A message to a future trainee
It feels like yesterday I was on my way to the office on the first day of my training contract, eager to meet my fellow trainees and new colleagues. I am now in my department of choice in which I will be qualifying into in less than a month’s time. So, what do I wish I knew then in comparison to what I know now?
Take every opportunity given to you
This sounds like a cliché but I strongly advise you to take every opportunity to attend meetings, training, site visits, networking events and the like. Not only does it get you away from your desk for a couple of hours but generally it will stand you in good stead if you are known as the trainee that is comfortable in those environments.
You may already think you know into what area you want to qualify, however, you might be allocated into a department that’s not your first choice as there is a business need. Embrace the opportunity and you may surprise yourself!
Everyone works in different ways, however just the thought of an overflowing inbox and stacks of paper files makes me sweat. For me, tidy desk= tidy mind.
I like to maintain a list containing details of all the matters I am currently working on, what is required to progress the matter and details of matters I have worked on, highlighting those that were particularly interesting or high value. Having a record of matters you have managed or assisted with, coupled with events you have attended is invaluable when you are approaching qualification and you would want to highlight these experiences in your CV to discuss in length at interviews.
I also recommend keeping your calendar updated. Not only is it useful for your colleagues to see where you are, but it can also be used to ensure you never miss important deadlines. You don’t want to have to explain to your supervisor that you didn’t file a document with the court because you didn’t note down the deadline for doing so!
Keeping up to date to do lists and regularly filing e-mails also helps prioritise your workload especially when you are working on numerous matters.
You may not think that this is important as a trainee but it is a good skill to practice early in your career. Some firms expect you to bring new clients to the firm during your training contract. Networking can seem daunting but there are many networking events designed for juniors which are fun For example try joining your local Junior Lawyers Division. Depending on the size of your firm, networking internally is just as important as external networking. You never know when you might need to tap into the expertise of someone in a different department or refer a client to another team to assist the client in another aspect of their life.
Be one step ahead. Try and go above and beyond the requested task and prepare the ‘next step’ for the fee earner. Your supervisor will be grateful if he/she has one less thing to think about and it shows that you can think independently.
Finally, enjoy it and ask questions!