Conquering the 'Confidence Gap': tips for starting out as a Trainee Solicitor

As I come to the halfway point in my third seat, it's useful to reflect on just how much I've learnt and developed as a trainee over the past 18 months.

When I started my training contract in September 2018 I was excited to get going but nerves took hold. I was worried about asking silly questions, found the thought of approaching a senior colleague's desk petrifying and assumed every task I completed would be wrong.

I remember being in my first seat in the Corporate team, I sat next to a newly qualified solicitor and for the first couple of months I could not see how I was going to be in her position and ready to qualify within 2 years.

Thankfully, I was encouraged by my fellow trainees who were having exactly the same thoughts. Nerves are perfectly normal and something I expect all trainees will experience at the start of their training contract. One of my intake has recently set up a programme to help with those nerves and to encourage techniques for overcoming the "confidence gap" that trainees may face.

As my first seat went on my confidence grew, I got to know my team and 'first seat nerves' started to dissipate. When it was time to complete my first end of seat review I could see just how much I had learnt and been involved in within that time.

Moving into my second seat wasn’t such a culture shock, and I enjoyed the new challenges that Education brought. Looking back, my first two seats flew by and before I knew it, I was moving into the second year. A lot of time was spent in my first seat learning how Michelmores' systems work; my second seat was more about how I work and what I can improve on.  

Since starting my third seat in the Commercial Litigation team, I have recognised just how far I have come. Firstly, my confidence has grown considerably. I now know there is no silly questions and I am happy to approach senior colleagues if I need assistance. I also feel more confident meeting clients and speaking up in group situations when I have something to contribute. 

I have started to trust my own judgment and have confidence in the work I am producing. I am much better at thinking on my feet and anticipating what the next step may be on a matter. My research skills and drafting skills have also improved. In all three seats, I have had the opportunity to work on a range of matters and have completed a variety of tasks, which has enabled me to work on the wide range of skills required to be a successful solicitor.

There is still a seat and a half to go; there is a lot to learn and many areas for improvement. However, I am encouraged by what I have achieved so far.

Having completed my first year I wish I had spent a little less time worrying and taken the time to recognise my strengths rather than fretting over mistakes. My advice to any first year trainee is try not to worry, get stuck in and do not assume that you are expected to know everything. It is likely that a year from now you will be surprised by just how far you have come.