Posted by Charlotte Prideaux, Solicitor
Transitioning to a new seat- A Trainee’s guide
Trainee solicitor Charlotte Prideaux gives her top tips for transitioning to your next seat in your training contract
First year Trainee Solicitor, Charlotte Prideaux reflects on her first seat in Personal Injury and offers some practical tips for a smooth transition into seat number two.
Lessons learned from seat one
Seat one is likely to feel the most daunting – it was for me anyway as it was also my first day at Royds Withy King and absolutely everything felt alien. Fortunately, everyone made me feel comfortable and I quickly became settled.
Each department has different ways of working, but throughout my first 6 months I developed the following coping mechanisms to ensure I kept on top of everything and was getting the most out of my first seat.
- Don’t put off doing things that scare you. Whether it is that difficult phone call to an awkward client, admitting to your supervisor that you are confused about something or recognising you’ve made a mistake; the sooner you face it the sooner you can learn, move on and concentrate on your other priorities.
- Ask questions, questions and more questions! Provided they aren’t things that using a bit of initiative can figure out, I found the more inquisitive I was, the more I understood the clients’ needs and the wider context to what I was doing.
- Schedule in some regular time with your supervisor to get feedback on how you are doing. This of course will vary depending on your supervisor’s schedule and their way of working, but I found it easier to speak with my supervisor once a week about less urgent tasks that I needed guidance on in one go rather than interrupting him each time I needed something checked.
- Say ‘yes’ to training, networking opportunities and social events to get your face known and to understand more about the sector you are in; even if you don’t know anyone going. A large part of being a lawyer is essentially ‘making friends’ and being able to speak to people in both a business and social context.
- Make a spreadsheet of all your outstanding tasks and their progress. This worked well for me in Personal Injury because I was given tasks with varying deadlines. It helped me to keep track of where I was and plan my time. I got fed up of re-writing paper to-do lists, excel spread sheets can be filtered for example by client/fee earner/date due etc. and this helped me feel in control when I was getting overwhelmed (special thanks to Charlotte Ebbutt for this pearl of wisdom!).
- Keep on top of SRA training records. I made a recurring diary entry for 20 minutes each Friday. This was ample time for me to reflect on what I had done that week while it was still relatively fresh in my mind.
Top tips for a smooth move to seat number 2
My second seat is in our sister Bath office in the Family team. I found the following few tips helped me get the best start and left the right impression (hopefully!) to those I worked with in my first seat.
- Inform all the fee earners you are working for a couple of weeks before your last day in your seat that you will shortly be going. It’s sensible not to take on further big tasks and instead just finish what is left on your to-do list to save handing over lots of incomplete tasks to your successor. If you do have things that you could not finish though, for example due to waiting to hear back from someone, write a hand over note.
- Introduce yourself to the next team you will be moving to, whether in person or via email, and find out from your new supervisor if there is anything they would like you to do before starting. As a bare minimum I refreshed myself on current family law issues by reading up online, and made sure I had my LPC books ready to take into the office.
- Take time to complete your end of seat review with your supervisor and reflect on your progress. Identify areas that you want to improve on and further skills you want to gain for your next seat to ensure you don’t plateau.
- Ask for feedback, not just from your supervisor but from all of those you have worked with including fee earners and support staff. We can all learn a lot from constructive criticism, as well as feeling more confident from positive comments. Sometimes just knowing you need to keep going as you are is enough to reassure you that you aren’t in the wrong profession.
- Ensure any outstanding SRA records are completed. It will be a huge ordeal to try and remember what you did in your last seat when you’ve got stuck into your second seat and they need to be signed off by the supervisor you had for that seat any way.
- Make cakes!
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