How do you get involved in firm life now you are a trainee?
So you have started your training contract and begun your journey to being a qualified solicitor. But as a trainee, how do you get involved with firm life? How do you manage that balance between getting noticed for the right reasons, and just sticking out.
The transition to trainee and beyond can be an exciting and daunting prospect. But as someone who started their career as a paralegal, before gaining a training contract, I have the benefit of hindsight in observing some really great, and a few not so great ways that trainees have managed to integrate themselves and become a central member of the team.
It is important to remember that your firm has offered you a training contract, not only because they see your potential as a future solicitor, but also because they feel you are a good ‘fit’.
Getting involved with firm life can really help ease the transition and set you up for a great career. So here are a few tips from my own experience.
Attend social events
Your firm will inevitably have some upcoming social events in the calendar. A relaxed environment outside of the office is the perfect opportunity to get to know people across the business. I have attended the monthly office socials and a number of team and firm-wide events since starting my training contract and it’s a great way to get to know people.
It can be a bit daunting showing up at an event when you don’t know many people but as a trainee, you have to adapt to working in a new team every six months when you move seat. By creating an internal network you are more likely to see some familiar faces, and get noticed yourself. Creating the network of supportive team members should help you to manage the challenge of regularly focusing on a new practice area with a new team.
Be enthusiastic (and have a positive mindset)
You might not be in your chosen seat for your first six months but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t show enthusiasm and energy to learn as much as you can about each area of law you experience – whether that’s through day-to-day work or business development and community activities the team is involved in.
You might not have enjoyed an area of law when you studied it but it’s amazing how the law comes to life when you are actually putting it into practice. You may even have your mind completely changed.
Making a positive impact in each of your seats is important for you to build your career at the firm. It will help you build relationships across a variety of teams and ultimately show you to be a positive and proactive team player- someone who is going to fit into the firm going forwards.
Raise money for charity
At Royds Withy King we have a longstanding commitment to supporting the communities where we operate, so there is ample opportunity to get involved through fundraising or in-kind support (and don’t worry, not all of these involve running marathons!)
Fundraising, volunteering or taking part in internal CSR activities are a great way to meet people with similar interests, whether that’s clothes swapping to support sustainable initiatives, painting a local community centre or baking a cake for your colleagues to enjoy.
For example, I recently took part in a 400km charity bike ride in France with a group of 16 from our firm. It was great fun. We raised a huge amount of money for charity and I grew and developed relationships with members of the firm I would otherwise not have had the chance to meet. Not to mention the new connections I made with other local professionals also involved in the event.
Help out with business development
Your firm will probably run a number of initiatives to share expertise with clients and contacts and advise them on the latest topics that will affect them. Find out about what’s happening in your practice area or even other areas that you have an interest in, such as seminars or networking events. Volunteer to meet and greet, pour coffees for attendees or support with the marketing where appropriate. Not only will it raise your profile within the firm but you will also gain invaluable insight into how current fee earners interact with clients and other professionals.
No opportunities to attend events? How about drafting a blog which can help to promote the work that your team does or volunteering to get to grips with the client and contact lists on CRM. This will give you an opportunity to diversify your skills and really help out the team.
Business development is an important part of the legal world and you will be encouraged to develop your networking skills throughout your training and legal career. Ask current trainees about any young professional networking events and go along with them. Don’t feel intimidated if you haven’t attended any events before – you will be surprised by the varied levels of experience and professions in attendance.
Network with current trainees
Make use of your fellow trainee community by getting to know your peers in the firm. It really helps to be able to go to another trainee to ask for their advice or guidance, or to share your experiences. You won’t be alone in some of the things you will be feeling or experiencing and it’s great to have a buddy to speak to. And ultimately, your fellow trainees will continue to be your colleagues and peers as your career develops so start early with building your internal networks.
As a new trainee, it is really important that you learn to ask questions and know when to ask for help. After all, your supervisor is there to help you learn, and not being afraid to ask a question is a vital part of this.
Asking questions that show you are interested in your work, your practice area and the people around you will give you a much greater understanding of the work you are undertaking. Curiosity is a valuable trait and will help you grow personally and professionally.
But on the flip side, don’t ask questions you should easily be able to find answers to yourself by using your initiative! Don’t waste someone’s time by making them explain something that you could have googled or looked through an email chain to find. If the answer is complex, then take notes to avoid having to ask it again.
Choosing when to ask a question is a balancing act, and one that requires you to use common sense. If in serious doubt you should never be afraid or ashamed to ask a sensible question, but just make sure that it is actually a sensible question before you do so.
It’s up to you…
However you choose to get involved, the more you throw yourself into life at your firm, the better your training experience will be. Keep in mind that it is as much about your training as your future career aspirations with the firm. By taking every opportunity to engage, interact and socialise with colleagues across the business you’ll find that your training contract will be a much more valuable experience.