6 top tips for getting the most out of your training contract

Securing a Training Contract feels like an ultimate milestone has been reached. Rightly so. Since securing a Training Contract with Rothera Sharp, I felt excited to begin, yet simultaneously anxious of the unknown. To prepare for my Training Contract, I found it beneficial and comforting to read about the experiences of other Trainees in their first seats. Here are six tips that you might find useful when preparing for your Training Contract.

1.First impressions

Some of you may already work for the firm which you will undertake your Training Contract with and so you may already be well acquainted with the team you will be working with. This tip may be less relevant to you.

If like me, you are joining the firm as a newbie, connecting with the people that you will be working with before your Training Contract starts is a good way of making yourself familiar to the firm. Being keen to get to know people within the firm before you start your Training Contract can also allow you to set a good first impression.

Before I started, I used LinkedIn to connect with some of the people who I was likely to be working alongside the most. I connected with Paige, a Trainee who is a seat ahead of me in her Training Contract at Rothera Sharp. As Paige was working for the firm before I was due to start, she was able to give me some valuable advice. This really helped me prepare and get a sense of what I should expect in my first seat.

I also took part in some of the firm’s social activities before starting. This further allowed me to get to know some of the team. Being in a social setting also helped as it was a less formal way of networking. This also allowed me to discover that I am terrible at croquet, honestly, terrible.

2.Be enthusiastic and make the most of your seat

 You will prefer certain practice areas over others and you may have an idea of your preferred department of qualification before you start. You are likely to take less interest in certain seats. However, even if you’re not over the moon about your seat, be enthusiastic about the work you are asked to do. You might find that you enjoy the work much more than you first thought.

I am really enjoying my first seat even though it is not the department that I first thought I wanted to qualify into. By being enthusiastic, I have found that the work is diverse, interesting and challenging. I have learnt loads of transferable skills and qualities by throwing myself into the work.

3.Manage your workload

 The days of law school are over. Starting your Training Contract brings new challenges and increased workloads. I have found that it is a crucial skill of a lawyer to effectively manage your workload. A lawyer’s organisation skills are of particular interest to the client as poor organisation can lead to bad client care. Your workload will depend on several factors, for example: the firm, the department and your training partner.

I keep an electronic to-do list on a spreadsheet detailing all the tasks that I have to do, specifically noting important dates and deadlines. Every time I am asked to do something by the partners who I am working with, I ask if they have a deadline in mind and note the task on my to-do list. Every time I complete a task, I will remember to remove it from my to-do list as a matter of course. I have found that this keeps me organised and allows me to use my time effectively.

If you feel like your workload is too large, it is important to let your supervising partner know. Your heavy workload could have an impact on the quality of service you can provide to your clients which could have an impact on the firm’s business prospects with new clients. Juggling a heavy workload won’t impress your supervisors if it leads to the client receiving a poor service.

4.Feedback is key to improvement – learn from your mistakes

 You will receive feedback from your supervisor on most of the tasks you undertake. Take it on board. This will allow you to improve your skills and develop into a lawyer throughout your training contract. One of the first tasks that I undertook was drafting a letter before action. I passed my first draft to my supervisor for approval and he suggested some amendments and discussed with me through where I could improve. Taking these points on board, I am becoming increasingly confident my drafting skills.

As a trainee, you will not be expected to be faultless, you are likely to make mistakes. Use your Training Contract as a way to learn from the mistakes. If you do make a mistake, you should limit any damage it may cause by alerting your supervisor at the earliest possible opportunity. A mistake can become hard to resolve if left.

5.Be helpful

You might be asked to support your supervising partner on certain tasks. Your partner’s work is likely to be higher value and very beneficial to the firm. Try and be helpful when assisting your partner so that their time can be used effectively. For example, if you are asked to undertake research, be confident when feeding back your findings and provide an accurate summary of your findings that can be referred to with ease. Gaining your supervisors’ trust will lead to them trusting you with more interesting and challenging tasks.

6.Get involved in socials

If, like me, you are blessed with working for a firm that values its social side, you should grab the opportunity to socialise with both hands. Socialising with colleagues on an informal basis allows you to break down barriers with your colleagues and can have a positive impact on your working environment. This can also be a good way to show off your personality within the firm.

Getting involved with your relevant Law Society is a good way to meet other lawyers working in the same part of the country as you. I got involved with the Nottinghamshire Law Society and the Nottinghamshire Junior Lawyers Division early in my training. Taking part in the socials has proven to be a good way of making links with other professionals which has the potential to benefit your firm.

Thanks for reading

 I would like to conclude by expressing my personal thanks for reading this blog post. I hope you have found this blog useful and please feel free to share it with others who may benefit from my tips. Thank you.

Billy Shaw joined Rothera Sharp as a trainee solicitor in September 2018, and is currently completing his first seat in the commercial litigation department.

Billy Shaw - Rothera Sharp Solicitors Nottingham, Nottinghamshire

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