Trainee solicitor, Lucy, shares her 3 top tips on how to survive (and hopefully thrive) throughout the first seat as a trainee solicitor.
After receiving my training contract offer over two years beforehand, the big ‘First Day’ seemed daunting to say the least; I suppose primarily from the fear of the unknown. However, on my first day, these concerns quickly disappeared: the other trainees and I were welcomed to Paris Smith LLP with a trainee breakfast and were given a tour around the offices before starting in our departments.
I have been fortunate enough to work with a range of lawyers during my first seat. Advice given to me by a barrister midway through has particularly resonated with me: “be both a magpie and a chameleon”. Apart from turning into some bizarre winged reptile, I have tried to pick out the ‘shiny’ best attributes and practices from everyone I come across, to hopefully emulate in my own professional conduct. Similarly, I recognise the importance of flexible working styles and, like a chameleon, aim to shift my own methods to match those of my supervisor.
I think the most important thing is to be yourself (pardon the cliché) and to enjoy your first seat and beyond. You have been hired based on your own merits; there is no need to reinvent yourself!
Here are the top 3 lessons I learned in my first seat as a trainee solicitor at Paris Smith LLP.
Communication with a supervisor is absolute priority. In my case, throughout my first seat I was given work by multiple people on the team (and hence had multiple supervisors at once). It is important to listen fully to instructions and not be afraid to ask any questions if needed. Giving supervisors frequent updates allowed them to keep the client informed, as well as giving them opportunities to provide me with guidance or feedback if necessary. I found it was important to keep track not only of who allocated what work, but also the volume I was given, and regularly communicating my available capacity with the team.
Yes, that buzz phrase. I think the main point for trainees to realise is that attention to detail is not a skill to be mastered overnight: a training contract is the perfect opportunity to develop these skills. Everyone is human so human error is to be expected – and you should expect to receive your drafting notes annotated with amendments. Every piece of work completed should always be to the highest standard, whether it is an internal one-line email or a draft consent order – and watch out for those pesky typos! The strategy which helped me most was to print out the document and read over it after a period of time; this allows an assessment with fresh eyes.
As a trainee in your first seat, first impressions count – within the department, across the firm and the wider professional network. Volunteering to attend external networking events is a good way to meet other people as well. I recommend taking advantage of Friday night drinks with staff from across the firm – not only does it allow you to meet people from other teams, it also gives you an opportunity to catch up with the other trainees over a glass of wine (or two)! I think the main point I’m trying to make is try not to be shy: remember you are a valued member of the team who has worked hard to be here. Now is your chance to enjoy it.
It’s as that old idiom says: ‘keep calm and carry on’. There will inevitably be good days and bad days during your first seat; the important point is to learn from all your experiences. And for goodness’ sake, keep your training record updated!
My first seat has certainly been a learning curve and the next three seats will no-doubt bring a completely different array of opportunities and challenges.
Now as they say, one down, three to go.
If you are interested in a career as a solicitor why not visit our careers page “Training Contract” for more information and how to apply.