Top tips for starting your Training Contract

5th May 2021

I started my Training Contract with the London office in September 2020. My first seat was in the Real Estate Commercial/Finance team and I am currently sat in the firm’s Employment team.

Some say you should treat your training contract like a two year job interview. While there is no guarantee of a job offer at the end and you are there to impress, I think it can place unnecessary pressure on what is already a challenging process.  Personally, I find a more helpful approach is to ask yourself, if you delegated a task to somebody what qualities and standard of work would you expect from that person?  Enthusiasm, a ‘can-do-attitude’, efficiency, use of initiative, attention to detail and just giving that little bit extra on a piece of work, that really adds value both to your supervisor and most importantly your clients. 

  1. Communication

A training contract is a two-way process and it is really important to maintain regular dialogue with your team.  Keep them updated on your capacity and let them know if you need longer on a deadline.  It is also crucial to ask questions when you are given tasks in order to understand what is required of you, but also to gain an understanding of what role you play in the wider context of the deal/matter.

Senior staff have busy workloads and won’t always be aware of your knowledge base, equally they may leave key details out. Be mindful of this and follow your gut, if you think a key detail is missing, speak up.  You should always try to work out the answer for yourself in the first instance, and if you are struggling then speak to a newly qualified solicitor in your team.  The chances are they will have done it before and can point you in the right direction. I have found it important to keep track of who has allocated what work and to always ask when a fee earner requires the work to be completed by.  Managing expectation is not only key to working in a team but is also integral to building client relationships. 

  1. Don’t be afraid of mistakes

Mistakes are the building blocks of the learning process.  Everyone makes them, even experienced partners. The most important thing to focus on, is not the fact you made one, but your attitude and how you go about solving it and of course remembering not to do it again.  Own up to your mistake, think about ways of resolving and make your supervisor aware as soon as possible. They will appreciate your honesty and effort and can ensure any errors are amended quickly to prevent unhappy clients. Most of the people I have worked with at JMW have been really approachable, especially as partners are used to working so closely with support staff.

  1. Make the most of your experience

Each seat will give you the opportunity to sample a different sphere of law and whilst you may enjoy some of your seats more than others, it is important to soak up as much knowledge and experience you can get as it will make you a more rounded lawyer going forward. Every person and team you work with, will have their own practices and styles of working, and it is your job to pick out the best attributes as well as recognising what not to do in certain instances in order to formulate your own professional conduct and style. 

Use your time wisely by keeping up to date with the news to identify market trends and an awareness of the latest legal developments.  Remember to make the most of the firm’s training and development materials. PLC is a great resource and helpfully maintains litigation trackers for different areas of law.  This is a great tool to keep up to date with the latest court trends. JMW also has membership with MBL webinars, which gives you access to a huge range of seminars in a variety of practice areas. I have found these particularly useful in my employment seat, given my lack of prior experience in this area. 

Further, all support staff are given mentors, and trainees also benefit from a buddy (a solicitor, closer to your age and experience level). I catch up with mine regularly and enjoy finding out about how other departments work, so make sure you put the effort in to arrange catch ups in order to get the best out of the relationship. 

4.   Practical tips

  • Meeting etiquette - do your research on the client and come to the meeting prepared, take detailed notes and be on time and if you are using zoom put your camera on. 
  • Have a pen and notepad ready to use wherever you go, as you’ll never know when you’ll need to take down instructions for your next task. I also find it useful to write down steps so that you don’t have to keep asking the same questions.
  • Keep your trainee log regularly updated, I try to do mine daily or if not at the end of the week, as a completed and signed log is an SRA requirement.​​​​

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Kelsey Hall-Clarke is a Trainee Solicitor located in Londonin our Trainee Solicitors department

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