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September is an absolutely crazy month! In the three or four months leading up to September second year trainees across the country have either confirmed which job they will be taking with their current firm or handing in their notice and moving on to pastures new to pursue their ambitions. At the same time, first year trainees have been preparing themselves for the next seat which for many will be their penultimate seat and suddenly the prospect of actually becoming a solicitor in the short space of twelve months is becoming much more real. Then we have the new trainees, the legal field’s freshers, all rosy-cheeked and bright-eyed excited to be embarking on the first step of a journey that will last for the rest of their careers. So much going on and all at the beginning of the end of the summer.
So, with that in mind I wanted to offer some advice to the new trainees, the new second year trainees and the NQ solicitors about to take on the world as lawyers. You are all embarking on a similar journey, just at different times and in different stages. Your ambitions, your fears, your hopes and your dreams are fairly similar and I’m here to tell you that everything will be ok.
Unfortunately I have to start with bad news… working for a commercial law firm in the UK is rarely (if ever) like the world depicted in Suits. Don’t get me wrong, Harvey Specter is my hero and if I thought my job was going to be anywhere close to that I would have certainly pursued a legal career much more fervently. According to friends who do work for large commercial practices in Birmingham and London it would appear that it’s not as glamourous and depositions, mergers, acquisitions etc. don’t really go down like that. What’s even more disappointing though, apparently not all paralegals get their own office! I’m sorry to burst bubbles and bear bad news but the sooner we accept this, the better. The reality is you all knew this already and I don’t believe that anyone would now be pursuing a career in law just because they watched a legal ‘dramedy’ on TV. But one thing Suits has quite accurately depicted is the work ethic that leads to success.
I think you can ask anyone who works within the legal field, is your job easy? I’m willing to bet that 99.9% will say no. However, if you ask the same people if they enjoy their work then I’m willing to bet that the same 99.9% will say yes. Lawyers put in long hours; this is due to a variety of factors but the simple truth is you will have to work hard no matter where you are on the ladder. I’m not saying you will work until midnight 5 days a week, but there will be days when you’re in the office until late. While it is important to be as well versed as possible in the law it’s also important to remember that you’re acting for clients and their interest is commercial. Understanding this means you can approach your task as a lawyer but without forgetting about the business impact of the client. This is what they mean by “commercial awareness.” Finally, it’s important to remember that you chose to be in this position. You studied and worked hard, you interviewed, researched and slaved away to get to where you are now and it will all be worth it in the end, so long as you remember to enjoy yourself! Nobody expects that you would come to work every day beaming and full of excitement but one of the key factors to success and happiness in your career is enjoying what you do.