Trainee Solicitor Diaries: A Survival Guide to the Early Days of your Training Contract

As my training contract draws to a close and I approach full status as a Solicitor I have been asked by Greens to write something which may help future Trainees. This is primarily aimed at those in the first few weeks of their new found careers where things are at their most hectic and unfamiliar.

1. User Error

As a final seat trainee, despite feeling confident in my ability and my current position I still feel as though every day is a school day, and it is, and that is my first survival tip; be prepared to fail and learn every day. Interpretation of case law and legislation is a continuous practice and in this profession you will never know everything. You will make mistakes, do not run away from them, face up to them, take responsibility and learn from them. Your colleagues will respect you and you will gain invaluable experience.

2. Don’t rush!

If you are lucky enough to have been taken on by your firm as a Trainee, do not forget that you are exactly that; a Trainee. Whilst there are pressures and stresses upon you, you will have a supervisor who is responsible for overseeing everything that you do. So make sure that you handle your workload, do your research and meet your deadlines. A lack of experience is to be expected but there is no excuse for basic slip ups because you have rushed your work. High quality and completed work is better than rushed work which your supervisor will have to re-do.

3. Prepare like there’s no tomorrow!

A wise man once said ‘the only thing we have to fear is fear itself’. Well he has never stood in front of a Judge asking you to justify your clients absence when you’ve been handed a bundle 20 minutes earlier, haven’t had time to read it and been asked to head over to Court by your supervisor for a ‘quick’ hearing. Thankfully, neither have I to quite that extent however I have been in very similar situations and the reality is that preparation is your friend. Read it, read it all. Manage your time, work through lunch, take the file home if needs be. There is absolutely no replacement for knowing a case inside out and being able to recall facts, dates and possessing the ability to summarise key incidents when called upon. The Court will be appreciative, your peers will respect you, and if your client is there in attendance, they will be reassured that you know their case.

4. Client Care

The ability to handle clients and communicate with them effectively and appropriately cannot be underestimated. Lawyers are no longer stuffy intellectuals who are buried in law books or dictate elaborate correspondence to their secretaries ‘Susan, Denise or Barbara’. Soft skills are essential and clients expect good customer service in addition to good legal advice. Embrace this role and do not be afraid of clients calling to chase you. Take the call, listen to the clients, identify what they are seeking and handle it. Happy and satisfied clients will be the best clients you ever have.

5. Enjoy yourself!

Congratulations, it has probably taken you 4 or 5 years to get this far. You are at a firm which has taken the time and financial responsibility for your period of training. Some of you may have seen the Richard Curtis film ‘About Time’ and the closing scenes hold a very true and inspiring message. The main character, a barrister with the power of time travel (as you do), monologues “the truth is, I now don’t travel back at all. Not even for the day. I just try to live every day as if I’ve deliberately come back to this one day to enjoy it as if it was the full final day of my extraordinary, ordinary life… All we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable ride.” If you have taken the time to read this Guide then you have probably chosen a very challenging and stressful career in the law and you are at the start of your career. I strongly urge you to enjoy each and every moment and give your clients the absolute best service possible.