blogs@gateleyplc.com.

Training trainees in the eyes of the SRA

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As trainees working in busy departments, it’s difficult to find time to reflect on what our training contracts actually mean, and what the SRA requires us to achieve in order to qualify when the two years are up. In fact, before writing this blog post, I had not really considered these questions at all.

Training contracts are now governed by the SRA’s Training Regulations (the Regulations), with the vast majority of trainees going through the tried and tested route of LPC into Training Contract and Professional Skills Course (PSC) in order to meet the requirements for qualification.

What do the Regulations say?

The Regulations specify ‘outcomes’ which trainees must achieve before they are allowed to qualify. We must demonstrate an appropriate standard of competence in the work that we do; that we have gained appropriate practical experience; that we have excellent communication skills; and that we are of the required character and suitability. Progress in these areas is monitored through the appraisal process. Here at Gateley Plc, we have formal progress reviews in the middle of each seat, and at the end of each seat.

How does Gateley Plc ensure trainees meet the requirements of the Regulations?

The Regulations require all trainees to gain practical experience in at least 3 distinct areas of English or Welsh law. At Gateley, we are required to take one property seat, one contentious seat and one corporate seat, with the final seat being one of our own choosing and this allows us to get to know the firm’s different practice areas in detail, and understand how they come together on more complex transactions. We are also given the chance to see where our own strengths lie, and which practice areas suit us. The SRA also sets out core “practice skills” that we are to develop as trainees. Whilst these include skills such as; legal research, advocacy, interviewing and presenting skills that we are already familiar with from our LPC days, some of the more commercial skills like case and transaction management and client care can only really be learned from practical experience.

As Gateley trainees, we are encouraged to work with different fee-earners in their own specialist areas in order to get as much experience as we can in our six-month seats. Each fee-earner has their own tried and tested way of working, and it is useful for us to compare these methods so that we can decide what works best for us and develop the skills that we will need on qualification.

How does the SRA ensure trainees meet the requirements of the Regulations?

Alongside day-to-day in-seat work, the SRA also requires trainees to take the PSC course. This is the last study-based element in our legal training. The course is broken down into modules covering a variety of skills such as negotiation, ADR and commercial property, with a more academic Finance and Business skills module in which we learn about different types of investment, and how regulations affect our financial work as solicitors. All of these are vital to our development as lawyers, but can also be a lot of fun and a great way to catch up with our counterparts from the firm’s other offices.

The SRA sets out in broad terms the essential skills and objectives that must be achieved during our training contracts. However, these only form part of our development as lawyers. It is through experience, learning from colleagues and assisting them on their transactions, that we add the finishing touches to our legal training.

This post was edited by David Williams. For more information, email blogs@gateleyplc.com.

Corporate life in Manchester

Manchester City on a Road Map

Usually when trainees hear the word corporate, somewhere a ‘clanging chime of doom’ rings! I was rather apprehensive before starting the seat and can happily confirm that the rumours aren’t true. The complexity and breadth of work that I have been exposed to has greatly improved and honed my legal skills.

Manchester is now often referred to as ‘the second city’ (mainly by people in Manchester however, so we may just be blowing our own trumpet)! As such a lot of big businesses have moved ‘up north’ which means the type of client and complexity of the deals is on par with the deals done in other cities such as London and Birmingham.

Whilst some of the deals may perhaps be larger in London, the firm’s junior lawyers are definitely given a great deal of responsibility throughout the transaction. Exposure to high-end deals allows junior lawyers to experience the glamorous and the not-so glamorous side of corporate law first hand. I have been involved in a number of large completions and have been asked to draft documents (under strict supervision of course). The experience I have already gained from my seat will help me going forward into my final seat and to NQ level, as the fast paced nature of the department forces me to be highly organised and manage expectations of both those around me and our clients.

Smaller deals are also a great way for junior lawyers to be involved, and in some cases, manage a transaction from start to finish. Smaller deals also encourage great client interaction. In many cases our client will not have bought or sold a business before and as such will require a lot more assistance and input from us. Stylistically, the seat also teaches you the importance of knowing your audience, as some clients require a thorough understanding of the deal whereas other clients who are involved in numerous transactions are usually familiar with each stage of the process, and so don’t require the same level of explanation or detail.

Working in a regional team also affords junior lawyers the opportunity to build strong and lasting relationships with clients, as they are usually resident in the locality.

This post was edited by Hannah Edmondson. For more information, email blogs@gateleyplc.com.

New Year resolutions

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As the New Year begins many people will make a New Year’s resolution, a personal promise to make a small change to their everyday life that will benefit them in the year ahead. My fellow trainees and I have just had our mid seat appraisals, these will have inevitably included some points to focus on in the next three months of our seats. So as 2016 rolls in, we have put together a few New Year’s resolutions for the working year ahead:

  1. Be more organised

Being more organised can be as simple as taking 10 minutes on a Monday morning to write a to-do list for the week or diarising key deadlines. These simple steps will give a handy visual reminder of what needs to be done and when, it will help you prioritise key tasks and ensure key deadlines are not missed.

  1. Network more effectively

Yes, it can be daunting but expanding your legal and professional network is important. Make your LinkedIn profile stand out for the right reasons. Attend professional social events. There are many throughout the year in cities across the UK and you never know, you may just enjoy it. The more events you attend, the less daunting they become, trust me!

  1. Focus on your communication skills

This includes oral and written communication as both play a major role in working life and it is vital that any form of communication is clear, concise and accurate. The more drafting that you do, the better your communication skills will become. Equally, picking up the phone to a client or another solicitor, can be nerve wracking at first, but eventually it becomes second nature.

  1. “Calm down dear…it’s only a training contract!”

Don’t worry! This is a lot more easily said than done, especially if you have a number of competing deadlines. Speak up and tell your supervisor or a member of the team if you find that you feel you have a little too much on your plate as they are there to help you. Stress can make things feel worse than they actually are; instead, try to ask as many questions as you need to and keep calm and focused.

  1. Be positive!

Have fun and be positive. As a trainee you are here to learn, every new experience will help you to develop in your career. Ask questions, everyone is very friendly and helpful. Above all, enjoy it!

For more information, email blogs@gateleyplc.com.

Christmas cheer: Santa visits the Birmingham office

Christmas Decoration

With the UK’s largest German Christmas market only a stone’s throw away, things are getting festive at the firm’s Birmingham office. Our annual events at this time of year range from the merriment of Christmas parties to the generosity of charitable initiatives.

One prominent event in our Christmas calendar is Family Day. Employees and their families are invited into the office for a Sunday afternoon of festive children’s storytelling, games, arts, crafts and, of course, the mandatory visit from Santa! The office is transformed into a winter wonderland with Santa’s grotto, Christmas trees and plenty of mulled wine to go round. As a Gateley Christmas elf (trainee) you play a big part in hosting Family Day. Whether it’s spending the day preparing the feast from the kitchen or simply helping spread some Christmas cheer, you are a vital part in ensuring all our employees and their families have a marvellous day!

Across all the offices, employees also use Christmas as a time to say thank you to those who have helped us all year round. What better way to do this than with the gift of a personalised candy cane? Employees have the opportunity to spread Christmas cheer by ordering  candy canes which are then delivered to their colleagues, each with a unique message of thanks. Better yet, all money raised goes to charity! Everyone is looking forward to them being delivered by Gateley’s elves shortly.

Gateley upholds its charitable values especially at this time of year. The office is currently contributing to the KidsOut Christmas present scheme. Labels with requested presents for refuge children of all ages are hung on the main Christmas tree and employees are given the opportunity to either donate towards or to buy a present for one of the children. Presents range from craft kits and books to “something Disney”. The response has been fantastic and we are thoroughly looking forward to delivering them all to Santa ready to distribute!

Finally, the Christmas season would not be complete without office Christmas parties. A city centre venue, Christmas themed party games, and the first taste of turkey to get everyone in the Christmas mood.

Christmas wishes to one and all!

The Gateley Christmas Elves

This post was edited by Anna McDonald. For more information, email blogs@gateleyplc.com.

The Social Committee

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The firm has a social club that runs events in each office throughout the year which the trainees are responsible for (with a little supervision of course!). This gives us the chance to develop and use our organisation, time management and negotiation skills as collectively we run the budget, plan the events, book venues, food and drinks, source prizes and advertise the events.

The events are always popular with colleagues and the Committee roles provide us with the opportunity to work together despite being in separate departments and even across different cities.

The roles:

There are national and local roles that need to be filled by trainees each year. Depending on numbers, trainees tend to take on one national role or two local roles but in practice we often help each other out regardless of the roles we are assigned to.

Events secretary (national)

The events secretary is the head of the trainee Social Committee. This role includes: acting as a point of reference for staff who have suggestions, queries or issues in relation to the social club, liaising with the admin secretary to organise committee meetings, speaking with the social secretaries to co-ordinate local and joint social events, the national treasurer to set the social budget for the year; and HR and Accounts to oversee the running of the social club.

National and local treasurer

As the name suggests, the national treasurer produces the budget for all the firm’s offices and ensures that the budget is followed.

The local treasurers decide how to divide up their office’s portion of the national budget, i.e. the number of events and budgets for each. They keep track of the local budget including handling the monies and invoices in relation to each local or joint social, and reporting back to the national treasurer.

National and local charity reps

We are involved in numerous charity initiatives and the social club is no exception. The national and local charity reps orchestrate a firm-wide and local office vote to elect the company’s national and local charities for the year. They also co-ordinate with the chosen charities and the firm’s CSR Committee to organise charity events as part of, and in addition to, the social club events throughout the year.

Admin secretary (national)

The admin secretary keeps staff informed of upcoming social events, sets the agenda and takes the minutes of the quarterly committee meetings. They also liaise and support the events secretary, national treasurer and the national charity reps in running and organising the social club events. They also ensure that all new members of staff are welcomed to join the social club.

Social secretaries (local)

Each office will have at least one social secretary who is responsible for planning, organising and running the local social events for their relevant office, liaising with the events secretary and treasurers to do so. They also feed back to the events secretary in relation to each social event and any future planned events.

Trainee and recruitment rep (national)

The trainee and recruitment rep is an informal point of contact between the firm and future trainees/SVP students. They organise and administer the trainee ‘buddy scheme’ whereby future trainees are paired with current trainees who introduce them to the firm. They also organise an induction drinks event for the future trainees to attend in spring before starting with the firm, and work with the current trainees to ensure that the SVP students get the most out of their summer placements.

Overall, I have found that my time as part of the Social Committee has been a great way to get to know not only the other trainees but also the firm as a whole. You quickly become a familiar face in the office as you take on the responsibilities of your role, which is an excellent way of raising your profile. It also ensures that you are accustomed to organising events, a skill that is crucial for business development post qualification.

This post was edited by Lewis Peck. For more information, email blogs@gateleyplc.com.

From Manchester to London!

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A unique part of the Gateley training contract is the trainee away days, during which all the first year trainees attend the different English offices for a day. As well as allowing us to reconnect with the trainees in other offices, away days provide trainees with the opportunity to get to know their way around different offices, attend key skills training sessions and to meet people at the different offices. All in all, it really gives us first-hand experience of the ‘one firm’ ethos at an early stage of our training contracts.

This year our first stop was Manchester. As a trainee from the Manchester office, this gave me and the other Manchester based trainees the opportunity to show the others around the office and to introduce them to the different departments. Understanding where each department sits across the offices is really helpful if we ever have to hot desk at different offices.

Each away day includes two training sessions, which focus on general legal skills rather than specific sectors. For example, our first training session was an English master class. The main aim of the session was to develop our written and communication skills as well as team working abilities. We then attended a networking lunch which allowed us to meet people across all levels of the firm from trainee to partner. These lunches are an informal way to get to know other people at the firm, and to put a face to a name, as very often you can find yourself working with colleagues across the offices who you haven’t yet met face to face. It is also a good way of meeting people from different teams and building relationships. This is important as a trainee as you very often find yourself doing work with a number of other departments.

We also attended a question and answer session with newly qualified solicitors, which allowed us to get some top tips on how to get the most out of our training contracts and to ask any questions that were perhaps more appropriate to ask them, than our supervisors.

Our next away day was to the London office. The London office boasts a fantastic location, right next to St Paul’s Cathedral! The tour of the London office was particularly useful as we know many of the trainees from different offices have travelled to London for a completion meeting at some point. We also attended a useful training session with top tips for trainees. We learnt the best way to organise and prioritise our workloads and the importance of correct and effective file management. It was a really good way to reflect on what we had learnt in our first couple of months and how to critique and improve on our skills as we approach our first mid seat appraisals. Once again we attended a network lunch and it was insightful to hear from London trainees and solicitors and to compare and share our experiences. Once the talks, tours and networking were over, we still had time left over to have a wander along the Southbank and to take in some of London’s sights!.

All in all, away days are a great chance to get to know your way around the different offices and meet people you may be working with in future, as well as providing a great opportunity to catch up with the other first year trainees and find out how they are getting on.

This post was edited by Rebecca Armstrong. For more information, email blogs@gateleyplc.com.