Starting your training contract can be nerve-wracking and, for recent graduates, working in a law firm can be very different to what you are used to but here are some things that we wish we’d known when we started our training contract:
Responsibility – At Gateley, trainees have lots of responsibility. You are expected to take ownership of your work and progress matters independently. This might differ from some of your friends’ experiences at other firms. Although you will undoubtedly need to muck in with photocopying at some point in your training contract, trainees are given ‘real work’ to do. Whilst this is daunting at times, it pushes you to become a more competent and confident trainee and, eventually, newly qualified solicitor. As a trainee you quickly learn to think one step ahead and pre-empt your next move (under supervision of course).
Time – How quickly time passes! Make the most of every learning experience as before you know it you are qualified. This is not just limited to the legal aspects of the job though; try to take advantage of every networking opportunity you get and really immerse yourself in the culture of the firm you are training with. This will give you a head start in building rapport with prospective clients and your future colleagues, a key component of all of your working relationships.
Knowledge – It’s perfectly okay to not know the answer to a client’s problem/query. A client can tell if you don’t really know what you are talking about so always be honest and say that you don’t know the answer but will liaise with a colleague or carry out the research. As a trainee, you can learn a huge amount simply by observing what is going on around you; listen to your supervisor’s phone calls and make sure to engage yourself when your team are discussing issues that have arisen in a case as you never know when titbits of information you pick up in passing might become useful!
Questions – Don’t be afraid to ask questions; there is no worse feeling than not understanding a task that you have been given! Your team would prefer that you use your time more efficiently and ensure that you understand exactly what you are supposed to be doing. This will result in you producing a higher standard of work overall which will require fewer amendments from your supervisor. Remember, you can always ask more junior colleagues for their advice if you find them easier to approach. Everybody was a trainee at some point so they will understand exactly where you are coming from.
Transition – During our training contracts, each team has been great at ensuring we develop skills which will serve us for our future careers by providing us with a good level of responsibility and lots of client contact. This has made the transition to qualified solicitor extremely smooth so be sure to make the most of these opportunities.