Articles From the Team

New Trainees - Top Tips, Take them or Leave Them!

It’s the end of August, and you’re finally back from Ibiza or South East Asia and various mud-splattered music festivals, tanned and relaxed. Monday 5 September – all the kids go back to school and it’s day 1 of your Training Contract.

Finally all the vacation schemes, application forms, interviews and assessment days have paid off and it’s time to get on your suit and your game face.

Whether you’re feeling excited at the prospect, slightly apprehensive or frankly terrified, it pays to take on board some advice from those of us who have been there before you, to give you some confidence and help you to avoid some obvious pitfalls.

There’s a fair amount of advice and top tips on the Web, some serious, some more tongue-in-cheek, so just to make it easier, I’ve condensed it here, based on my own experiences and talking to a sample of today’s newly qualified solicitors –

• Try not to look too terrified in your first week – terrified people don’t take in much of what they’re being told so they don’t inspire confidence. The worst thing that can happen is that you’ll get something wrong. You’re going to get something wrong, everyone does, so don’t worry about the inevitable. Just be confident that you’re going to do your best. (Chapter 17 ‘The Moon of Confidence’ from The Chimp Paradox by Professor Steve Peters) • Keep an open mind about practice areas. You may have a strong idea of which area you think is for you, so make sure you get to test this theory by opting for this area, but with all other disciplines, go into them with an open mind and positive approach and you might surprise yourself. • Know when to ask questions, and flag up anything you’re not sure is right in any piece of work you hand in – lawyers are very risk-averse and frankly see new trainees as big bundles of risk, so don’t give them any reason to believe you’re going to land them in it. Demonstrating awareness of what you are confident is correct and what you need someone to look over will go down well. • Know when to ask questions but know when to stop asking questions. • Take on as much work as you can effectively manage, but no more. That way you’ll get the most out of the opportunities on offer. • Don’t turn down some work because you’re too busy and then slope out of the door at 5.30pm • Look around you and learn about the working culture of the firm you have joined – fit in with it (even if it’s not the right culture for you long term) and you’ll have a much smoother ride • Learn how to copy & paste effectively and well from PLC and Lexis • Be sociable and friendly but don’t overshare • If you know you’re going to miss a deadline, tell your supervising solicitor as soon as you know so that something can be done about it, rather than leaving it to the last minute. Ditto mistakes. • Don’t beat yourself up about making a mistake, just be honest about it, learn from it and don’t make that same mistake again • Keep an effective ‘to-do’ list and stick to it so you don’t forget things • Always have a notebook with you and make notes on important points – you’ll be surprised how often you refer to them • Don’t get too drunk at the Christmas party and really try hard not to snog your boss • Smoked haddock chowder goes down very badly in an open-plan office I’d say that about covers it.

Good luck to all the new trainees this September! And don’t forget to sign up for The Brief from BCL, the monthly newsletter that goes out to over 70,000 legal professionals, with all the latest legal news, a hub of industry knowledge and interviews & opinion from top legal professionals.

For more information contact Juliet Lawson at BCL Legal.

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