This time next year - trainee to solicitor

This article was first published in Private Client Adviser on 21 October 2014 and is reproduced by kind permission (

The other day I found a half written blog entitled, 'This time last year'. It reads as follows:

"I was nearly at the end of my first month in my second seat with the commercial team at Michelmores. I had started to discover that I wasn't as much of a business law dunce as the LPC had led me to believe. Instead of feeling like I was working in an ever-shifting myriad of faces, I had begun to recognise the majority of my colleagues on a day-to-day basis. I knew the really, seriously, crucial things like how to unjam the photocopier and not to ever leave the kitchen bins open.

I feel like such a different person now. It feels like 18 months have flown by and I can't equate that feeling with the extent of change I have undergone during that seemingly short period of time. So the thought of this time next year scares me. I will have made and started to live what has been, thus far, only a pipe dream. I will be a solicitor and not a trainee anymore.

While I am aware that the 'trainee wheels' don't just evaporate overnight, I am also conscious of what stepping out of the trainee bubble and shedding the trainee label will mean in reality. We won't be the rookies anymore and there will be no catch-all excuse of, "I'm just a trainee". I am hopeful that the transition will happen much in the way that the last 18 months have passed without my noticing."

Well here I am, now a whole two years on from 'This time last year'. I have to say, finding this blog only made me realise quite how quickly time does pass; terrifyingly quickly. And I can confirm that the transition from trainee to solicitor has taken place much as I had anticipated it would a year ago - less a moth-like overnight transformation, and more akin to the subtle changes a snake undergoes as it sheds its skin. I am of course, loathe to make an analogy between a solicitor and a snake, but if the shoe fits…

At this point of transition in my career (I am a day-old solicitor at the time of writing this) it seems only appropriate to reflect on the journey to this point and in doing so, hopefully draw some semblance of useful advice for those who are on this path currently, or who may be considering it.

Moving goalposts

Knowing what you want to do and driving towards it can mean that you run the risk of not appreciating it when you reach it. The problem is, by equating success with happiness, whenever we achieve a goal we then simply alter the parameters of success by immediately setting ourselves a new goal. This means that we never reach or appreciate our own success and therefore, in turn, our own happiness. So I want to take this platform to advise prospective and current law students and trainees, to rethink how they view and ultimately judge, their own level of 'success'.

In evaluating personal approach, I realised that I have been adjusting my own 'success goalposts' in my head every year since I sat my GCSE exams, in my ambition to secure a career in the legal profession. Good grades at GSCE meant I needed good AS and then A-Level results to get into the university of my choice, which then meant a good degree result was required to secure a training contract…and so it continues. The last ten years have been an undulating procession of leaping through every necessary hoop on the path to becoming a solicitor. My advice therefore, is of course to be ambitious and driven, but to take your time and appreciate your achievements; don't always put achieving success, and therefore achieving happiness, constantly out of your reach.

Finally, it is even more important to achieve the correct work/life balance when time passes so quickly. You need to make sure that, as I am tritely reminded by a fridge magnet each morning: "Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life." My advice in summary is to take your time, slow down and appreciate that life moves quickly enough without you chivvying it along, or worse, wishing it away. So, this time next year I aim to be as happy as possible, in the knowledge that success will follow.