January 7, 2016

10 things you need to know before starting a training contract

I'm a Solicitor in the Private Client team. My first two seats were in the Family, Personal Injury, Private Client and Employment teams at Royds Withy King. I’m really enjoying the wide variety of work I’m involved in and the high levels of client contact in my current role. Now I have qualified, I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned and the things it would have been useful to know at the start of my training contract, my tips are as follows:

  1. Keep your LPC notes close to hand: Bring your LPC textbooks and notes into work, they can be a very useful reminder and often provide a good overview, enabling you to see where the task you have been given fits into the bigger picture.
  2. Befriend your predecessor: The insight of the trainee who did the seat before you will be invaluable when you take over where they left off. It’s also nice to have someone at the end of the phone who’s been in your shoes and can give you the benefit of their hindsight.
  3. Keep a to-do list: Whether you prefer to manage this electronically or on paper make sure you have a system that works for you so that nothing gets missed. Make a note of deadlines and when to follow things up, for example, to check whether you have received a response to your correspondence. This will help you prioritise and is a useful reference point when fee earners ask for updates.
  4. Ask questions: If you are unsure it is always better to seek clarification. Asking lots of questions shows you are interested and clients will not mind if you need to come back to them after seeking advice from a colleague.
  5. Keep fee earners up to date on your workload: It is more than likely that you will be given work by several different fee earners who won’t necessarily be aware of what else you’ve got on your plate so let them know if you don’t think you can meet their deadline. If two fee earners give you tight and conflicting deadlines don’t be afraid to ask which task should take priority.
  6. Ask for feedback: If feedback is not offered then ask for it. Make sure you take any feedback on board and use it to inform your approach next time you tackle a task. Importantly, don’t be disheartened, the training contract period is about learning - no one expects you to get everything right first time.
  7. Stay on top of your training logs: Putting time aside each week to do this regularly is so much easier than trying to remember what you did weeks after the event. Trust me on this one!
  8. Keep an open mind: You may have firm ideas about where you’d like to qualify but try to keep an open mind as in practice the work may be very different from what you expect. Even if you decide not to qualify into a particular area the experience you gain there may well help you in the area you do eventually decide to specialise in.
  9. Be pro-active: If during a seat there are particular areas of work you want to get involved in, don’t wait for the relevant fee earner to give you work, make yourself visible and ask if they have anything you can help with.
  10. Get involved: Say yes to social events both within and outside the firm, they offer a great opportunity to get to know your colleagues and to network with potential clients as well as raising your profile locally. Try to get involved with other departments, join the social or charities committee and contribute to the marketing team by writing blogs – this gives you an opportunity to show your expertise on a topic and makes you more visible within the firm.

I’ve conferred with my trainee colleagues in writing this post and they agree, so hopefully these tips will give you a bit of an insight into life as a trainee and how to make the most of your experience - good luck!

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