Trainee Blog: Collaborative Conversations - because there's no 'I' in 'team'

Success as a team is one of our key values here at Michelmores.  But how does that actually work in practice, how can trainees make sure they're part of the team and how can training contract applicants demonstrate that they have these valuable collaborative skills?

Why Collaboration is Important as a lawyer

Building a house entirely on your own isn't impossible.  But involving specialists such as an architect, plumber and electrician will probably make the process easier, quicker and more likely to result in a properly-constructed home you'd actually want to live in. 

The same principle is true in the legal profession: resolving a legal matter on your own may be perfectly possible, but more often than not, consultation with other lawyers with different specialisms will lead to a more efficient and effective resolution.    

Collaboration benefits the individual lawyer, the client and the law firm: individuals have the opportunity to learn from others; clients get a range of different perspectives considering their particular issue; and for law firms, pooling knowledge and expertise in a particular area enables more complex, valuable cases to be taken on and specialist practice areas to be developed.

How Collaboration happens at Michelmores

During my training contract, I have seen first-hand how beneficial collaboration can be.  Most recently in my third seat with the Contentious Trusts and Probate team, I frequently worked with my previous supervisor in the Commercial Property team to deal with property bequeathed to charities.  I also worked with non-contentious lawyers in my current seat in Tax, Trusts and Succession on matters involving issues of capacity, and assisted with some international private client litigation involving lawyers from the Commercial Litigation, Tax, Trusts and Succession and Contentious Probate teams.

The sector approach at Michelmores provides a forum for collaborative conversations and the sharing of knowledge and experience.  Two examples are the Energy team which brings together corporate, commercial, property, construction and civil litigation lawyers to collaborate on matters and discuss developments concerning everything from electric cars to anaerobic digestion plants, and the Agriculture team.  Recently, lawyers from the Agricultural Property Litigation team and the Commercial team joined a panel discussion at the 3rd annual Insects as Food and Feed Conference, having developed a practice in sustainable agriculture and technology (Agri-Tech). 

How trainees can collaborate

Network.  Building professional networks both internally and externally is crucial to being able to collaborate down the line.  Going back to the house-building analogy: if you need to unblock a . . . sink, you'll get it done much quicker if you already know the name and number of a reliable plumber!  Take a look at Gemma Neath's Tips for Networking for more on this.

Work with as many different lawyers as possible.  Moving teams every six months as part of the training contract rotation process is a great opportunity to get to know both a new practice area and the individual lawyers in that team.  Try and work with as many lawyers as possible to learn what their particular area of expertise is.

Get involved with social, charity and sports events.  Since starting my training contract, I've been lucky enough to have a wealth of opportunities to do more than just practice law: I've helped organise our annual Christmas Bazaar, planted bulbs and painted a swing set for a school for blind children, been to Spanish lessons at lunch, taken part in Tough Mudder, competed in three-legged and spoon races at a sports day and twice run the annual Michelmores 5km race, to name but a few!  All of these things helped me to meet and get to know more people across the firm.

How applicants can develop and demonstrate collaborative skills

If you're making training contract applications, you'll almost certainly be asked to evidence your ability to work as part of a team.  Here are three things you can do to improve your applications:

Get involved.  Involvement in any form of team – be it sporting, in the workplace, on committees or in the classroom on group projects – is relevant.  Reflect on what you contributed, as well as what you learnt and how working as part of a group benefitted your own personal development.

Work on your communication skills.  If you want an architect to design your house, you need to be able to articulate what you want, listen to the expert's point of view and negotiate an agreed plan.  These are exactly the same skills which will be crucial in any group tasks you face on assessment days.

Draw on other skills.  Think outside the box when giving examples of how your skills would be valuable to a team: for example, being reliable would be valued by your teammates, and the ability to use your initiative will help the team to get the job done.

You can find more information about applying for training contract applications at Michelmores on our website.