Trainee blog: 5 things you should know before you start your training contract

Congratulations on securing a training contract!  You may now be thinking - how do you prepare for your first seat? I share my 5 top tips below:

  1. Be prepared to be corrected a lot, at least at the beginning

It is all about accepting and making the most out of constructive criticism. You are no doubt well versed in how to achieve good results in your undergraduate degree, GDL and LPC. Therefore, being corrected when carrying out practical legal work is something you are probably not used to.

For example, it will be a strange experience at first to have your draft letters and emails checked by your supervisor and sometimes they will be totally rewritten for you before they are sent out. Although this will happen less frequently as you approach your second seat, this is a normal part of the learning process. Remember not to get disheartened and learn from the feedback.The training contract period is about learning so be prepared to be corrected because it is impossible to get everything right the first time.

  1. Learn how to use precedent letters and documents. 

When doing your undergraduate degree, you will have been warned about the risks of plagiarism and sharing ideas. However, in practice, knowledge is valuable - if someone else has already drafted a precedent document use it as a guide or a template for your own work - do not attempt to re-invent the wheel. However this comes with the important caveat, that you must review it carefully to ensure it fits your client's circumstances.

  1. Academic law is different from practical law.

During your undergraduate law degree you probably spent lots of time analysing Lady Hale or Lord Denning's dissenting judgments. However, learning about law and practising law are two different things. Lawyers may be interested in reading lengthy documents detailing particular judgments, but what clients really want are focused, short and coherent answers to their particular issues. Try to adapt to this mind set early on.

  1. Never be afraid to start at the bottom.

Law firms are naturally hierarchical with lawyers of varying degrees of experience. As a trainee you will not be responsible for running your own cases or expected to bring in new business but you will be supporting individual fee earners and be given tasks which contribute towards achieving the best outcome for the client. All of these experiences will help you as your career progresses.

Going through long documents, changing, amending and checking them again, is not what dreams are made of. However, remember that you are doing important work as a part of a team.

  1. There are perks to being a trainee

Part of the trainee experience is changing seats every six months and getting to see the different parts of the firm, or in some cases going to work in-house as part of a client’s legal team. As part of this, you get to know many people across the firm and will find out how the individual teams are structured – only a few of your senior colleagues would have such an advantage. Use this time wisely, learn from the people around you and absorb as much as you can from each seat.

I wish you all the best starting your training contract!