It is useful throughout your university education to keep thinking about what areas of law you have an interest in, and whether or not you would like practical experience in these areas in the future. However, some areas that you enjoy academically may be starkly different in practice and therefore an active use of your university careers service mixed with research into appropriate firms that practice in the areas you are interested in, as well as undertaking vacation schemes or relevant legal work experience will all help to give you direction to enable you to decide what type of firm and training contract is for you.
Be open minded
You may have a set view of the seats you would like to experience when undertaking your training contract, but this may not always go according to plan. If you get allocated a seat that you do not necessarily want, embrace it, give it a go and you never know you might end up loving it. I was in a similar position when I was allocated Corporate Recovery as my third seat, it turned out to be the best thing for me and I am due to qualify into Insolvency Litigation in the coming weeks.
Understand commerciality and be commercially aware
Commercial awareness is not just reading the newspaper, it is trying to understand what clients want to achieve, how their businesses work on a day to day basis, and what we can do to help them. What may be the best legal option for a business may not always be the best commercial decision in reality. For example, when negotiating a commercial contract, it may be appropriate to give certain indemnities that from a strictly legal sense may open the company up to extra liabilities down the line. However, commercially, the acceptance of the indemnities may be worth the risk to the company if it will enable the deal to be done. You need to be able to explain the legal position and advise accordingly from a commercial point of view whilst also balancing the commercial needs of the company from your understanding of what they want to achieve. Think about potential issues a company may face in terms of the market, their brand and relevant governmental/legislative changes that may affect things. All these factors may affect the commerciality of a legal decision.
Get involved, grasp every opportunity
Remember it is not all about work. Be open to any opportunities that present themselves throughout your training contract and attend as many events as you can from social events and young professional networking events, to work and client specific opportunities. Building a social relationship with your colleagues and professional peers is important and a part of you fitting into the culture of any firm and building contacts for the future.
Take everything in your stride, criticism is good
Your training contract is an opportunity to learn and you need to remember that you are not expected to be perfect, far from it, but you are expected to try as hard as you can at each task that is given to you. Constructive criticism will help you be a better lawyer so take it in and learn from it. Do not be afraid to ask for clarification if you are unsure of what to do, it is always better to speak up with plenty of time than to complete a task incorrectly and have to rush to rectify it close to a deadline.