So, you’ve been through the recruitment process and been offered a training contract? Congratulations – it’s a milestone achievement! Here are my top tips for success (even if you haven’t yet obtained a training contract) – from a trainee shortly due to qualify.
1. Grow your professional network
Start to develop your professional network both within your firm and externally as soon as possible. Your firm will likely have internal committees you can join or support and externally there are many ways to get involved including through the National Junior Lawyers Division, Local Junior Lawyers Division and Young Professionals Groups. External committees are elected at various points over the course of a year and taking on a committee position is a good way to make contacts at other firms.
Of course, lawyers interact with a wide range of professionals so you should seek to develop your network beyond other legal professionals. Other professionals will be a vital source of referrals once you have an established relationship.
2. Use social media
Consistently use social media to engage with other professionals and support the marketing activities of your firm. LinkedIn and Twitter are perfect places to start to develop your network. I have made many professional connections through social media which have developed into strong friendships. Remember that you must follow your firm’s social media policy.
3. Attend events
As a trainee you will likely be invited to many networking events and presentations – do your best to attend as many as possible. It is good practice for life post-qualification where you will be taking more of a leading role (or so I am told!).
Keep a list of all the events you support and make sure your training supervisor knows the contributions you are making – you want to be recognised for your work.
4. Make the most of every seat
Invariably you will enjoy some of your seats more than others. However, try to soak up as much knowledge and experience from each department as you can. As you progress, you will find a good understanding of different areas of the law invaluable. Although qualifying into property was not for me, a knowledge of this area of the law is essential for my NQ position in private client.
5. Consistently seek feedback
During your training contract your work will be checked by your supervisor. You should make sure you ask for feedback on the tasks you complete. If work you have completed has been changed, make sure you understand why so that next time you can improve. I have found it particularly useful to keep a list of precedent documents I have prepared for each of my seats - this meant that next time I was asked to do a similar task it was slightly easier.
6. Mentoring – get involved
If your firm offers a mentoring scheme for trainees then sign up. Having someone within the firm who is not supervising you but who you can raise any issues with in confidence is very useful.
On the flip side, BPP and the University of Law are always looking for mentors to help their students and at the moment they are accepting trainees as mentors. I am involved with both schemes and it is extremely rewarding to mentor a student and watch them develop over the course of the year. It is also developing my skills as every student is different and requires differing levels of support.
7. Be interesting
Have an opinion on what is going on in the world and be able to engage with those around you. There is more to each of us than the job we do. Having a wide variety of other interests will give you things to talk about with your colleagues and clients beyond the law.
8. Make the most of it!
A training contract is a long journey of development. Some days will be better than others (this is true of any job) but you have worked hard to get the opportunity so don’t let the experience pass you by. You don’t want to look back and wish you had done more.
About the author
Chris Claxton-Shirley is a Solicitor at Tees, who qualified into their private client department in September 2018. Tees was founded in 1913 and has 5 offices across the East Anglian region offering clients a range of business, agricultural and personal legal and financial services.